It's September 30, 2019; the sound of the alarm strikes at 2:30 am. Small-eyed and sleepy, I hit the road 15 minutes later, heading for Parc national de la Gaspésie. The goal: meet the mountaineer caribou that frequent the high peaks of this magnificent mountain range, the Chics Chocs.
A few hours later, I park the van, it's still quite dark and I've got a rather steep hike ahead of me. Without a moment's hesitation, I strap on the backpack weighing a few dozen pounds, put on my headphones and begin the ascent. There's no point in trying to enjoy the mountain views at night, it's the perfect time to concentrate on just one thing: putting one foot in front of the other at a good pace thinking about the caribou encounter that might be the reward.
Not without a sweat, I reach the summit just before sunrise. As it often happens above 1000m altitude, a huge fog bank greeted me on my arrival. If it was pitch black on the way up, now it's white... just white. The temperature on this September day is between -5 and 0 degrees Celsius, and everything is icy... even the caribou!
The good news is that, through this cloud, I saw my first individuals of this animal, now so rare in Gaspésie. This was the second time I'd had the privilege of admiring them with my own eyes, in the wild. Such elegant and magnificent animals! I decided to warm up by adding the insulating layers I'd brought in my bag. Simultaneously, I get my camera gear ready and decide to take the time to look around and let the fog dissipate (at least, that's my plan).
Almost immovable, the caribou lie close to the main trail, sometimes disappearing in the thick, wind-driven cloud. An hour later, the view clears and the first glimmer of light appears. I'll always remember the moment I counted the 14 caribou that were there at that moment, I could hardly believe it.
De les voir c’est déjà tout un privilège, mais avoir une ambiance hallucinante, un givre si photogénique, des couleurs d’automne et plus de 10 individus comprenant mâles, femelles et veaux, c’est un rêve!! Le temps file et je prends des milliers de photos en arrêtant parfois pour simplement profiter, regarder et écouter le spectacle auquel j’assiste et absorber toute cette beauté.
Being in the early stages of the mating season, I can see males fighting, hear the intensity of the altercations and the antlers rubbing against each other, observe impressive pursuits, gentle moments between females and calves, scenes that are beyond reality but nonetheless very real, almost palpable. I say almost palpable, because one of the individuals decided to approach at such a short distance that if I stretched out my arm, I would have touched his snout!
By late afternoon, the cold had crept through my layers of clothing and, above all, my hiking boots. Despite my desire for this day to last forever, I set off on the descent. In around 6 or 7 hours at the summit, I'd seen more caribou than hikers, taken over 5,000 photos and videos, but above all created some of the best memories of my young photographic career to this day.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read and enjoy my images. If you're a caribou lover like me, you can order prints and frames of several photos of these fascinating animals. The links are below! Feel free to leave thoughts or else in the comments section!
If you'd like to know more about the ongoing fight for survival of the Gaspésie herd, there are also several organizations that raise awareness and campaign for their protection, such as SNAP Québec, CREBSL, Nature Québec, Comité de protection des monts Chics-Chocs to name just a few.
Year 2023 is already coming to an end, and what an intense 12 months it's been! Without a doubt, one of the best years of my life, both personally and entrepreneurially.
My very first encounter with the bobcat (Lynx rufus), what an amazing moment and what a privilege I had! Before starting the big season of photography, spring, I allowed myself a little two weeks of warm weather and surf, to relax. Nevertheless, I always bring my almost all my equipment in order not to regret a rare opportunity, and I'm glad I did!