Last weekend we visited a friend’s cottage near Chèneville, roughly 60 km north of Montebello. We took the quiet back roads from Buckingham via Mayo to stop in a small ski area near Ripon, the Parc des Montagnes Noires. It is not a big area, but there are a few kilometers of cross country ski trails with a few small huts.
In 2015 a new building was added, the Chalet Stephane Richer, named after the Montreal Canadiens hockey forward. The chalet is not exactly a cozy chalet made of hand hewn logs, Hudson Bay blankets and a roaring fire. It is more a banquet hall, but it has lots of space to eat inside and go to the washroom. It even has a shower and you can leave your boots inside to keep them warm while you are out skiing. You can also rent shoes and skies and tubes to go down the hill.
The area has a number of short cross country ski routes, in the 2 or 3 kilometre range. You can combine them to a larger 6 to 7kilometre loop though.
The day and night before we arrived, about 8 cm of fresh snow had fallen, which was a bit of a blessing and a curse. It was nice to finally have the fresh snow, but a curse too as it was really getting a bit too warm: the snow either stuck to our skies or we had no grip at all depending where we were on the trail.
If you are in the area, stop at Parc des Montagnes Noires. The entrance is 5 dollars and the route from Mayo is very rural Quebec picturesque, especially after a fresh snowfall. Make sure you have wintertires on, the road is partially a frozen dirt road. It is not Gatineau Park, but it has a certain je ne sais quoi feel.
The next day we hiked around a small lake near Lac Simon. We had a chance to check out ice fishing in the middle of the lake. I had not seen the nifty contraption of a balanced bar moved a bit up and down by the wind, making the line in the hole going up and down, fooling the fish that the bait is alive.
Never assume. I thought we were talking to real Quebecers, experienced hardy bunch ice fishers. Being a good Canadian, I practised my French, going through my mental two page French dictionary finding words for ice fishing, trap, hole and auger.
As it turns out the gentleman is from –of all places– Martinique. I asked him why he would prefer Quebec over Martinique, everyone else’s ‘rêve’. He loves the seasons here, he told me. And he loves hunting and fishing. Unfortunately, the Speckled Trout weren’t biting today.
Back at the cottage
The nice thing of visiting a cottage in winter is the lack of flies and loud chain saws. There was no activity so it was a great opportunity to see lots of deer, crossing the river as well as passing the cottage.