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An urbanite on the run.... at Mont Saint‑Bruno

In collaboration with Mathieu Charlebois.

Mathieu was born in the city, grew up in the city, and expects to die in the city, under the wheels of a motorist who did not respect a pedestrian crosswalk. He went into the woods once, in 1988 or thereabouts, to follow his parents. Since then, he has lived in the shade of the city's cement trees and has only ventured into nature by accident.

Sépaq sent him into the woods to see how long it would take before he was lost.

Parc national du Mont-Saint-Bruno Parc national du Mont-Saint-Bruno
Parc national du Mont-Saint-Bruno Mathieu Charlebois | © Sépaq

Trees big like Bruno Landry*

One Saturday in mid-November, I slipped on my mittens, laced up my boots, took off my mittens so I could tie my boots, put on my coat, put on my toque, put on my mittens again, and I went to discover this "nature" which I had heard so much about. My destination? Parc national du Mont-Saint-Bruno.

For someone whose job is to write jokes, it was a no brainer to choose as a first escapade a mountain named in honour of one of our greatest comedians: Bruno Landry.

It didn't take me five minutes at the spot to notice the trees. ("Duh," you might say. "This is the forest.” Okay, cut the sneering , we're only in the third paragraph.) Then, I realized that the trees are really big.

Like Mr. Landry, the silvicultural inhabitants of Mont Saint-Bruno stand tall and proud. With their branches, they try to touch the sky, in the same way that Bruno Landry tried to touch the divine with each episode of Rire et délire (laughter and mayhem).

Without those darn leaves in the way, you can finally walk in the forest AND enjoy the blue sky. On this sunny afternoon, the bare trees let a completely crazy light pass through, transforming Mont Saint-Bruno into an Instagram filter for perfect pictures.

* Bruno Landry is a Quebec comedian and humorist. He was part of the humor group Rock et Belles Oreilles from 1981 to 1995.

Parc national du Mont-Saint-Bruno
Parc national du Mont-Saint-Bruno - But I didn't come here to improve my Instagram game, #influencer, #blessed, #LePleinAirCestLaVie. I came here... because it's not far from home. Mathieu Charlebois | © Sépaq
Parc national du Mont-Saint-Bruno
Parc national du Mont-Saint-Bruno Mathieu Charlebois | © Sépaq

A park  that’s a stone's throw from your home

(If you live a stone's throw from the park)

Yes, the Alps are beautiful and the Rockies make us feel like real Canucks. But can we get to Mont Blanc by taking a $3.50 bus ride from Longueuil metro station? No way! Well with Mont Saint-Bruno, it's possible.

And if you’re one of those motoring millionaires, your car will get you there in about 30 minutes from Montreal.

If I’d known that this beautiful place was within bus reach, I would have jumped at the chance long before! I would have had gourmet picnics there. Done some hardcore birdwatching. Sledded and snow tubed. I would have made sure that my first kid was born there, in a setting far more enchanting than a hospital room.

The plan for the afternoon: a walk of about 90 minutes around a lake. Full disclosure: It would finally take me a good two hours, with a lot of stopping to be wowed by the scenery along the way.

But I want to boo and hiss a bit before singing the praises of this wonderful spot.

Lac des Bouleux

It's beautiful, but not very original

If I have a criticism to make of the park, it’s for a clear lack of imagination on the toponymic level. What can you find on the road to Lac des Bouleaux (birch lake)? A trail bordered by birches. What’s on the shore of Lac du Moulin? If you answered, "A mill", well done, you’re not in a coma.

How could so much beauty (check out the picture!) have led to such uninspired names? It’s a bit like calling your kids Baby #1 and Baby #2. Frankly, they could have done a whole lot better.

What are ya waiting for? Come on! Let's go!

In addition to joggers and cross-country skiers, cyclists nip down the trails on these oversized wheeled vehicles called fat bikes, blissfully unaware of the size shaming in the naming. (All wheels are beautiful; all bicycles deserve respect.)

And then there are the walkers. Recreational walkers, like me, but also walking professionals who use walking sticks and make us feel like failures because we walk with our mitts empty like beginners.

Don't be fooled by the powerful walking stick lobby that wants us to believe that we need $3,000 titanium sticks to put one foot in front of the other. I went around the park with no equipment other than good boots.

Every step we take rewards us with the sweet sound of snow being crushed under our feet. This leads us to the second activity: listening to the silence of the forest.

It's not easy, because there's always a bloody bird chirping, a tree cracking, or the glugging of a nearby stream that makes us want to shout "Shut up, nature! I'm trying to listen to the silence of the forest!” It's not easy, but when you reach that moment of calm, far from the cars, the stress of the city, and the construction, it almost makes you forget that you're having a panic attack because the cold has knocked out your phone.

Sitting in the tea room in the mill of the lake with same name (still with me?), I take stock of my day: I saw a fox and two deer; I saw someone on a trail and we nodded like two truck drivers on the highway; and my eyes practically have cramps from all the gaping.

This time I walked. But next time, I think I'll try cross-country skiing. The guy in the pictogram seems to be having so much fun!

Descente en ski

Mathieu Charlebois

About Mathieu Charlebois

AFormer musician turned journalist, turned political columnist, turned author of humor, Mathieu Charlebois regularly writes for Curium and L'actualité magazines, in addition to making podcasts (including Comment être drôle, with Julien Corriveau) and posters of photos of food on Instagram.

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