Canada Day Camping in Québec – A Camping Adventure

Canada Day Camping in Québec – A Camping Adventure

Canada Day in Québec – A Camping Adventure or a wasted weekend.
You decide…

Story and photos by Jason Enlow

There’s a lot to discover in and around Québec City, just be sure to bring along your spirit of adventure.

July 1st is a good opportunity to get out there and do some camping. That is if you’re not involved in the bizarre Québec ritual of everybody moving on Canada Day. We followed this simple 7-step plan:

·       Step 1   Pack car

Step 2   Drive to Le Centre écologique de Port-au-Saumon in SaintFidèle, a 100-acre site and centre of the Charlevoix UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. (It is also a summer camp.)

·       Step 3   Stop for some Swiss and cheddar at the renowned Fromagerie SaintFidèle, they’ve been making cheese for over 100 years and seem to know a thing or two about it.

·         Step 3   Drop off two of our three boys for a week.

·         Step 4   Confiscate 1 iPod, 1 electronic black jack game and 1 wallet.

·         Step 5   Quickly get in the car (but not before admiring the newly donated bust of Champlain).

·         Step 6   Drive to the Falaise-sur-Mer campground in St-Siméon

·         Step 7   No more steps; all bets were off for my wife, my eldest son and me.

Our survival was in the hands of a vengeful god

The camp ground knew we would be showing up a day late due to Friday’s freaky weather. Tropical Storm Weekend Wrecker was blowing through and none of us felt like setting up
Big Agnes (actual name) in a torrential downpour. There was less rain on Saturday, but the fog rolled in like something out of a John Carpenter movie. In the time it took to say “zombie-like ghosts”, the twinkling lights from across the St-Lawrence in Rivère-du-Loup had disappeared and so had the trees right in front of us. Along with the mist came a bone-chilling cold that forced me to put on every piece of clothing I had: two pairs of pants, a T-shirt, a hoodie, a fleece pullover and my ironically named Misty Mountain fall jacket. I also had on a pair of orange, emergency gloves with the rubberized grips. I keep them in the car in case of a flat tire or if I have to help guide a plane during an emergency highway landing. The three of us huddled around the fondue pot, dipping our bread into the melted Emmental cheese and relishing the heat radiating from the weak, blue flame.

Baileys and Risk – A winning combination

After supper, we headed over to the Community Hall with our dirty dishes. We also carried what remained of a once proud bottle of Baileys. We bought it during our last trip to
Ogunquit, Maine, another popular destination for Quebecers. A battered game of Risk (circa 1975) was to be our evening entertainment. There was more packing tape on the box than there was cardboard. The room was warm, the picnic tables sturdy and the Baileys was sweet. After a couple of hours, we figured Big Agnes would be waiting for us so we called it a draw and scurried back to our platform campsite. Our breath billowed around us in the light of our headlamps as we lined our sleeping bags with fleece sheets. We slipped into our puffy sarcophagi and then added emergency car blankets on top. I covered my head and left a small hole to suck in the icy air. It was just another summer night, two hours east of Québec City and it was cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey.

I love coffee, I love tea. I love the java jive and it loves me…

Sunday morning I woke up with a pounding headache. Was it caffeine withdrawal brought on by my refusal on Saturday to buy the kids a
pizza-and-spaghetti flavoured slushy drink? My aversion meant that I couldn’t stop at Tim Hortons because then they would have wanted iced cappuccinos. Iced cappuccinos? At their age, I was drinking Zip-a-dee-doo-dah juice in a bag. If it wasn’t my missed teatime then it could have been the Irish whiskey and Glanbia cream, but I didn’t have that much. Maybe it was just environmental stress caused by the numbing cold. It was still too early for everyone else to be up, so I peed in an empty Tropicana plastic juice jug. I carefully set it aside, far away from the breakfast cooler and returned to bed. I propped myself up and tried not to expose any skin. I was reading The Girl Who Played with Fire by Swedish writer Stieg Larsson. It’s one of those impossible to put down books…but I was less than riveted when Larsson goes to great lengths to describe Salander’s Ikea purchases. Although, being an owner of an Ivar shelving unit myself, I can understand her softwood induced excitement.

Champlain really knew how to name a place

After coffee, muffins, dried apricots and a soapless shower (What? I have to remember everything?) It was time to head out to Baie-des Rochers, or Bay of Rocks. Samuel de Champlain named the area in 1626 after being inspired by…all the rocks. We crossed various wood bridges, scaled many rocky crags and generally enjoyed the “savage beauty” as was described in the Charlevoix tourist guide. We arrived at a large wilderness bay with a sandy beach, the perfect location for a pirate to have the barnacles scraped from his dingy. We sat in the warm sand with our shoes off, watching for whales, swatting at flies and munching pistachios. Heartened by the heat, we decided to retrace a trip we had taken to Tadoussac when our 17-year-old was only three and headed east on Quebec Route 138 to the Baie-Sainte-Catherine ferry. It took about 10 minutes, just enough time for us to have a look for krill-eating sea creatures, as we crossed the fjord of the Saguenay River. The waters are cold and, as promised in the guidebook, we did see a Beluga whale but no Greenland sharks; they supposedly hang out a lot deeper in the river. The Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park is a protected area where the St. Lawrence and Saguenay meet and is part of Parks Canada.

Hungry Like the Wolf. What? It was a good song…

An important 17th century trading post,
Tadoussac is the oldest continuously inhabited European settlement in Quebec. That was good news because it meant that lunch was still available. After leaving the ferry, we drove around town for five minutes trying to find the right restaurant but Hunger Panic was setting in. HP often causes us to choose inappropriate restaurants like the empty basement cafe we settled for in Edinburgh that served pizza on East Indian papadam. I didn’t want any papadam pizza for lunch. We doubled back and headed straight to À L’Emportée, a co-op created in 2009 by three women who wanted to bring new life to the village bakery. We had cauliflower soup, assorted breads along with date squares and lattes. With full stomachs, we were ready to tackle the giant sand dunes east of Tadoussac. We huffed and puffed our way to the top, admired the view of the St. Lawrence River and then leaped down.  We felt like Apollo astronauts bounding across a rock-strewn lunar landscape. The mad-hornet buzzing of the ATV’s eventually chased us away, past the Tadoussac Golf Club and back into town. We parked close to the often-photographed Tadoussac Hotel, which, according to LaPresse, is for sale.

We had a whale of a time

There was only enough time left to walk the 0.8 km Sentier de la Pointe-de-l’Islet trail. A group had gathered out on the rocks, close to the water with their cameras in hand – they had sighted a UFO (Underwater Finned Object). Feeling a little like Roy (Richard Dreyfuss) in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, I joined the watchers and waited. A couple of Minke whales were out for a late afternoon swim. A mature Minke whale can reach a length of 6.9 m (23 ft). Whale watching is big business around Tadoussac and it didn’t take long for the tour boats to arrive. They circled around the whales with their passengers eager to experience a wildlife wonder. In 2009, the Tourism Intelligence Network reported, “Québec ranks second in total expenditures, generating an average of $142.55 per whale watcher, with international clients making up about 20% of the market”.

Kids, don’t try this at home

Camping is never complete until you’ve bought some over-priced firewood and smoked your beer-drinking campsite neighbours out of their folding chairs. I wasn’t going to spend my second and last night huddled over a beeswax survival candle in a tin. I threw all my maps of Ontario into the fire at the first sign that it was going to play hard to get…then I dumped in the rest of the fondue fuel. It seemed like a good idea at the time and nobody got hurt, except maybe the wood.

Categories: News, Opinion

About Author

Jason Enlow

Jason Enlow is a Special Education Technician at an English elementary school. He was born in Montreal, Quebec and grew up in Burlington, Ontario. Jason studied Radio and Television at Ryerson University in Toronto. His previous employers include CityTV, CBC, The Weather Network, and Global Television. He’s worked as a DJ, camera operator, musician, teacher, translator and video game content designer. Jason moved to Quebec City in 1997 where he still lives today with his wife and three sons.


  1. peter
    peter 12 July, 2013, 10:45

    Thanks for the article , it brings back memories of my camping expeditions .

  2. jasonenlow
    jasonenlow Author 25 August, 2013, 09:36

    Good memories I hope? Camping…it can be the best of times and the worst of times…

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