17-Mar-2001 -- It all started when I read about the Degree Confluence project on Slashdot. I remember thinking "sounds fun, but what a useless thing to do!". That was some 2 months ago and here I am writing about our quest.
I first spoke to my friend Christophe about the project and before I knew it, there were about ten of us jumping around like children at the thought of going out on this expedition! We live in Canada in the province of Quebec (where no point had yet been photographed) where the winter is not so much cold as it long and just seems to drag on forever. People here get the blues, so this project is just what we all needed to get our morale back in shape! (then again, there are some strange ones which actually like winter... for the record, Eric's one of those).
So on a Saturday night at Eric and Brigitte's place, out came the maps and navigation skills and suggestions and food and wine and all the various preparations one can think of. Claude finally got a chance to try out his brand new GPS (toy for a boy, he got it for his birthday), but of course the instructions were in English (he couldn't care less for English - we speak French in Québec) so Brigitte and Eric had to translate most of them for him (they figured out how it works on the morning of the expedition). Alexis took care of renting snowshoes, without which one is likely to end up waist deep in the snow. Sylvain and Anne were our official photographers and last but not least, Alexis, Claire and Franco were to be our drivers. As for me (Jean-Philippe)... I guess I was destined to be supervisor of the pack, althewhile avoiding Christophe's snowballs.
Quebec, roughly 5 times the size of France, has about half a million lakes; so you can imagine that all of them are not indicated on maps, unless it's one of those fancy expensive ultra precise ones (which we did not have). We therefore were pensive and somewhat apprehensive about coming across one of them, especially at this time of year when the ice gets pretty thin.
So off we went. It was a beautiful, warm and sunny winter morning, everyone was anxious to put on the snowshoes (at least half of us had never worn them before) and just GO! Eric and Brigitte's kids, Alexandra and Claude (not the same as the GPS guy - this Claude's a girl) came along as well (see photo). We stopped the vehicles by the side of the road on what was probably the longest dead-end street any of us had ever seen. On with the snowshoes and into the forest we went! We were smack in the middle of the woods and the GPS indicated another kilometer to our destination. It was pretty neat to see how the kids (3 and 4.5 years old) had no problems whatsoever walking without snowshoes (on the average, there must have been some 3 feet of snow).
Much to our surprise, after about 700 meters of turning and twisting and ducking pine tree branches (as well as snowballs), we came across a man made shelter which had some already chopped up wood just waiting for us. I think it's Franco who then said : "It's a setup! The Degree Confluence people have set this up for us!". We felt a bit like Michael Douglas in "The Game" where everything is prepared and take care of but you're not too sure... Still, we left our backpacks there and set out for the last 300 meters.
It was just nice to be out there, surrounded by trees and snow and just plain peace and quiet like we don't get too often in the city. At last our destination was in sight! It was located in a depression, no more than some 30 meters away from a lake we had not seen until then (although not a huge one, we could tell it was a lake from the dead trees). It really was a pretty sight. The ground where we stood was perhaps an ancient river as the ground rose on both sides and seemed to lead directly into the lake.
The kids weren't too sure what we were doing in the middle of nowhere (in French, we say, in Saint-Profound of the Deep), but holding the sign and being photographed with papa was good enough for them. Official pictures and group shots were taken and that was it! We all headed back to the shelter for a great outdoors lunch with bonfire and beer and what was surely one of the best deserts I've ever had, thanks to Brigitte, master of all sweets.
If not for my busting a snowshoe (for behaving like a kangaroo, with Christophe as my mentor), all was just great.
We hope to be on the road again soon for yet another confluence point; until then, bye byeeeeeeeeee.
The members of the CRCQ (club for the Research of Confluence in Quebec) in alphabetical order:
Jean Philippe Valois
The kids (Alexandra and Claude)