Throughout the ride, there was a spectrum that ran from regimented campsite fun at one end to vagabondry at the other. One night stands out as when we struck the best balance between the two.
That night we arrived at a park beside a marina in Vercheres around 8pm and slipped into the familiar questioning of whether it was a good spot, each expecting answers from the other that we weren’t fully qualified to give. After a brief evaluation of factors, we decided to camp there.
It was the most public place we’ve camped yet by far, but for some reason it felt less nerve-wracking than similarly exposed spots elsewhere. Either because we’d been told the Quebecois are more relaxed, or because knowing we wouldn’t be able to understand people telling us to move on removed some of the pressure.
We stood on the manicured lawn wondering if camping there was allowed: there were no signs forbidding it but none inviting it either. A grey area we’ve found ourselves in many times before.
“I bet if we wait here someone will talk to us and tell us it’s alright”, Kristian predicted.
Something in French, said a guy nearby.
“Parlé vous Anglais?”
Then, within the usual exchange of information about tos, froms, distances and dates, Pierre coloured in the grey area and assured us that camping would be fine.
“There’s potable water there, and a toilet block there” he added, pointing each out before going on his way.
It’s interesting how much faith we were happy to put in one person’s approval on this trip. It turned out Pierre was right: we camped hassle-free. But trusting him as an ambassador of opinion for the entire town on whether we could camp was audacious.
“Not a single mosquito,” I wrote in my journal that night. We took the opportunity to sit on the dock and talk unharrassed, much later into the night than was possible in their usually incessant company. It was a unique and delightful enough occurrence to be noteworthy.
Being able to sit out late meant we could wait a while before setting up properly, the cover of darkness making the site feel a little less exposed. So we sat on the dock and watched the colours in the sky change.
A lot of times I get asked what the highlight of this trip was. Screening three months for standout moments on demand creates a lot of pressure, and usually draws a mental blank followed by a lacklustre “it was all amazing!”
Thinking back now, though, a lot of the best moments I can think of revolve around water, usually sitting above it on some wooden structure. Floating in the canoe under the stars at Lake Catastrophe, for example. Or slightly more intensely, being dragged behind a speedboat on a rubber ring on that same body of water.
Laying on the jetty at the campsite just past Mont Joli is another example. Or walking to the end of the boat launch at Algoma Mills to look at the moon shining over the red hut. Or watching the sky cycle through a palette of every colour at Grand-Anse, before being woken up by the sunrise shining through my tent door the next morning.
There’s something about water that makes it the perfect backdrop for memorable moments. The tranquillity and stillness allow quiet reflection, and there is enough sound and motion to be watchable but not distracting. The night in Vercheres benefited a lot from this mood.
We went to bed early, soon after dark. I savoured again the sanctuary that a bit of canvas, some rope, and a few pegs can provide you with. Then we were up and out early into another tomorrow that always changed, but which held at its core the same threads that made each day special. Even when you know exactly what it will look like – wake up, load out, hit the road, stop, unpack, sleep – you don’t know what it will look like at all. The shape is defined but the colour is unknown.