Traversée de la Gaspésie – Communion amid the Gaspésie landscapes
Whether completed on foot or on skis, the Traversées de la Gaspésie are always a big hit. This grand adventure of body and soul amid the backdrop of the Gaspésie landscapes was conceived nearly 20 years ago by Claudine Roy, whose heart was captured by the region.
The routes cross deep valleys, boreal ridges and arable plateaus: strong elevations and gentle slopes alternate in prominence along the way. It speaks to the diversity of the Gaspesian landscapes and, as a result, the itinerary that the organization develops each year without ever fearing repetitiveness. “The Gaspésie region is huge!” says Claudine Roy, the driving force behind the famous Traversées de la Gaspésie (TDLGs), who is always struck by the vastness of the area.
The now semi‑annual events (since 2014, a fall circuit has been added to the winter ski and snowshoe circuit) allow outdoor enthusiasts to discover the Gaspesian landscapes during treks where distance and time become blurred. Far from their day‑to‑day obligations, these nomads travelling on foot or skis experience something that defies time. “Yes, the TDLGs are physical challenges, but they are primarily events where human relations are at the heart of the adventure,” says the head of the TDLGs, which would have been in their 26th edition had it not been for the pandemic. “People come to the TDLGs because they foster contact. First, a contact with themselves, because there are long periods of solitude, and also a contact with others.”
For the Gaspésie region…
For Claudine Roy, the natural landscapes have always beckoned her to adventures of discovery through hiking and cross‑country skiing. In 1984, accompanied by equally passionate cross‑country skiers, she travelled across Québec and organized an expedition on the Basse‑Côte‑Nord similar to what was to become the TDLGs. In winter, this energetic resident of the Gaspésie region would regularly invite friends to go skiing in her neck of the woods. She also opened the well‑known resto‑bar, the Brise‑Bise, in Gaspé, and gave birth to her son Clovis. Time flew by and the cross‑country skier withdrew from the slopes for a period. Until one of those days when anything seems possible. “One morning, I got up and thought it would be great to do something for the Gaspésie region in the wintertime, to encourage winter tourism,” says Claudine, who, in addition to the TDLGs, runs a country inn in the centre of Gaspé. From the combination of a love for cross‑country skiing and the desire to develop the region was born the TDLGs, in 2002.
…By the Gaspésie region
The TDLG is also well known far beyond Québec’s borders (Le Monde and The New York Times have raved about it), and this exposure reverberates throughout the entire Gaspésie region, which is now being showcased like never before. Claudine Roy is very proud of it, and rightfully so after having gone through difficult years in the region at the turn of the millennium. “If you look back 18 years, the image of the Gaspésie region wasn’t as positive as it is today,” admits the woman who hails from Pointe‑à‑la‑Frégate, a village nestled on the north side of the peninsula. “But I’ve always fought for the Gaspésie area.”
The region’s recovery clearly depends on initiatives such as the TDLGs and other projects whose success relies on the support of the people living in the region, for whom the territory means everything, and who view self‑sacrifice and generosity as natural components of any undertaking. “People from the Gaspésie region are amazing!” says this businesswoman who is very involved in her community. “We’re welcomed into the villages with enormous generosity; people are ready to give you the shirt off their back. In winter, snowmobilers come with their own vehicles to take part in the organization, and some even take vacation time to come help us,” she says, full of gratitude. Each year, we typically have about 50 volunteers who ensure that the outings go smoothly, during and between the different phases.
Communing with others
Even though the TDLGs are not extreme sports expeditions, participants still need to have some experience trekking in nature before heading to the Gaspésie region. During the fall event, hikers will walk 15 to 20 kilometres every day. In winter, cross‑country skiers will average 30 kilometres a day (snowshoers about half that), sometimes under difficult weather conditions: biting cold, sudden snow squalls and hidden ice are some of the obstacles along the route to the lodging where the participants will rest before starting out again with renewed vigour at daybreak. While at first it may appear like a solitary activity, the TDLGs are equally group adventures. “My goal is to offer everyone an opportunity to experience a sort of communion with others,” says Claudine Roy. “When people arrive, they don’t quite know what they’re getting into. They set out with a certain sense of insecurity and then, at the end of the week, they’re ready to hug one another, laugh together and even cry together! For me, those are the most beautiful moments of the TDLGs.”
Marking the 20th in a big way
For the 20th anniversary of the TDLGs, in 2022, Claudine Roy is contemplating an ambitious project: transport by ship, aboard the CTMA Vacancier, a large group of people from Montréal to Gaspé. In the long term, however, the TDLGs will continue despite everything to be a vehicle for showcasing the beauty of the Gaspésie region. “As long as I remain healthy and perhaps a bit crazy, it’ll continue,” says the Gaspésie region’s proud daughter and constant champion.
Blog post written by Olivier Béland‑Côté
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