Quebecois Old Growth Forest Hike, Mt. Saint Hilaire

This is from a hike some weeks ago, but nevertheless worth finally writing about. Mt. Saint Hilaire is one of the last intact ancient forests of southern Quebec and least disturbed, thus preserving some very historic cultural interest. I am always on the hunt for hiking trails and summits when I am introduced to a new land. I had to cross the Montreal island to get to this one because it is not located in my region. First some history; It was born 125 million years ago when America and Europe still formed a single continent. Compared to the Appalachians or Laurentians, this mountain is extremely young. Once believed to be an old volcano but disproved, it has been grinded down since the ice age into what it is today. The mineral reserve is %10 of what is found on this planet, with more 350 types, and which 40 are exclusive here. There are 840 plant species, and 2 rare forest ecosystems within it’s boundaries, some of which trees are over 400 years old. It has 200 species of birds for those who are obsessed by the avians. It is classified as a conservation area, so the trails are maintained through the year. I made the trek out to the mountain on a relatively mild day, as I was planning to stay out until dark and see as much as possible.

I first climbed the Burned Hill trail which got it’s name because the forest there burned down. It was about a 400m ascent and gave me a good primal workout by the time I had read the boulder lookout at the top. My combat boots have almost no tred on them left from the copious amount of hiking I have done with them over the years. The rocky strewn gradation up the hill had my feet adjusting to these more natural setting, after having been condemned to city architecture and flat pathways all the time. The top was pretty cold, noticeably a few degrees less than in the shelter of the woodland. From the top, the view was mostly of the agriculture land of Quebec to the east and west with the rest of Montreal to the North. I observed some fern clusters with what looked like larvae eggs by some insect, and a woodpecker on distant trees.

After this I descended back down to the main vein trail and took a relatively level course to Pain de Sucre summit. This one was more of a winding course, switching directions and going back on itself climbing more vertically than like a gradual peak Many small streams were making their communion and creating aqueous roads from run off of some unknown water source on the top or an underground stream. At the top I took some time to relax my muscles but ironically fight off the cold with them anyways. The Quebecois winds were bitter. On clear days you can see the Adirondack mountains in the USA but alas, it was quite grim, grey skies and I could only observe more farm and then tinted shades of coniferous plateaus. Taking a couple swigs from my steer horn, and chasing my route back a quarter of the way and cleaving off where I had came from heading through a stand of dying woods towards lake Hertel. I found some puffball mushrooms that emitted black smoke when I hit them with a stick, and a couple other giant fungus. I didn’t see many animals this time, but on future visits I would like to check out the Core Preservation Zone where there are no public trails and perhaps make camp in the Spring. There were lynx sighting, and that area is known for it’s owls as well, this would involved a night over if I would like to see them.

On the return home, I passed by a Native American museum but was far too drained of energy and hungry to care. Next time.

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