The TCT and Canada’s New France heritage
From the Trans Canada Trail in Charlevoix, a beautiful and historic region about an hour upstream from Quebec City, the coastal cliffs of the St. Lawrence River still appear as they did centuries ago, when French explorers Jacques Cartier and Samuel de Champlain sailed through the massive waterway from the Gulf, deep into what they christened La Nouvelle France.
According to TCT Foundation director Pierre Lassonde, it is only fitting that the Trail follow some of Samuel de Champlain’s historic journeys into Canada. All of this, he said, is thanks to the work being done by TCT volunteers and visionaries as they work to connect the Trail.
“We are proud to say that the TCT is almost completely connected in Quebec,” confirms Richard Senécal, executive director of the Conseil québécois du sentier Transcanadien. “The Sentier extends more than 1,400 kilometres through Quebec, connecting Quebec City and Montreal with the regions of the Outaouais, the Laurentians, the Montérégie, the Eastern Townships and the Bas-Saint-Laurent. Now our focus has shifted to the final sections to complete, up in Charlevoix and Côte-de-Beaupré.”
Indeed, the final 3.7 per cent of la belle province’s TCT is located on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River, extending into the Laurentian Mountains. It is the home of dramatic natural vistas, a historic CP hotel, the renowned Le Massif de Charlevoix ski resort, and Quebec’s original farm-to-fork gastronomic scene, ‘La Route des saveurs,’ which has been attracting food-loving tourists as far back as the 1760s.
Parts of Charlevoix have been designated a World Biosphere Reserve, and this natural environment is dramatically displayed along the Traversée de Charlevoix, a 100-kilometre wilderness Trail linking to the Parc des Grands-Jardins. This part of the Trail features remote, high-elevation boreal forest, populated by protected species that include woodland caribou, grey wolves and peregrine falcons.
By 2017, three more Trail sections will be built, including a new Trail west of the waterfront town of Baie-Saint-Paul, an arts-loving community favoured by the Group of Seven painters. The final section of this Louise-Gasnier Trail will be built this season, while in 2015, other Trail sections will be built leading out of the town, along the river with a walkway over the marshland, and then tracking inland along proposed extensions to the sentiers Gabrielle Roy and Louise-Gasnier.
When complete, the TCT will connect to the well-established Sentier des Caps de Charlevoix, which links to Le Massif downhill skiing resort, and then runs for 43 more kilometres along a highland ridge with glorious views of the Charlevoix coastline.
From these high vantage points, looking out at the characteristic cliffs of the untouched Charlevoix coast, you can easily imagine the ships of Cartier and de Champlain as they first sailed into New France through the brackish, tidal waters of the massive Fleuve Saint-Laurent, to establish Quebec City (Donnacona) and further upstream, Trois-Rivières and Montreal (Hochelaga).
In Charlevoix, as in Canada itself, impossible things sometimes do come true.
“In 2000, linking Mont-Saint-Anne, the Sentier des Caps de Charlevoix, Le Massif, Baie-Saint-Paul and la Traversée de Charlevoix was a distant dream,” said Mr. Senécal. “Today, supported by our Trail groups and local and regional governments, this dream is becoming reality.”
Here are just a few special places and ways that the Trail connects with Canada’s history and heritage.