I wish I could record the soundscapes for this park. First among the recordings would be the sound of walking on the pebbles of Grande-Grave beach. Pebbles is not quite the right word. It is more like a vast natural collection of flat, grey stones. Take the sound you remember as you walked along a pebble beach and add ethereal percussion. The pebbles, wind and ocean is why Europeans came to this part of the Gaspé beginning in the 16th century. It was ideal for laying out cod to dry on the beach. A great fishing industry built up which was managed by a kind of fish mafia from the Jersey islands. They laid claim to the world’s “best” cod, although I know some Newfoundlanders who might dispute that. Sadly, over fishing means that cod is now the “white rhino” of the edible sea. The Park does an excellent job of animating this history with Hymans and Sons General Store. There is also a fisherman’s house, the Blanchette homestead. I thought I knew a lot about cod fishing, but there was still a great deal to learn in the well laid-out display upstairs in the General Store.
The second sound I would record is the that of birds. There were so many that I could not identify. It is encouraging. I wondered if the Park is experiencing the same horrific downturn in bird population as the rest of the world. I also wondered what kind of bird sounds the Mi’kmaq heard as they occupied, used and respected the land for over 8,000 years. A sound I could not record if I wanted to is that of mosquitos. This was a nice surprise, reprieve even. You learn to live with the constant whining of mosquitos where I come from.
The camp grounds are laid out in a let of 5 (A, B, C, D, E). Four are all grouped together in kind of a skinny-leaved four-leaf clover. There is also a group campground. We were in one of the new 31 semi-serviced campsites (running water, electricity). I was impressed that the Trudeau government was doing what they said they would do – investing in our National Parks after a decade of cuts by the other guys.
The third sound I would record is that of children. When we arrived almost every other site was occupied by massive motorhomeswho were part of an American tour group. This meant that they took off together in the little cars they towed for trips during the day, then retreated into their palaces on wheels when they got back. The only time we saw them was when they washed their motor homes which happened with a surprising frequency considering the motor homes never moved. All of the occupants were seniors who seemed terrified and/or suspicious when we said hello. I really missed the sound of children’s voices so when I jogged in the mornings would choose a route through the other tenting campground areas. When the big motorhomes moved out en masse one morning, they were replaced that by families with children, Boomers in smaller motorhomes and just few Big Rig Seniors. They all had dogs. Children’s voices and dog barking vitalized our campscape. Thank God.
This Park infrastructure is prepared for children and families. There are modest playgrounds. There were a couple of offerings a day, often in French (as is appropriate since French is the first language of Québec). These too seemed more oriented toward adult experience. The shower areas are combined with recreation places that have a couple of wood stoves and several wooden tables suitable for board-game playing and family dinners. There is also a place to do supper dishes for Tenters. Much family conversation, negotiation and bonding happens when doing those dishes. I would sometimes linger, being the inveterate people-watcher I am.
Another sound that I might record is that of Yates’ pounding on doors. The biggest interpretive centre is L’Anse-au-Griffon Visitor Centre. We really wanted to visit this on our way out. We arrived at 8:30am but were dismayed to find out the Centres all open at 10am. Almost all of the animated display centres also did not open until 10am or 11am. Mid-morning seems a strange time to open, but perhaps they found campers did not get themselves together until then.
The final soundscape would consist of a total lack of sound. The great asset of the Park is the combination of different eco-systems that can be explored. There are unique beaches, ancient human habitations, wooded trails, mountainous trails and cliff-walking. In a world of light pollution, the Forillon Park night sky is very dark, for those who like to explore the heavens. If you settle in your chair by the crumbling ashes of the fire and tip your head back you can imagine yourself in the depths of space, where there is no sound. At all.
Vistor’s Guide to Forrillon National Park:
“Located at the northeastern tip of the Gaspé Peninsula, Forillon National Park safeguards an are that is representative of a terrestrial natural region, the Notre_Dam and Mégantic mountain ranges, and of some elements of two marine natural regions, the Laurentian Channel and the Magdalen Shallows. In other words, it protects a segment of the Applachians and the adjacent waters as well as the fauna and flora inhabiting this area.”