The Valley of the Ghosts.

My favourite winter destination in Quebec has got to be the Valley of the Ghosts in  Saguenay Lac Saint Jean. This is the latest in my series of stories behind the videos I made for SagLac Tourism who this week posted them to their Youtube Channel.

Filming in the Valley of the Ghosts.
You know it's going to be cold when you are travelling six hours North of Montreal (it's cold here - why are we going North?) but it's well worth the trip. The drive up on Highway 175 is a bit of an adventure. The road has been the subject of a major rebuild recently because of the challenging weather conditions.  Moose are also likely to get in your way - attracted to salt pools near the roads. Efforts are being made to remove these and set up replacement salt pools away from the road. 
Whiskey Jacks were cheeky and followed us
You are likely to see logging trucks on the route as well as the breathtaking Jacques Cartier Parc and the Laurentides Wildlife Reserve. Look out for the one gas station en route too. You will be pleased to see it. There were times when we felt we were in a scene from Ice Road Truckers. We went in February when the average temperature is -13C and the record low has been recorded at -40C. It's not just cold but very beautiful and the Saguenay is famous for its impressive fjord which links Lac Saint Jean to the Saint Lawrence River. In summertime the area is popular with kayakers, cyclists and hikers; in winter, ice fishing villages are created on the frozen fjord and visitors travel by snowshoe, ski, snowmobile and dog sled.

View from the appropriately named Motel Panoramique in Jonquiére
An unusual combination of meteorological factors in the Parc national des Monts-Valin helps give the Vallée des Fantômes its name. Not only do they get 6-7 metres of snow in the winter but the valley is protected from wind by surrounding mountains on all sides and is very humid. This means when these 6 metres of snow falls - it actually sticks to the trees, completely covering over the green needles, giving the trees the appearance of ghosts.
Transport to the start of the trails

It's like wandering around on the top of a Christmas cake. This snowcat above takes you on a 45 minute drive to the start of the trails which are popular with snowshoers. We also saw back-country skiers and called in at one of their huts where they can stay overnight and keep warm around the wood-burning stove. There are similar huts for snowshoers to warm up and have their lunch too.

The top of the Valley of the Ghosts
The beauty of this place is enhanced by your sense of isolation as you snowshoe through the valley. As our guide, Patricia Stimpson told us, just listening to the birds and crunch of the snow under your feet makes the experience, magical. Talking of birds a pair of Grey Jays (AKA Whiskey Jacks) followed us as we set off on the trails. These birds have quickly learned that humans often carry food. The name comes from the aboriginal word whiskedjak but other names have included the Canada Jay, lumberjack and camp-robber.

Patricia our guide
You can do a bit of off-roading in your snowshoes and head off into the trees, although when we did it, my husband and I ended up on our backsides in a huge pile of snow as we tried to negotiate a descent. I don't know what the French is for Winter Wonderland but I suspect it is Vallée des Fantômes.
Me putting on the thrummed mittens.

For more information visit saguenaylacsaintjean


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