I have been meaning to post about walking in St Pierre for the longest time and somehow other things get in the way. As the vast majority of the island is both wild and totally accessible by foot, walking is one of the (admittedly very few) of the so called tourist attractions and there are many major trails which are really very well kept up; complete with lovely boardwalks across the boggier areas and across the very many streams.
The place is absolutely littered with lakes – there is a walk that takes in nine lakes, apparently, but you could fool me; there are lakes everywhere and they must amount to the dozens.
During the autumn I took the Terrible Twins on their first wild walks; and it was pretty funny to see these desert dogs getting used to jumping through grass and crossing streams of water that they could actually drink. They acclimatised to all that pretty quickly though and within a matter of weeks were leaping and bounding and chasing rabbits as though they were born to it, which given their genes they actually probably were!
It took the Genie, whose father is a very accomplished trekker and canyoner, and who has been heading into the wild on foot since he was knee high to a grasshopper, to show me that it was hardly necessary to stick to the tracks. The terrain is awfully easy to cross; there are rocks and peaty bogs for sure but the hills are not high and frankly the place is so small that you can’t get lost (if, of course, you are smart enough not to venture out in the fog!) There’s always a communications tower to navigate towards, as it means a road that leads into town, and since the island is only 26 miles long and 9 wide … well …. Even I, with my utter lack of a sense of direction, feel pretty secure in just walking away from town.
What you do need are a good set of waterproof shoes; as those lakes didn’t appear by themselves and the ground is crisscrossed with streams. Indeed the major walking paths seem to be streams as they always seem to be awfully muddy and wet; and the myriad of small paths that lead absolutely everywhere also seem to be based on waterways; or else the water uses them … same thing, isn’t it. Anyway; it’s wet walking. And that’s if you manage not to stray into a peat bog. But get your shoes right and it’s heaven.
Just before he left, in about the second week of December, when the first frosts were forming, we went out and were absolutely fascinated to find that the lakes and streams were beginning to freeze. The edges of many were frozen several meters into the middle; and we amused ourselves immensely by skittering pieces of ice as far as we could … just a couple of desert kids having fun. Of course all that freezing water meant that some of the paths were pretty treacherous; I slipped down a bit of a face at one point having put a foot wrong; enough to tell us both to be super careful and watch out for and avoid the ice. Then the snow came and I thought it was all over – how on earth could we go out there now?
I was lucky enough to bump into Artemis’ sister, Athena, out with her dog just before Christmas and as fate would have it, we were together at her mother’s for a big family Christmas lunch (and again for New Years!) that HAS to have it’s own blog entry. To cut a long story short, she asked if I would like to take the dogs and go ‘to the mountain’ anytime during the holidays. Of course I would, but … how? Seriously, I had no idea.
Don’t worry, she said. I’ll bring you snowshoes, and we will go.
Bloody hell. She did just that; and a pair of ski pants; and some good gloves … and off we went.
If you’ve never done it before, walking in snowshoes is actually hell, but you get used to it. I seriously didn’t have the right shoes on – I had worn my warmest boots but you really need lace up shoes that fit tightly to your feet. So I was flopping about a bit and that wasn’t too much fun; I fell over a bit and lost my shoes once; and I’ve used muscles I didn’t even know I had; but the experience of just walking wherever you want; over the tops of the spruce trees; over rocks … it’s just amazing.
Here’s a bit of video to show you how deep the snow was; about a meter I guess; the rivers frozen so that we could just walk over them (after testing them out, to be sure, of course). The dogs had an amazing time, as you can see, but I am not sure they enjoyed it even as much as I did. How could you not; this serene and amazing white beauty;
Newfoundland over the sea also sparkling white; Ile au Marins with snow covering the rooftops and the church; the blue blue sky and the bright sunshine; and the joy of coming out of the biting wind and realising that you don’t even feel cold. We didn’t walk half as far as Athena wanted to (I felt pretty damn inadequate, I can tell you – she was running at some points, damn showoff …) But I’ll get the right shoes; some good Goretex gear and with a bit of practice, I’ll show that goddess! Damned if I won’t! THIS is how you deal with winter! You immerse yourself in it; you embrace it; you love it. What’s not to love? She’s now promising me langlaufen … I’m up for it!
And then to top it all off, I could come home; have a wonderful cup of tea and a piece of the GC’s birthday cake; made by none other than the Master Baker; Artemis and Athena’s mother. Called a ‘poirrier’; a pear tree, it is two amazing light as air sponges made with pear nectar and filled with custard and pears. I don’t have the recipe; but I WILL GET IT!!! I’m going to camp on her doorstep; sit at her feet and worship. When I finally get around to posting about her Christmas and New Years feasts you will see why. Until then; I’m off to have a long hot soak or I may not be able to walk again tomorrow.