Entering the Matane Reserve in Quebec
ECT Day 193&194
IAT Day 24&25
Day 193: 21 miles
This morning I woke up around 5:30am in the hotel room. My body was feeling a lot better but I wasn’t certain that I was in the clear yet. I packed my things and got ready to head out regardless. The “trail” today is about 20 miles of road walking. So at least I know that if I start to be in pain I could hitch a ride back to Amqui. That’s my backup plan, but hopefully it won’t be necessary.
I was walking around 6:30am and stopped off at Tim Hortons for breakfast. I got two breakfast wraps with sausage, hash browns, and queso. They were delicious. I ate while I began my day of walking. The first few miles my body felt sore and I was a little uneasy. It was hard to tell if I was sore because I hiked out too soon or just because I was still warming up. But as the morning went on I definitely felt progressively better.
Two hours into the day I stopped off for a break. I did the long stretch and exercise routine which is now going to be my staple at breaks. Immediately after doing a few of the exercises I felt looser and all around better. Then leaving that break my knee felt notably better. The tendon was completely calmed down and I had zero pain or even sensation of discomfort. Only once or twice for the rest of the day would I move at an uncomfortable angle which would cause even the slightest pain. Every mile that went by where the pain was at bay I was happy.
The Matane reserve is a long section with no resupplies and few bail out spots. So it means a lot to me to be feeling good today before I enter the park this evening. That bodes well for the days to come.
Every 2 hours for the rest of the day I stopped for at least 20 minutes to do my stretches and exercises. And it seemed like every time I did I could feel the sensation in my knee fade away more and more.
When I was 17 miles into the day I stopped off at a campground and motel. It’s a fishing campground that hikers often can stay at. But I planned to just quickly stop off before continuing along. Two guys wound up chatting me up at different points during my break. They both spoke mostly French but managed to ask me questions. Both men were utterly shocked when they learned how long I had been hiking for. And especially where I had come from. Neither could wrap their heads around the fact that I was carrying all of my possessions and 6 days of food currently. They were so concerned! One of the guys insisted on warning me about moose and other animals before I continued along. But I enjoyed talking to them both.
Only a few miles after that I arrived at the entrance for the Matane reserve. I went inside to the store to grab some soda and snacks. One of the ladies inside made me buy a ridiculously large orange vest because I didn’t have one. And big game hunting season starts tomorrow! I knew that hunting season started tomorrow, but it still makes me laugh. I’m getting into Matane the night before all of the hunting season restrictions kick in. During the hunting season you can only access trails at certain times of day. Of course I would arrive just as it all began.
After I bought my snacks and ginormous orange vest I headed across the street to a warming hut. The hut could be used by hikers and had outlets inside! Plus the registration office has wifi so I can use my phone one last time before entering Matane. I won’t be able to get WiFi again until I hitch into town to resupply in about 6-7 days. But I think it’s going to feel nice to be out for a longer duration. It’s been a while since I’ve been out for that long! I was spoiled rotten on the AT and even more spoiled during the first week on the IAT.
From the registration office it was only a mile to a shelter where I planned to stay the night. It was early but I didn’t want to push myself too hard today. A painless 21 mile day was perfect for me! I want to catch Sparkles and Trucker but I know that I can’t try too hard. They’re a full day ahead of me at this point so truly the only way I would catch up is if they take a day off this week or next.
I actually enjoyed my time alone today though. Sometimes I don’t know which I prefer more, hiking solo or hiking with a tramily. I love both so much. It will be easier though to navigate the hard terrain in Matane on my own schedule. Rather than breaking as a group, I can just rest and eat whenever I desire.
I arrived at the Rivière Matane Shelter around 4:30 and was the only one there. Then I set my things up inside, collected water, and did my stretches and exercises. My body feels good! I’m hopeful that tomorrow will be the same as today if not better. If I could maintain this level of discomfort or less then I will certainly be in the clear soon.
After I stretched I ate some food and got comfortable. It was so incredibly early but I knew I made the right choice. The next shelter was 7 miles away and pretty much all uphill. I doubt I would have made it there before dark. And I don’t want to be bushwhacking or navigating unclear terrain at night. Instead I’ll just have a nice early night and get lots of rest. Then hopefully have a painless and productive day of hiking tomorrow!
Day 194: 16 miles
This morning I was up around 6am and packed up. A little before 7am I was walking with the intention of taking my sweet time today. I haven’t done serious ascent or descent with my knee yet and know that there is a lot of it today. I know that ideally I need to keep discomfort/sensation/pain whatever you want to call it at a 0-2 today. On this terrain pain will likely escalate much faster than it normally would. So I’m going to stave it off all day if I can.
The morning began with one easy mile before Matane truly showed itself. Then the climbing began. There was as ascent for about 4 miles which was graded better than expected. There were steeper stretches here and there. But it was nothing in comparison to some of the steeper climbs we did a few days ago on the IAT. As expected I was moving about 2MPH. Which wasn’t ideal but it was workable. I probably won’t be making 25 mile days but I didn’t expect to. The terrain is going to be killer these next few days.
Even with the long climb to start the day I was able to keep my pain at a zero. I didn’t have any sensation around the tendon at all. But I had to keep my gait shorter and also really remind myself to push through my glutes and quads. It’s a similar routine as I had to do with IT band issues. And it was working!
I went for about 5.5 miles until I got to the top of today’s first climb. While I normally would go further in between breaks that mileage took a little over 2 hours. I know I need to be breaking every 2 hours for at least 15 minutes to stretch and let my knee rest. There wasn’t a great place up top but I made do. I laid out and did my exercises. Which was not easy in the middle of a slanted trail. But I did it nonetheless.
Then I ate a bit and rested before continuing on. The trail was a bit of up and down from there. Then I began a mile or so descent to the Ruisseau-des-Pitounes Shelter. I got water there and sat in the shelter to filter it. The map didn’t have any marked water sources for a bit coming up so I wanted to play it safe. The shelter was nice but there was a bunch of food left inside. Like ramen and freeze dried fruits. The shelter I slept in last night also had a bag of oats and some kind of protein powder. I’m so surprised that these shelters don’t have pests! But that’s a fantastic way to be sure that they don’t. Food would never have lasted in AT shelters.
Once I got water I continued along. I really wanted to do a 21 mile day but wasn’t sure if I could. There was a cut off that I could do to save some time. But yesterday Sparkle messaged saying that they got in trouble walking that route. You’re not supposed to take any blue blazes that lead to roads. While the time restrictions in the park may actually be less important, they really don’t want you on roads. Walking on the roads is entirely off limits during hunting season. I’m sure I could get away with it but it didn’t want to risk it. So I have to do the extra miles which is gonna take time.
That means that I’ll be cutting it close to getting to camp with daylight left. If I didn’t have to stop and stretch ever 2 hours I could maybe swing it. But I’d rather not be getting to camp tonight in the dark. Plus there is no need to. I should have enough food to get through to the next resupply in 4 or so more days. That’s not including today. And I know that Sparkle and Trucker are at least 25 miles ahead of me anyway. The only way I’ll catch them is if they take a full day off. Maybe even a day and a half honestly. It’s pretty much impossible to catch anyone doing your pace or faster.
After leaving the shelter there was a cruisy mile or so. If the whole day was like this I could make it so much further! Then I began the ascent up to Mont William-Price. The first few miles of that climb were amazing. It was the perfect grade to just mindlessly hike. I didn’t get too out of breath and I was able to keep my knee very comfortable. The last half mile was pretty steep and had me breathing heavy. But it didn’t last long. Then once I crossed over the top I began a steep descent.
The trail went down to the junction where I had the option to take the alternate route. It was so tempting knowing it would shave off 2 miles or so. That would save me literally an hour today. Then I’d have time to go to the further shelter. But I was too anxious to take the alternate. I don’t want to have to talk my way out of something when everyone speaks French.
I continued along the IAT instead and the path was nice and easy. There was a very gradual climb up to the top of Mont Petchedetz. Then I rode along the top of the ridge for a little while before descending. It wasn’t far from there to the next shelter. Where I had not been planning to camp, but now may have to.
Initially the descent wasn’t too steep but after a little while it changed. Then it was slow going for me for a while. The descent can irritate my knee the most. So I really had to be sure to go slow to keep the sensation away. Still though I have gone the whole day without any pain. I’m pleasantly surprised about that.
When I was one mile out from the shelter I knew I’d have to stop there. It was about 4pm and 6 miles to the next shelter. I know that that is going to take me 3 hours, not including time to rest in between. And now that I’m nearing the end of the day it’s much more likely that I bother my knee.
Now that I knew I was only going another mile I decided to sit down. My knee felt good but for the first time all day I felt a slight sensation in it. I wouldn’t describe it as anything more than a 1/10, but I didn’t like feeling it at all. So I sat down and rested for a few before finishing the day. I couldn’t feel the sensation anymore when I got back up. That was good! Then I did the final mile of the day.
It was pretty damn steep and muddy in some places. It was quite a slow mile. But I got to the Lac-Tombereau Shelter around 4:30pm. To my surprise there was another backpacker! He said that he didn’t have a reservation and I was welcome to sleep in the shelter. And I said that he could sleep in it as well if he wanted. Lately all the shelters have had 3-4 platforms for sleeping. There’s plenty of room for both of us.
I got set up inside and was feeling good. Then I made sure to do my stretching and exercises right away. My knee felt so much better after that too. Later on I got water boiling to make a knorr side dish. I found a “tomato Alfredo” flavor here in Canada and am actually really excited to try it. Then I just laid in the shelter and rested my body. I’m glad I made the decision to stop early. I think I did the right amount of walking today to keep my knee feeling ok. Any more and I might have irritated it.
Tomorrow I will be starting an hour earlier and will hopefully make it a bit further than today. The camping options are a bit limited though. I can either do a 19 mile day or a 24.4 mile day. With the way the terrain looks I imagine it will be the shorter day. But anything is possible I suppose.
By 6pm I was comfortable inside the shelter doing some writing. I’m still entirely caught up on my daily writing which is a great feeling.
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