Article by Mélodie Denis
I'm a girl who doesn't particularly like winter: I don't ski or snowboard and I prefer to hibernate. However, in recent years, I have decided to learn to tame this season. As long as I live 4 months (sometimes 6) a year in the snow, having to de-ice my car, I might as well take advantage of the benefits it can provide.
To the great dismay of my friends, I'm still not a fan of alpine skiing (sorry Cath)! However, I learned to love snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and winter hiking. This year, I’m adding a new adventure to the list: sleeping in a shelter. As someone who loves camping, I said to myself that I should like it!
Refuges are chalet-type facilities, spread over various territories or trails. This is a place usually open to the public during the day: walkers and skiers can come and take a warm break there, before continuing their activities. In the evening, the refuge becomes for the exclusive use of people who have reserved the night there.Find out carefully, some shelters allow reservations by more than one group at a time. If you only want to be “with family,” it’s worth checking beforehand.
For our part, we chose to explore the Mont-Mégantic national park, and went to the refuge La Grande Ourse. It is located just a few kilometers from reception, making it an ideal place for a first experience. Like most shelters in this national park, it is accessible by cross-country skiing or snowshoeing.
As always, my perpetual fears come back to me:
I'm afraid of running out of water, I'm afraid of being hungry, I'm afraid of being cold!
Having a bag containing far too many snacks, I fell in love with the snowy trails. Although the path was not easy with its few rather arduous climbs, it was done without incident.
Arriving at the refuge, what was our pleasure to discover that it was already cozy, since some visitors had lit a fire there during the day. As the evening goes on, a little giggle: it’s hot. VERY HOT. I clearly underestimated the temperature it would be there. Although my bag contains a change of laundry, I regret not having anything lighter. Next time I'll bring a camisole!
Therefore, here is what I recommend for a stay in a shelter
-Water (enough for walking + for cooking your food) *some shelters provide jugs of water on site
-Replacement linen (also multi-layered, ex: camisole + your favorite polar)
-Light (lamp, candle)
-Slipper or mittens
-Occupational (I recommend dice, card games, pocket book…. This is not the time to drag the rail adventurers or risk!)
-Toilet paper (you don't want to get into a sticky situation)
Check if the following are included,
Otherwise, these are important items to add to your list:
-Matches (bring some, just in case)
Also, don't forget to check your emails before your departure: you will be given certain instructions, such as the code for the padlocks, where to get wood and where to park.
All in all, it was a very pleasant experience. Sleeping in a refuge allowed me to enjoy the winter landscapes in complete peace of mind, without requiring complex preparation. It is certain that we will try this type of adventure again soon!
Finally, here is a small, non-exhaustive list of shelters in Quebec discovered during my little research on the subject:
-In Sépaq parks: Mont-Orford, Mont-Mégantic, Mont-Tremblant, Jacques Cartier, etc.
-Refuge les cliffs, Vallée bras du Nord
-Shelter at Devil's Mountain Park
-At the perched refuges
Do you know any other magical places? Share your favorites with us in the comments!