This is a little jewel of a location for sea kayaking without the sea. It's big water with ocean feel on a giant lake: Lac Saint Jean. So no worries of reading tide charts. And the water is warm enough for a swim in summer. Two thumbs up!
A lake formed like big round bowl can be boring in a kayak so it's nice to know where along its shores you can find a beautiful archipelago of islands and big craggy bays with interesting granite rock outcroppings and semi-sandy, gravely beaches to park on around the lake.
We found it here: Saint Gedeon. We had the feeling of being lost without getting lost. Big water on Lac Saint Jean, with lots to explore and endless places to wander - so close to our accommodation.
After paddling the islands off Saint Gedeon and the nearby Baie des Girard,I remarked to my paddling partner that I didn't want to share this spot on my blog. How selfish! He told me I had to. So many paddlers share favorite paddling places, I've got to do the same. That's what makes us a paddling community. And, I figured the kayak karma police would chase me until I did.
That's how wonderful this paddling location is. I found myself wishing our good paddle buddies and fellow bloggers from Maine were with us. This area reminded us so much of our awesome trip to paddle and camp the archipelago of islands off Stonington, Maine - minus the lobster boats and colorful lobster buoys.
We didn't have a map or GPS. By paying attention to our direction with a kayak compass and using simple landmarks along the way, we were able to find our way without getting lost.
Saint Gedeon is a small community nestled around Lac Saint Jean. Accommodations are limited but we found the perfect waterfront spot at Auberge des Iles. The owner of the auberge was very accommodating and friendly. We found the locals and visitors to the region friendly and relaxed.
You can't beat the fresh local blueberries when they are in season. The Lac Saint Jean region is famous for its small, tart, delicious blueberries. You'll see endless fields of them as you drive around the lake.
You can easily Google Saint Gedeon and look at the earth view.
The islands off Saint Gedeon and Baie des Girard are not far from the auberge and are in a protected bay. When the wind is way up on Lac Saint Jean, the bays can be calm and quiet. There weren't many motor boats around the islands or in the bay, but stay on the look out for them. They come and go from nearby marinas and visit some of the island beaches. Most of the high speed activity seemed to stay out in the big, open stretches of the lake where motor boats don't have to worry so much about rocky shoals.
Watch out for rocky shoals in the area. I would avoid going out when there are white caps and big wind and waves. You won't see the rocky shoals.
You can launch your kayak from a sandy public beach next to Auberge des Iles. There is a small driveway next to the auberge that leads down to the water. There is a picnic shelter. Free parking can be found in a parking lot across the street from the auberge.
You can have lunch or dinner to beautiful waterfront views at the Auberge des Isles restaurant. They have a chef from Saint Sauveur, Quebec. The menu is small, and the food was quite good. If you stay at the auberge, we found the continental breakfast (included in the price of the room rental) was excellent. Lots of fresh fruits, and local creton that guests devour each time a fresh batch is put out.
The owner of the auberge said August was their busiest month. We visited mid-August. Cyclists touring the 256 kilometer Veloroute des Bluets around Lac Saint Jean also take advantage of the convenient location of this auberge. It's a great spot to bring the bikes and the kayaks. The cycle route passes next to the auberge.
If you are planning on camping, there is a big campground in Saint Gedeon. It is jam-packed and busier than a bee hive.
There is also a public boat launch next to a marina off Rang des Iles in Saint Gedeon just up the road from the auberge with limited free parking.
The cement ramp at the boat launch is steep and surrounded by big cement retaining walls and rock. No safe place to land or launch if the wind is up or the weather changes while you are out and no restroom, or any decent place for a rest stop nearby. I don't like this boat launch for launching kayaks but the views from this location are beautiful. If the weather looks good all day and the wind is gentle, it's a good option. A local told us the waves can be wicked here when the wind is strong.
The Saguenay-Lac Saint Jean region of Quebec, Canada is very French and we speak French so it was no problem for us to communicate. If you travel to the region and don't speak or understand any French, you might want to make a few phone calls to the places you plan to visit to see if services in English are available.
Enjoy the dreamscape of Saint Gedeon on Lac Saint Jean.
The light on the water is sometimes magical. Seagulls never looked so good. The sunsets can be spectacular.
My kayak has a message in the seat. Harmony. After five years of paddling this kayak that I love, I suddenly noticed it. I was just reaching down to swab out the water behind the flexible back bend. The message in the seat made me stop for a few moments and I wondered, why didn't I notice it before? Harmony in my seat. If it's a brand name. Good choice.
I always felt it when I got in. Harmony with this kayak. And, especially, harmony after I learned how to adjust the seat and foot pegs, harmony after I found a paddle or two that I liked to paddle with, harmony after I took some kayaking courses, harmony when I found some good paddle mates, and harmony when I keep exploring and learning.
If you don't feel harmony in your kayak, perhaps look deeper. Is it your kayak, the paddle, your technique, your attitude, gear that doesn't work or perform to your needs, your paddle knowledge, your fitness level and diet, the people you paddle with.
When you have harmony with your kayak, enjoy every moment.
Your kayak keeps teaching you. What a wonderful and patient teacher. Find one you love.
It's motivating to sunscreen your kayak before a trip, whether it is plastic or fibreglass. I have one of each. For me, it's the only way to get motivated, otherwise I keep putting it off. And I know on a trip, the kayak is going to spend a lot more time in the hot sun. But, it's important to do it properly. There are several different brands of product to sunscreen and protect your kayak. I used Aerospace 303.
The kayak also looks beautiful after a proper cleaning and treatment, sometimes even showroom ready. And, I feel better when I'm tripping knowing I've given it some sun protection. It also reminds me to bring my human sunscreen too.
Here's a link to my article on sunscreening your kayak and how to do it properly according to the manufacturer's instructions.
There are lots of benefits to cleaning out the kayak gear bags before a little trip to cold water. You find stuff!
Some of it is necessary stuff. Some of it is stuff you forgot you had. You find out some of what you want and need is hidden somewhere else and you spend hours tracking it down. But finally, the mess is assembled and all the sand and grit is dumped back outside where it belongs.
Geez. Look at all this stuff! It's frightening? It's beautiful? It's all good stuff! Now to pare it down and bring as little as possible. And this is all the day tripping gear. The kayak camping gear (sleeping bags, lightweight 2-man tent, pots n' pans, etc.,) are another story and packed away in bins. My paddle partner laughed, "You have a lot of shit down there!" I guess he forgot half of it is his!
But what's this? A long lost clementine hiding in one of the gear bags. Perfectly desiccated and preserved and hard as a rock. It has a faint scent of orange flavoured chocolate.
Now, what to do with it? It has become paddle art. Another one of those unexpected things you find along the way. I wonder which trip you belong to?
Happy paddle trails. We're dusting off the sea kayaks and taking them further North to colder and bigger water than our little local lakes.