Every main long trail has a best kept secret that is the hidden gem of their local trail.
The Appalachian trail has the Great Smoky Mountains, the Pacific Crest trail has the John Muir trail, The Continental Divide trail has the Colorado National park and the International Appalachian trail has the Quebec IAT chapter, The Chic chocs.
In 1994, a new trail of 1900 miles was proposed by Richard Anderson and construction was started as an extension of the iconic Appalachian Trail... After much discussion, it was eventually called the International Appalachian trail.
First person to hike the IAT was John Brinda but he actually hiked from Florida past Katahdin to Labrador. Which is now known as the Eastern Continental divide trail of 4800 miles.
However for Maine, New Brunswick, Quebec, PEI, Nova Scotia and Labrador, it was left to the state/provinces and the many volunteers to create this incredible extension of the AT.
However the Quebec Chapter of 650 km, decided to take their section of the trail to the extreme. They created 4 walled shelters from 4 person to huge 32 person shelters called Refuges/Abris here. And all the larger refuges have a big dry storage room where firewood was stored for those not so friendly days. Each refuge had a iron stove handy. Small towns became trail towns with the smaller 6 person shelters were located in small enchanting towns on the Matapedia section which is the first section of the Quebec Chapter. And these shelters were all located in very unique environments for the wow factor.
This section is roughly 650km/404 miles, has 5 unique regions of Matapedia Valley, Reserve Faunique, Chic Chocs, Coastal and Parc Forlion. With the new bone arches from mile 635 to the incredible ending/starting at mile 0 and what is known as Lands End.
Fastest known time is by Matthew Blanchard of 7 days 12 hours set in 2020. However, I firmly believe there should be 2 timers, one for hikers and another for these trail runners.
Most popular parts of the IAT Quebec are the Reserve Faunique, Parc Forlion and Chic Chocs.
This is a very wild, savage, lonely trail. The Bears are bigger here and rumours of other creatures in this savage place far north of the Appalachian Trail. People must be prepared for any encounter with wildlife. In 2020, my hiking partner must have stepped on a queen hornet nest and really made the hive so angry they followed us for 5km in the Matapedia forestry road. Another encounter during a night hike in the reserve faunique with bear bells doing their thing and music being sounded, we both stopped in our tracks as we heard a growl that was really close to our ears. She turned around looked at my white face as I yelled RUN. Normally with a bear encounter that is the last thing you do but at night, yelling and running seem to be the smart thing. Anyway we survived and we both promised each other to never hike a night on uncivilized trails. To me, the Appalachian Trail is very civilised compared to our northern trails. Heck the 2 north south ranger trails in Alberta and the IAT Labrador are the most dangerous uncivilized hikes in NA. We are chatting about wolves in the east and Grizzlies in the west.
I have hiked the IAT Quebec trail solo in 2017 and duo in 2020. I hope to hike this incredible trail again in 2022 with a small group of 4 this time.
And my next attempt on the AT will be in 2023, with a group already formed. After that I can finally seriously start planning the CDT, PCT, triathlon of the AT, Te Araroa in NZ and the UK various long trails. And in between all those hikes I have the IAT Quebec and the Appalachian Trail as my stomping grounds to maintain my yearly fitness goals to past 85.
Curiously, I wonder when the mountains will stop calling for me. Will I eventually become the oldest person to thru hike the AT one day without a beard?