Saturday, September 3, 2011

Le Grand-brulé

It’s been a while; easily several years that I have been suggesting we hike up Mont Tremblant to see the bird show at the summit. For the bilingual “Birds of Prey” show organized by Falcon Environmental Services, this is the last weekend of the season.

Tanya Drapeau of FES was recently a guest on the interview show I host and her appearance prompted me to again suggest to Susan that we hike up Tremblant, Labor Day weekend. I had done television reports from the picturesque summit with Tanya years ago, but, Susan and I had never hiked up to see the actual show.

Today was the day!

The two of us arrived at the base of the mountain and decided the quickest way to hike to the summit would be straight up! The show was scheduled to begin at 12:30 pm. We had about an hour and a half to make the demanding 968 metre climb.

Two minutes in, Susan turned around and playfully offered, “If I’m going too fast, be sure to tell me.” She called it “a little verbal jab”. Wouldn’t it be funny, I grumbled to myself, if I got the opportunity during this hike to say those very words back to her.

Twenty minutes later; bingo!

Never one to shy away from fanning a potential domestic fire, I turned around and, at great risk to life and limb, offered, “If  I’m going too fast, tell me,” and, I added, “That’s just a playful little jab.” She took it very well and the bruise she inflicted will heal with time.

I’m telling you, the summit never came! I was drenched but keeping pace and, at times, setting a slow but steady one. I’d stop to take pictures as an excuse to rest!

Last weekend, I walked to the video store about a mile and a half from our home, in the wind and rain attributed to Tropical Storm Irene and I didn’t get as wet as I got today, climbing Tremblant! Along with the front and back of my shirt, the entire rim of my HH baseball cap was completely soaked!

I was wearing our backpack and I made certain to explain its terribly cumbersome weight was contributing to the steady flow of sweat dripping from the tip of my nose!

It contained two water bottles, four fruit cups, two spoons, my sweater, my rain slicker, Susan’s slicker, my wallet, her wallet, a bag of raisins, a bag of jellybeans, a pen or two, an elastic band and lots of lint! All in all, we’re talking substantial weight; am I right?

We traded the lead until, frustratingly, she got her second wind! We’d still stop to rest, but she definitely had more energy as we finally closed the distance to the summit. We must have made the summit shortly after noon. I quickly bought liquids and guzzled them!

Sitting on the bench at the bird show, soaked with sweat, I began to feel a chill in the breeze. The biologists brought out a turkey vulture, kestrel and a bald eagle. The birds fly right over your head and move from perch to perch, so you can snap pictures.

This is the little barn owl who, despite his little puffball apprearance, the biologists explained, is a voracious hunter.

Then, there was a Great Horned Owl.

The show, though a little shorter than we had expected, was terrific! We left the show and snapped some pictures from the summit.

We weren’t too sure which path to take down, but we ended-up on a trail called Le Grand-brulé, which, unbeknownst to us, translates to “the godforsaken, never-ending trail”. Had we been aware of the translation, rest assured, we would have coughed up $7 each, to take the gondola down!

It was tight, steep, slippery, dark, bright, wet, dry, mucky. The trail surface went from thick slop to jagged rocks, then from loose boulders to sheer faces, and from packed gravel to tangled roots. In Tremblant's official guide, Le Grand-brulé is listed, kindly, as a "difficult" trail of 6.5 km in length, one way.

Hiking with Susan today, was like hiking with a little kid! On the way up, she claimed I was too slow, then too fast! Susan was thirsty, her ankle hurt, her back hurt and, being a goal-oriented, fiery little beast, she preferred leading the way up the hill! Publicly, she will insist she is not competitive. I don’t understand it! On the way down, ignoring treacherous terrain, she would insist on scampering ahead and claiming the lead for hers, and hers alone! She was in another gear! If I was in front, the instant there was enough space, she would dash past, giggling! The truth is she may be psychotically competitive; not to mention impatient, impulsive and impetuous. Honestly, it doesn’t get any better than that! I love it!

Susan likes to see she’s making progress and Le Grand-brulé doesn’t allow you to ever see the village below. So, you ceaselessly slip, slide, twist, bend, skip, jump and hop, without ever feeling like you’re nearing the end. Providing plenty of close calls and wipeouts, “the godforsaken, never-ending trail” just went on and on, and on and on!

Susan did not appreciate that “endless hiking feeling” in the least, nor the sense of futility it bred. She kept letting me know it and by the time we saw the village, I was as relieved as she was!

We stopped to look in a few stores and every time we stopped, my limbs, joints, muscles and brain cells seemed to be stiffening-up. As we came out of the village general store with still more liquids in-hand, I said, “Wow, every time we start walking again, I walk even slower than I did before." Immediately and sweetly, she responded, “Really? I didn’t think that was possible.”

I must say, today was a nutty workout! I can’t decide which was a greater source of exhaustion, hiking up and down Tremblant, or hiking with Susan!

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