Les Randonnées du Pèlerin (i.e. Pilgrim Hikes) is a Quebec Christian organization that offer spiritual pilgrimages/retreats through an outdoor activity. We recently got to know the founders of the organization, and thought what they are doing is pretty cool. To get to know them and their organization a little better, @brienne and I participated in their Easter retreat - a three-day hut-to-hut snowshoeing trip in Quebec's Parc régional de la Forêt Ouareau.
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Back at the base-camp cabin for a quick debrief, some cold beer, a couple bottles of wine, and a hot meal prepared by Katie (on the left in the green Jacket). Katie is responsible for organization and administration of the trips offered by Randonnées du Pèlerin. We really appreciated all the hard work she put into making this trip a success.
Day 3 was an easy day. We got up, had a leisurely breakfast, then headed on the most direct route back to the trailhead - about a 3.5 hour trip, including a prayer stop along the way. The weather was cool, but not cold, with some sunshine, a little snow, and generally good spirits all around.
Upon reaching our destination, a delicious hot Easter meal (including beer and wine) was waiting for us, prepared by our hosts. It was a fantastic way to end the trek. These guys really know how to pull off a good great trip!
Shortly after our arrival at the cabin, @brienne made short work of picking her bunk (with a nice bonus: a mattress!), unpacking her sleeping bag, and getting settled- in with a bag of fruit snacks to rest her tired legs.
Danny, our super (-human) hiking guide, on the left. We got to talk a lot about gear, telemark skiing, and beautiful places to explore in Quebec. I am looking forward to taking advantage of his recommendations on future adventures. There are a lot of interesting places to explore in this province, it is really nice to have met someone who I can consult with about future trips.
Day 2 started off with everyone rising relatively early. Spring sunlight streaming in through the large windows of the cabin meant that everyone roused around the same time. Reports from the women who were sleeping in the loft were that the stoking of the wood stove during the night made for sauna like conditions.
We had a nice relaxed breakfast, packed, and got out the door just after 7:30 am.
The trek for the day consisted of about 9.5 hours of hiking, punctuated by regular spiritual exercises along the way. The theme for the day was a modified stations of the cross, with eight distinct stations consisting of scriptural reading an prayer, which went through the story of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection.
Over the course of our hike, Brienne began to experience some joint/muscle pain in her upper-front legs (a problem that has cropped-up from time-to-time). Through regular communication with our guide, who took very good care of her, it was decided that we would modify our route to take an easier path to our destination so as to not over-tax her muscles. After a compression wrap, some drugs, and a modified route, she made it to the cabin at the end of the day without things getting worse.
I was very appreciative of the professionalism of the leaders in caring for the group.
Day 1 started in the evening, where we met at the trailhead for a gear shakedown. When we registered for the trip we were given a gear list. If there was a piece of gear we were missing, the organizers made sure they knew in advance so they could bring something to lend us for the trip. Thus the first step of our trip was to make sure everyone had everything they needed prior to heading out the door. Food (provided by the organizers) and group gear was also distributed among the hikers to help share the load. We were also given a booklet with an outline of the spiritual meditations we would be following during the trip, with a few extra pages at the front and back for journalling.
We finally got out the door just before 9 pm. I knew in advance that this trip was going to be interesting, considering that we were going to be starting late. Otherwise, I had no idea what to expect.
In all, we hiked for 2.5 hours to get to the first cabin. We had two stops along the way: the first was a brief time of sharing where we partnered with someone to talk about what we were hoping to get out of the pilgrimage. The second stop happened at a summit with a night view of the valley below with lights off in the distance. It was beautiful, but a bit chilly and everyone was getting tired. At this stop we did a scripture reading and visualization exercise. The section of scripture we read was where Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane - the one where his disciples kept falling asleep while he went off to pray. The setting fit very well with the "spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" pieces we read.
In all it was a very well done, and I really gained an appreciate for the possibilities of how adding a physical experience to the reading of the bible could open up new meaning and understanding.
One of the goals of this trip was to disconnect from modern life for a time. As a result, having cell phones is highly discouraged. Unfortunately for me that is the only way I am able to take pictures, and so this journal is going to be light on photos. I was able to get a few in here-and-there, but not nearly enough to be able to capture the many beautiful things we saw while on this trip.