Women Find Empowerment On The Trail

by Raphaëlle Rousseau

The fog is thick and the faded silhouettes of the trees remind me of the dream I had a few minutes ago before muting my alarm and pulling myself out of the tent. It's 6am when we turn the burner on. Coffee is made while other friends arrive in small batches. We recall the day's plan as a small group works on assembling breakfast yogurts and a few others produce healthy lunches. Early bird catches the bird, they say! We are all gathered this morning at dawn in the Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaie park (a scenic area named after a series of valleys cut deep into a range of high mountains) because two girls in our group have decided to organize a weekend getaway out of the city so that we could discover one of the jewels of our province: the legendary Acropole-des-Draveurs trail.

We have a 11km hike ahead of us but we are reminded by the organizers that we all have different skills and objectives, and that going at our own pace is the key to success. The journey begins and the first kilometer almost discourages some of us. The beginning of the trail is quite difficult since it is steep and filled with large rocky steps. We share our tricks: push your thighs back every step, keep your back straight, don't forget to breathe. As many begin to ask for a break to catch their breath, the forest clears and a rock the size of a bus hanging on the mountainside allows us to move towards a view of the valley where the mist is still hanging. We drink big sips and encourage each other to continue while others catch up. A few high-fives and we're off again. The following kilometers are milder and the further we go, the more the sun pierces the fog, shining through the leaves. This longer part of the trail passes faster and we don't even realize we've reached the top when the path leads to a gigantic rocky platform that melts with the fog background that has thickened behind the cliff. We sit to take a moment to enjoy the rhythm of our inspirations and our happy appetite that looks forward to the delicious lunch to come.

After everyone has arrived and rested, we head for the second summit, along the ridge that reveals itself behind the cloud layer. It is at the second summit that we decide to enjoy our lunch. Magically, the sky clears and the view reveals itself in front of us, stirring collective emotion in front of a huge steep valley. A rock formation that reminds me of Yosemite shows up on the other side right in front of us. We take the time to eat and take some pictures, then begin our descent, some of them do it on the run. We all decide to regroup at the beautiful river that cuts through the valley, barely visible from above. Our bruised feet and sun-warmed scalps suddenly relax when they come into contact with the fresh, living water.

Everyone loved their day and felt accomplished, even those who struggled at the first kilometer and this pride gives us the desire to transform ourselves into something extraordinary: some mimic mermaids on a piece of rock, others imitate otters laughing on their backs. All these women are strong, but have strengthened their imagination and confidence in their abilities through this simple weekend expedition. It shows that the grandiose inspires the grandiose and that sharing stimulates the desire to share. So, if you ever feel the gloom of cold days win you over, get out of your house and say yes to opportunities that allow you to live and share with others the images that make you dream better.

To follow my adventures, follow me on Instagram @raphrouss