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Friday, October 21, 2011

Megantic Mountain

Majestic Megantic Mountain is situated in the mountainous southeastern corner of Quebec near the border with Maine and New Hampshire. Relatively unknown not so long ago, the mountain has since had an astronomy observatory built on the top and has become a provincial park.

Once upon a time when we were young, Ted and I loved venturing into the woods in search of adventure whether real or imaginary. In spring just as the snow began to melt, the two of us would explore further into the wilderness forests and climb the hills southward from behind the tiny village of Milan, Quebec, just to find out if we could reach the top and to determine how far we could go. We chose that particular time of year because melting snow does not blow and drift; our footprints in the wet snow would remain uncovered and provide us with an unmistakable route back out of the woods. 

Megantic Mountain, distant several miles, was always familiar to Ted and me; easily visible from just outside of Milan. As we grew older, Ted and I wanted to hike to the top of Megantic Mountain, and at times we spoke about making the journey. On weekends through summer 1971 we carried out a few trial hikes from Scotstown to the foot of the mountain at the small dam on Mountain Brook.

Finally in late August 1972, Ted and I together with our friend Ron hiked through the valley forests and over those peaks that comprise Megantic Mountain. Our trek was made eastward from the Scotstown end of the mountain to the small chapel on the eastern summit. No trails of any kind existed in 1972 and we relied on a compass and topographical maps to find our way. Everything we needed was carried in our backpacks.

Walking through hardwood forests was easy, but as the ascent steepened, the deciduous trees gave way to conifers. Stands of evergreen trees proved very difficult to shove through. Stunted tree growth in some places made our required route impassible, forcing us to plot detours to get around. Along our route we encountered several deep, tree-covered ravines that we had to carefully descend and ascend in order to safely cross. Our map only showed them as small streams and we were grateful for the cold, clean water for drinking. At higher elevations we encountered areas strewn with massive granite boulders that looked like piled-up giant marbles. These obstacles also were too difficult to climb over, and thus forced us to make more detours.

We spent one night in the woods on the slope to the north of where the observatory is now located. The observatory had not even been planned or surveyed in 1972. About two hours before sunset, we pitched our tents on what appeared to have been a long-overgrown logging road that crossed at right-angles to our route. In forests, complete darkness will arrive quickly, even before sunset fades from the sky.

Early the following morning we resumed our eastward journey. We broke out of the woods, reaching the gravel road that led to the top of the eastern end of the mountain, exiting about 200 yards south (downhill) from where we had planned to intersect the road. With the unexpected course changes we had to make the day before, we were astonished to have been this close.

The view from the top of the mountain facing eastward

From our exit point from the forest, we had another 14 miles to walk to Milan, but the remainder of our journey would be made on gravel roads.

Crossing Megantic Mountain proved to be one of the most arduous and difficult hikes I have ever undertaken but it was the fulfillment of one dream of my youth, as foolish as it may have been.

The God of Israel said,

“For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” 
(Isaiah 54:10)

The meaning of this verse really does come alive when reading it aloud at the foot of Megantic Mountain, or any mountain. The magnitude of God’s love and peace is truly immeasurable and immovable from us.

The Oddblock Station Agent 

Another view from the top

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