Take your pick: adrenaline packed or slow and contemplative?
Last weekend, the Parc National du Mont-Mégantic inaugurated its new accommodation, recycled from an old container! Guess who had the privilege of testing it before the grand opening? Your humble servant, of course! Here’s my account of this panoramic experience.
By Simon Diotte
Impossible to sleep in, when staying in this container shelter; not because it’s uncomfortable or because they purposely didn’t hang any curtains! The reason for getting up so early is that we’re offered an opportunity to experience a unique moment: To view the sunrise through an unobstructed windowed wall facing the east, at an altitude of 1,045 m.
I wake up at 6:00 a.m., not wanting to miss a moment of this early morning performance. It’s still dark, but from behind the Appalachian mountain range, a tiny orange spot appears. A fiery light slowly spreads through the sky as it magnificently reflects on the surrounding clouds. Even though I’m well into my forties, I think I’ve never had a better seat for witnessing such a spectacular celestial display. The show went on for more than an hour before our big orange ball finally emerged from the horizon.
To experience this astral moment, which none of my pictures could properly render, head to the new Mont-Saint-Joseph shelter. This modern accommodation, refurbished from a recycled container, is able to lodge a couple, or two people who don’t mind spending a night huddled together in these close quarters.
When we arrive, my girlfriend and I were amazed by the beauty of the interior design, not at all rustic, you know, like the traditional log and plywood shelters. Here we found quite the contrary; elegant wood panels cover the walls, floor and ceiling of this old equipment depository, giving it a true “Scandinavian chalet” ambiance.
Nevertheless, don’t be fooled: It’s still a shelter! There’s no electricity, so no cooking range, and no running water. Guests must carry up their water, food, dishware and, use the backhouse for you know what! When darkness sets in, candles are used to light the place, and to keep warm, there’s a wood-burning stove. What more could you want for a romantic evening?
To reach the shelter, we hiked up Mont Saint-Joseph on a 3.5 km trail with our backpacks containing what we needed for the night. On the way, we enjoyed the many points of view overlooking the region and the entire Mont Mégantic massif with its three summits of more than 1,000 metres.
At the top of Mont Saint-Joseph, we needed to rest a bit. At an altitude of 1065 m., we found a wooden chapel which has been defying the summit’s strong winds since 1883. We were about a hundred metres from our eagle’s nest. We arrived just in time to view the first part of the solar performance: The last rays of the setting sun covered the Appalachian Mountains with its delicate pastel hues.
The next morning, after our spectacular sunrise, winter suddenly manifested itself! A mini-snowstorm hit the massif, reminding us that we’re at an altitude of more than 1,000 m., where the cold season usually lasts six months. The mountains disappeared in the mist; an ambiance I adore! It was under these winter conditions that we completed the Mount-Victoria loop with its amazing points of view, before we headed back down to our car; two days totalling a distance of about fifteen kilometres on beautiful half autumn, half winter-like trails.
This winter, you’ll be able to rent the Mont-Saint-Joseph shelter instead of the old shelter, located near the chapel. The old one could also accommodate two people but had become dangerous because of all the ice falling from the telecommunications tower during the winter months.
Renting the Mont-Saint-Joseph shelter 2.0 costs $30.75/night/adult and is available as of now!