Newbies Meet the Gonzos 2000

Following is the Newbie version of the Gaspesie Night hike on July 14th weekend:

The contingent from New Brunswick (Bathurst) arrived in 2 seperate vehicles. Maureen and Bob Carreau came in around 4:00, followed shortly thereafter by Bob and Mike Leclair. Met by a small welcoming Gonzo committee as the Sungod was off with the majority of the group on a pre-hike warm-up to Lac aux Americains. The Carreau's casually grabbed the only two remaining bunks in the Viking hut (only to learn later how critical the selection of your lower bunk sleeping/snoring partner could be). Over the course of the afternoon/evening, we met the entire group (making us 18 in all) who would eventually attempt the taking of Mont Albert under the cover of night. Bob and Maureen busied themselves with the crafting of walking sticks - under the close scrutiny of Viking, Popeye, Malcolm Goat and Greg who were heavily into a card game which we were not familiar with - it resembled Hearts but it was peppered with a constant dialog of insults and curses towards the other players and this seemed to determine who was winning rather than the actual laying of the cards. A team dinner of sorts took place, an eclectic menagerie of stoves, gear and food - always interesting to see what your neighbours have devised to deal with the the trail cooking challenge (gear and food wise).

The general consensus was that all would turn in for an early evening nap and then depart sometime before midnight. By ten o'clock the Newbies were still wide-eyed and restless and began stirring and making preparations to head out (not too dissimilar from kids on Christmas morning - "Can we get up yet") As it turned out similar decisions were being made in both huts. So the Newbie 4 snuck stealthily past the gate (afraid of being caught by "Monsieur le Ranger") led by and followed shortly thereafter by the rest of the group.

Somewhere between the huts and the trail (approximately 1000 metres in length) the Newbies took a "long-cut" and were passed by a considerable contingent of the Gonzos (unbeknownst to them at the time). The hike was wonderful. Dark and a little unnerving at first as we entered the undergrowth and struggled to get our "night eyes". The temptation to use our Petzels was great but we finally succumbed to the velvet blackness and enjoyed its warm cloak. The newbies were led by the Leclairs who had done this hike every year since they were kids with their father (sometimes several times each year) - so we knew we were in good hands. Steady slogging brought us to the top in approximately 3.5 hours. Sweaty, smelly, hungry, tired but still pumped would describe our arrival. We made straight for the cabin intending to "boil up" and have a cup of soup before bed. Needless to say we were astonished to find the small cabin already full with a group of sleeping Gonzos ("What the...? How did they get ahead of us?".) So we slipped back outside, bundled up and tried unsuccessfully to light Bob Leclair's MSR stove (bad pump plunger). Shortly thereafter, Mountain Dancer, Dipper and group arrived informing us that the Sungod was KIA (knackered in action) and that Mime, Mae West and he were camped on the trail. When we told the new arrivals that the cabin was full - they looked at us and said "Wanna bet?". So taking their lead we squeezed in among the snoring bodies and found places to lay our heads down. 13 of us in all slept (sort of) on the floor of the small cabin. By day light we noticed that we had the shifted the snoring Viking under (and around) the legs of the perimeter benches and thought we may to cut him out. (The author would like to take a moment to say he will never forget the intimacy of that night as he curled into the warmth of the Viking's slumber - like two spoons they were).

Daybreak brought the breathtaking vista of the mountain top perch into view. A fitting reward for the tough hike and tougher sleep. Down we go after a quick breakfast - the highlight of breakfast being the self heating meals which Dipper brought - reminiscent of the pyrotechnics displayed at the high school Science fair - some hyper-reactive metal salts mixed with brine and PRESTO. One comment summed it all up "It doesn't matter if they taste good, they're just so cool".

Arriving at the bottom of the mountain the Newbies were outsmarted again (not a real challenge) and ended up taking the long cut and arriving after the main group even though they went out ahead ("What the...? How did they get ahead of us?").

Scattered sleeps and an exchange of war stories made up the day. The Leclairs, Mime and Mae West left for their respective homes. The rest of the troops made a tentative schedule for the evening assault on Mont Joseph-Fortin (which of course wasn't adhered to out of principle). In very atypical Gonzo fashion there was even the consumption of a few alcoholic beverages over the course of the day - possibly the bad influence of the Newbies.

The evening hike started earlier than planned (earlier than necessary to catch the sunset) - just kind of happened mid-thought. It was a non-stop mass hike with Malcolm Goat in the lead the whole way. As the more intelligent among us predicted (author not included), we arrived about two hours before sunset. Vain attempts at entertaining ourselves while we waited for the sinking of the sun were dashed. We foolishly tried dividing into teams and playing clever word/mind games - but after several near fisticuff exchanges and one statement on intent to divorce (peasoup should be one word) we conceded our hold as "Kings of the Castle" to the mosquitoes and black flies and headed back down to the huts.

Straight to bed, up early and on the road summed up our last few hours at the Parc.

In the Newbies' diaries, the weekend is down as a "great time, doing something new and exciting (night hiking), and making new friends with something in common".

Thanks for inviting us - we'll be back.