Canada: The Laurentians near Montreal - The360 Travel

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  • Friday, December 13, 2019

    Canada: The Laurentians near Montreal

    Canada: The Laurentians near Montreal

    The sun shines, the colors of the leaves are still bright, it is the ideal moment for a small hike in the Laurentians. No need to go far: we pass Mirabel, then Saint-Jerome, then the food court of the Porte du Nord, and we stop immediately after Prévost.

    We park at the old train station and can immediately get on the trails of the Alfred-Kelly Nature Reserve. Already, it smells like the forest. As the trail moves away from the road, the rustle of the leaves replaces the humming of the cars.

    The Alfred-Kelly Nature Reserve, owned by Nature Conservancy of Canada, protects approximately 500 hectares of forests, wetlands and steep cliffs. Hikers are welcome as long as they follow certain rules (leave the dog at home and drive only on the identified trails, in particular).

    Some of these trails are historic: they were traced in the 20s, 30s and 40s by legends of cross-country skiing, such as Herman "Jackrabbit" Smith-Johannsen, or sports clubs of the time. This is the case of the first trail taken from the former Prévost station, called MOC, for McGill Outdoors Club.

    The path climbs quietly through a forest of beech, maple and birch trees to join the Shaw Mountain Trail. Unlike the OMC, this trail is brand new.

    Here's why: About 18 months ago, a Prevost citizen, Andrius Knystautas, donated a 10-acre lot to the reserve. It was not a very large lot, but it was of particular importance because it included the summit of Mount Shaw, a hill overlooking Highway 117. A new trail was built to replace the somewhat anarchic old trails that existed until then.

    The new path leads to the summit, where a large rock sits. Hikers who have notions of climbing can climb it to have a view of Prévost and the surrounding hills.

    Hikers more down to earth are not left out: they have only to walk about ten meters to have a beautiful view without risking breaking their necks.

    Back on MOC, we can go to one of the most beautiful attractions of this area of ​​the Alfred-Kelly Nature Reserve: Paradise Lake. A trail goes around it. Hikers are not alone: ​​here, a striped chipmunk runs on the ground; there, a black squirrel climbs on a tree.

    While approaching the bank, one can admire, on the other side of the lake, the cliffs which rise above trees with green, yellow, orange or red leaves. On placid water, lily pads try to convince themselves that it's still summer.

    Paradise Lake is actually an artificial pond, created in the 1940s to serve as a reservoir of drinking water. The trail passes on the remains of the dam that created the pond.

    The lake no longer serves as a reservoir, but it is now used as habitat for friendly critters such as bullfrogs and painted turtles.

    After walking along the Lake Tour Trail, you can lengthen the hike by going around the cliffs to climb up the escarpment by a well-civilized path. There is a small view that allows you to contemplate Mount Shaw. There are, however, many trees in the path: the more the fall advances, the more the leaves will fall, the more the view will be cleared.

    There will be benefits in late fall.

    The cliffs are home to peregrine falcons at the end of winter and spring, but for now there are no raptors on the horizon.

    The short hike ends with a return to the old train station. But it could have extended to the Piedmont sector, along heritage trails such as JE (Johannsen East) and Wizzard, which notably lead to marshy areas. Parking on the Piedmont side gives access to this area more directly.

    There are other hiking trails in the Parc-des-Falaises nature reserve, in the same massif, but a little further north, in Saint-Hippolyte. This small reserve is the property of the Regional Committee for Cliff Protection. The hope is that one day, with the acquisition of additional land, the two reserves will be affected.

    But for now, there are enough hiking trails to have a long time, only 60 kilometers from Montreal.

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