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The Gaspé (“place where the land ends”) Peninsula juts out into the Gulf of St. Lawrence at the southeastern end of the province of Québec. Follow Highway 132 east from Québec City on the south side of the St. Lawrence River around the peninsula until you make a loop that returns back to Québec City. That covers 1,550 kilometers (963 miles) of winding two-lane road through some of eastern Canada’s most beautiful scenery. My favorite part of the drive is Percé Rock and Forillon National Park. Both are next to one another at the northeastern tip of the peninsula and an extension of the Appalachian Mountains. Percé (“pierced”) Rock is a massive limestone formation just offshore (you can hike to it at low tide), “pierced” with a huge natural arch at its far end. Forillon is a 244-square-kilometer park with a dramatic coastline and panoramic lookout tower on the 7.8-kilometer (4.8-mile) loop Mont Saint-Alban Trail.
The applicable expression here is, “If you don’t like the weather then look out the other window.” Because most of Highway 132 hugs the coast, the view out one window shows you the weather out at sea. The land-lover’s side frames an idyllic rolling landscape that’s often the reverse of the weather visible at sea. Straight ahead is a good direction to look for deer, moose or black bear—on the road! Spring and early summer are often wet, and a sunny day quickly can change to wind and rain. Carry rain gear.
I always try to travel with a full complement of lenses—a 15mm fish-eye, 16-35mm wide-angle zoom, 24-70mm zoom and 100-400mm telephoto. My most used is the Canon EF 16-35mm ƒ/2.8, and this location would be no exception. The wide-open coastline meeting the headlands of the peninsula makes for big landscape images. A favorite technique is to get in low and close on a foreground subject (on your belly, inches away), using the sweeping view and great depth of field provided by these extreme wide-angles. Turning the camera vertically can exaggerate this effect even further. I used to carry 44 different filters (grads, color enhancers) in the days of film. Now I only consider three filters to be essential—a regular circular polarizing filter, a Gold-N-Blue color polarizing filter and a Vari-ND filter (to generate long exposures), both from Singh-Ray. I carry a small headlamp to help check camera settings in the dark, which also comes in handy when starting up the trailhead to the Forillon lookout tower so I can get there before sunrise. Binoculars are essential, too.
Spring is best for birds as the peninsula is on the Atlantic flyway. Thousands of seabirds nest on Bonaventure Island, a short boat ride from Percé. Murres, razorbills, puffins and about 25,000 pairs of northern gannets make up the island’s quarter-million bird population. Whale watching—humpback, sperm, fin, northern right and blue—is peak from June to July. Autumn is best for landscapes. Some of Canada’s most spectacular fall colors are delivered by the mixed hardwood forests, and morning fog in Forillon and around Percé Rock are more common in this season. The weather is usually more stable, clear and cool, too.
Contact: Tourism Québec, www.bonjourquebec.com.
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