Sunday, February 19, 2017


What a glorious day to put on my cross-country skis and take to Montreal’s largest park, Cap-Saint-Jacques. The sun was beaming directly overhead, and since the temperature was unseasonably high – at least 5 degrees above zero – I knew that the cold would not be an issue today.
Cap Saint-Jacques offers an expansive landscape where the great Lake of Two Mountains comes into view on several of the park’s trails. There’s a 32-kilometre network of natural terrain that comprises four immaculately groomed cross-country trails (the turtle, beaver, squirrel and the 10.9- kilometre-long rabbit trail); plus non-skiers can enjoy five kilometres for snowshoeing and seven for simple walking; and you can bring your dog on those trails.


Setting out with patroller, Diego Savard, we took the Turtle trail. It meandered through trees and offered gentle inclines to add variety to the outing. Diego is an intrepid backpacker – having trekked in several South American countries – his favourite being Ecuador - a country that somehow seemed to match the temperature of this day (if one  cared to really stretch the imagination). It was just so warm out; in fact, I had to take off my hat and sweater while skiing with him. Streams were melting.

In the distance among the trees, about one kilometre from the start of the 2.4-trail, I spotted a cozy building. Diego led to this sugar shack. I peeked inside, but we needed no food to re-energize ourselves.


We then took the juncture for the Beaver trail which gave a longer outing; its 6.8 kilometres brought us to the stunning 1916 Chateau Gohler where you can eat your own packed lunch or enjoy their wonderful soup and more. Money spent there by hungry skiers goes to the Boy Scouts of I’ile Bizard – a lovely region that spreads out to the west of Cap-Saint-Jacques.



At one point, we came to one of the huge bays where summer bathers converge to enjoy the park’s big beach. We noted more birds flitting among the trees at the water’s shore. Diego even walked onto part of the lake pointing to it s north as he revealed he had skied across it where he landed at Oka, another place renowned for its trails and beach.

Cap-Saint-Jacques is only 35 minutes outside downtown Montreal. Once there you feel you are in an oasis of pure untouched nature, and you can glide right through the trees as I did today. 

There’s even nighttime skiing. The park supplies your headlight, and after you finish the selected trail, you can sip hot chocolate and roast marshmallows, right behind the welcome centre there. A unique way to share family fun or rev up the romance in your life!
Cap-Saint-Jacques is peaceful; the staff is super friendly, and the area so accessible; it’s the perfect yearlong antidote to city stress.  I look forward to spending some summer days here, swimming, strolling and stepping into a kayak. 

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It was the Canada day weekend - a perfect July 3rd sunny day to take my dog Zak to one of my favourite nearby  nature getaways: Cap-Saint-Jacques. It is one of three Quebec parks that allows you to stroll with your dog on a 5- plus kilometre walk. Greeting me at reception was Alexander, and though he was so nice to me, it was Zak who stole his heart. Nothing like a little cute dog to make everyone smile. Meeting more dogs was fun for all.

It was a day for us to bond in nature amidst beautiful birdsong and bucolic waters that around the circular perimeters, I saw Rivièrie de la Prairie, Lake of Two Mountains, Oka and Ile Bizard. Water everywhere and unfortunately the recent catastrophe in this region showed itself as I rounded curves of land bordering the water where I  saw bushes in water.

Walking along the path sheltered by forest, I bumped into Charles, a man in love with his boxer-mastiff dog, Minion who towered over my little maltese-lasa apso mix dog. Together, wee romped through forest and ventured along the water where Minion delighted in cooling himself off. 

We also headed to the Cap’s farm, and passed the horses, a chicken coup and the sheep that lazed inside a big barn.

I entered into the little store selling some organic produce plus maple syrup. Lots of the land here is dedicated to growing organic vegetables.


Nature here is gentle with wild flowers dressing up the greenhouse, paths and fields that we strolled among.

Charles told me that three weeks ago aside from the fox he saw. Three coyotes surrounded him. That in effect is why I insisted Charles come with me for the rest of my walk. He had a long stick, but we saw no coyotes. I was lucky to bump into Minion and Charles, for I was really quite alone as I started my stroll. 

What was to be an hour sauntering into nature turned into three. It was a day of surprises and enjoyment. Zak and I were most happy. 

I will return to explore the beach here and maybe even screw up my courage to do some kayaking.

Tourists need not drive to the Laurentians to immerse themselves in nature that is only a 30-minute drive from downtown. Cap-Saint-Jacques is kind of addictive and its terrain invites you to explore it on foot, skis, snowshoes and bike. What more could you ask for? Come on folks, it’s summer and this place is the perfect area to saunter into to enjoy oodles of varied vistas as the sun shines down.

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