Anticosti Part 7: West Point, Port-Menier & back to Sept-Îles

Anticosti Island, Quebec (Map)

Fall 2014


The extremely short road to West Point crossed a bridge over a small river and passed by yet another shipwreck.

Yes, another shipwreck here on the island and easily accessible by land. In addition, I've only brought you two of the shipwrecks on Anticosti as I didn't have time for the Great Lakes freighter on the south coast & I didn't know if the Gibalo was still standing down by Southwest Point.

Unlike the wreck of the Wilcox, the ship here doesn't have a noteworthy history. The Calou was simply a trawler from the Gaspé Peninsula that wrecked on these shores in 1982.

It would have been easy enough to climb up on the deck, but I decided against it in the face of holes and soggy wood. I approached the stern and stuck my head in to take a picture.

Courtesy DFO Quebec. Date Unknown, Pre-1950.

I was only headed to West Point because I happened to be in the area. Even though former lightstation sites can be still interesting after lighthouse demolition, I usually don't prioritize visiting them.

Of course I'd rather Anticosti's beautiful, 1858 lighthouse still stand here, but this gorgeous evening was making everything alright as I slowly strolled about, still enjoying the former lighthouse keepers' houses and old foundation bits.

As I mentioned, the plan was to camp back at those houses at Baie Sainte-Claire, but the appeal of staying at West Point was taking over.

And it wouldn't be just setting up my tent here as the municipality owns the former lightkeeper houses, renting out rooms at the low rate of just $40! The only problem was that no one stays out here full time – the manager lives in Port-Menier and I assume gives you the key back in town. I had the number to call, but I didn't want to drive back to Port-Menier and put 60km on my rental when I was already over the kilometer limit.

I figured I would call. Nervous for all of the aforementioned reasons, I reached a woman and didn't take a breath for 5 minutes as I hurriedly explained where I was and what I was hoping. Once I finally gave this poor woman a chance to talk, she explained that she knows English, but not enough to converse at the rate of an auctioneer.

She explained that a couple were already staying out here & that she'd tell them that I'd be there and that I was free to grab one of the rooms. In addition, it was totally fine to pay for the room tomorrow on the trust system & that I wouldn't have to drive back to Port-Menier tonight. Fantastique!

Courtesy DFO Quebec. Date Unknown, Pre-1950.

By now I had slept in my tent for the last four nights, leaving me a bit ripe. I also was growing pretty sick of soggy, sweet Froot Loops saturated with canned milk. Going inside, the first order was to wash away all of the dirt with a fantastic warm shower, then to eat later because the day was nearing its end. Even though I was still eating beef jerky, the shower was enough to make me feel like a new man.

The couple showed up sometime while I was getting dressed in my room; they a lovely couple in their 70s from Quebec's Magdalen Islands. They were here visiting Anticosti Island celebrating their 50th anniversary, which instantly made me feel guilty for interrupting their special time; but thankfully they explained that they were on Anticosti for 2 weeks and had plenty of time by themselves. It was no trouble that I had come along. In fact, they had been staying at West Point for a week and tonight was the only night they had to share the accommodations.

We would only get acquainted for 10 or 20 minutes, as they had a dinner date with friends they had made back in Port-Menier. Before I knew it, I was alone again at West Point with all of this glowing land to relax upon and have a few cold brews.

I walked about in a state of bliss, before my happiness blossomed even more with the thought that I found the foundation of the old West Point Lighthouse. Although I'd later learn that these stones instead made up the sizable breakwall in front of the lighthouse, at the time I was on cloud nine exploring about on the shallows, rocks and seaweed here.

I walked back down the shore to the Calou for sunset, amused because for all of the sunsets I had missed on Anticosti by camping in the woods or hiking right into dusk, this sunset here was a stunning one of cloud wisps and intensifying colours. The sea was calm and gently lapped at the shore, the greatest noise coming when I scared a nearby dear out of the tall, seaside grasses.

Satisfied with sitting on the rocks and walking the shore until it was dark enough, it was now time for glorious cooked food. As I didn't want to waste anymore of the costly food I bought back on day 1 of this trip, it wasn't as if I stopped to buy something elaborate when I was in Port-Menier. It was only the meat sauce and spaghetti I had bought to cook with my camp stove, but hungrily chowing down on the warm meal, it was some of the best spaghetti ever.

I ended up back out on the western-facing front porch as the French couple stayed out way longer than I thought they would. A cold wind was blowing in off of the St. Lawrence, but the night was still pleasant enough to relax there and savour the coming end of this trip. I did this & thought about life until the sky was a dark sea of stars in this place far removed from any sizable community.

During my cooking and exploring of the house, I was amazed at the love of food that the Quebecers had, evident as they had a better stocked vacation fridge than I do at home. This was even more evident when I woke up for breakfast, as they softly sung songs and skirted around the table making an elaborate feast.

They really were such lovely people & I had a great morning working through the French/English conversation with them. Not once was there that feeling where you want to get going or have your stuff packed just in case so you can get away.

Eventually departure time would come though & I then almost really embarrassed myself. With both of us packing up our trucks outside, I was the first to finish & I went over to thank them and wish them a great journey. We talked a bit more, then settled on saying goodbye. At this point, the woman leaned forward for what I thought was an oddly-timed kiss. My brain jolted into high gear & in that split second, evaluated whether this was appropriate or what she was doing. As I leaned forward as well, at the last second, some deep recess of my mind remembered the European cheek touching-kiss air thing, and I angled my head away just in time.

Even the thought of possibly kissing her on the lips brings me back to embarrassment. Oh how that would have ruined such a lovely evening/morning with my social awkwardness!

This morning it was finally time to return my truck that I'd grown to love. On the other hand, I was happy to give it back without hitting any deer or needing to use either of the full-sized tires in the back window cradle. All of the oil developments on the island seem to have greatly improved the roads, but the tires still provided a great peace of mind throughout the trip.

In the background is the Port-Menier gas station/rental car building.

The boat wasn't coming until 1130, giving me an hour to walk around Port-Menier one last time this morning.

I had seen the ferry off of the western coast when I was leaving West Point, but it would still take an hour to get here & they have a window of a few hours to load/offload cargo. I wasn't in any hurry to go sit on the boat for any longer than my 8 hour ferry trip.

So I walked around, finding the above building that looks like it dates to Henri Menier's time judging by the style and building materials, which matched other historic buildings around town. It looked like a city storage facility nowadays.

"Houses in a row." Credit: Library and Archives Canada / C-071723, 1920-1923.

One of the impressive sights of Port-Menier is one of the first you see from the boat. A colorful collection of aligned houses sits on a seaside road consisting of a bit of Port-Menier beach, before you reach tall cliffs in about a kilometer.

While some are weathered, it's amazing that they were all seemingly still occupied & there wasn't any obvious gaps in the streetscape where one may have been torn down.

One of these houses was home to the woman who ran the lighthouse chalets for the municipality. As I approached on this fine day, I found a beautiful woman outside working in her garden & it threw me off in that way when you don't expect something. Even though my French is terrible and her English was only good, we ended up having a 15 minute conversation, the highlight of it being when she asked me where I went on the island.

I told her about the stone lighthouse ruin at Southwest Point, and she said that's her favourite spot on the island and even called it magical or some other endearing descriptor. Apparently it was her that crusaded against the Coast Guard's demolition plans at Southwest Point, arguing to have them simply put up a fence and let it slowly fall into ruin instead. She was the one responsible for Southwest Point still being there!

This interaction was one of the memorable things I mentioned in the following months whenever someone asked about Anticosti. I'd then grow amused when the majority of my friends were surprised I didn't drop everything, settling in for the rest of my life in Port-Menier with this lovely fellow lover of lighthouses.

Letting my friends down, I actually left Anticosti after all of this serendipity.

You return the rental truck on the long quay, so there was no repeat of that long walk from the first night. Then again, it was sunny and not nearly as cold this morning anyhow.

Boarding the ferry, I put on The Weather Network to see what was coming for the one day I'd have to spend in Sept-Îles tomorrow. The coverage was all about the record temperature highs over the last 5 days here in late September, then the coming nosedive of the temperatures tonight. It was cold on the quay in my only clean clothes (shorts!), but I got incredibly lucky with the absence of rain and the presence of warmth throughout my days on Anticosti.

It being a Sunday and because Quebec ferries aren't as shitty as Newfoundland ferries, I was able to put on the Lions/Packers, savouring the beauty of being able to relax and enjoy my ferry ride, while watching what I want in this, the year 2014. This is what I would be watching at home & instead of being on the Newfoundland ferry staring daggers into the clueless workers who just leave on CTV or CBC even though we just got new ferries a couple of years ago, here I was lounging and loving life. Quebec was winning yet again.

I had a spare day in Sept-Îles on account of air miles only having a flight on Tuesday and not Monday. I had looked up a great place for breakfast, but I couldn't quite tell if it was open anymore. Alas, it only does catering nowadays, but the outside was still really neat. I'd end up at some standard bar/restaurant, where the food was good enough & the waitress was nice.

Afterwards I'd walk around & it's not just because Anticosti had that lovely lightkeeper woman that I thought about living there, I tend to do that for everywhere nowadays. Ever since blindly moving to a place and finding it such a poor fit for my life.

So I did this for Sept-Îles, finding an isolated ledge spot that I'd spend a lot of time biking at, but while still considering if Sept-Îles would be that much of an improvement over Corner Brook. It would be connected by road and not on an island, but Sept-Îles is still pretty isolated. I thought I'd be happier here, but not as happy as I imagine life can be.

sept-iles skatepark, handrails and ledges

The skatepark is another factor in how much I'm going to enjoy living in a place.

Sept-Îles had a funky one, where it was bigger than Corner Brook, but really unique. I wasn't sure how much time you could spend here and still have the skatepark feel fresh. And for how much I criticize Corner Brook, at least their limited skatepark is designed well enough to where I rarely get bored.

strange ledge at sept-iles skatepark

Sept-Îles did have this weird curved wallride/slanted ledge. I don't know how much I'd use this day-to-day, but I missed having my bike to give it at least one go today. I'd never seen anything like it made by this typically cookie-cut ramp company.

I walked for hours in Sept-Îles, reaching the adjacent Indian reserve of Uashat that abuts the city. It's here that I found the old Innu chapel, first built in 1849 and greatly enlarged in 1890.

The reserve was created in 1949, but many of the Montagnais (Innu) didn't want to leave their old chapel behind, feeling the history they had with this place and how their ancestors are buried in the cemetery beside it.

I had never seen a cemetery with Innu-aimum headstones before, so I took my time to walk around and read the dates, while the busy riverside road had cars speeding past.

The Innu no longer use this church, but there doesn't seem to be much online about what, if any, plans there are for the building. A 2008 photo shows it rundown and with more religious artifacts on the outside, but it was sealed up on this day 6 years later.

This church isn't even technically in Uashat, but I continued on the street into the reserve, having a look around, then growing tired with sore feet, ready to return to the hostel. I'd go back to that Pub St-Marc from my first day in Sept-Îles, amazed at how lively it was on the last Monday in September.

My departing flight left Sept-Îles very early in the morning on Tuesday, so it was in an early morning fog that I said goodbye to the building that brought such great memories.

I had been waiting the whole trip for someone to take interest in where I was going or why I was in Sept-Îles & it finally happened with pretty much the last person possible. It was the cabbie who picked me up at the hostel, who was finally the person to ask why I was here.

My flight home was one of those ridiculous air miles flights with a 630am Sept-Îles flight, 1030am Montreal flight, then 11pm Halifax flight. I ended up taking the bus into Halifax and eating Taco Bell at their mall, before watching Boyhood at the downtown theatre & amazing myself with how quickly a good Halifax day was spent.

In the end, it was amazing I could have all this adventure for a short-haul air miles flight that was only 15,000 miles. I now wrack my brain for what other adventure I'm missing in Quebec or these Atlantic Provinces at such a cost.


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The Old Newfoundland Railway:
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1 - Anticosti: The Untamed Island, Mackay, 1979
2 - Discover Our Churches, Sept-Iles Parish
3 - Uashat - Wikipedia

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