The following is a guest column and good news story from a traveler who immensely enjoyed his visit to the Montebello region.

by Jonathan Cooper 

In October, my oldest friend celebrated his 40th birthday party at a fishing lodge north of Montebello, Quebec.  We have known each other for over thirty years — we grew up on the same block, playing street hockey in the laneway.  I live in Vancouver, B.C., and hadn’t been on a plane since sometime in 2019, but the family and job logistics worked out, so off I went.

I flew into Montreal, and made my way to the Location de Voitures.  Thanks to COVID-19, I’d forgotten the special tedium of car rental lineups, but eventually I secured my mid-sized SUV and headed east on Highway 40.  As I approached the Ottawa River, I began to feel hungry, and the thought occurred to me: what’s a visit to French Ontario (or Quebec) without poutine?  So on the outskirts of Hawkesbury, I enjoyed a mid-afternoon poutine-plus-fried chicken, complemented by friendly service.  

I drove on to Montebello.  As dusk settled into the trees, I arrived at the fishing lodge, which overlooked Lac Papineau.  A dozen people had already gathered for drinks and a barbecue.  After more than 19 months of COVID-19 lockdowns, the social interaction was both novel and refreshing; and though I was exhaustedly happy when I went to bed, I was slow to fall asleep.  As a city dweller, I was unaccustomed to the deep quiet of the Quebec forest. 

The next afternoon, I took a break from the ‘cabinage’ and drove into Hawkesbury.  Along Route 50, the autumn foliage over the rocky landscape made a glorious contrast to the dense evergreen forests of West Coast.  And the view from the crest of the Long-Sault Bridge etched itself in my memory: the trees around Grenville, the sun on the broad sweep of the Ottawa River, the elegant spire of Saint-Pierre-Apôtre.  

On my last day, I got up early to go for a run.  Lac Papineau lay like a blackboard in the forest, covered in thin strands of mist.  Fallen maple leaves padded my steps, and my chest rose and fell with the cool morning air.  I packed my bags, had a coffee, and said my goodbyes: ‘merci beaucoup’ and ‘au revoir’ in my broken French.  After a long day of travel, I arrived home, welcomed by the smell of rain.

The next morning, I was back in my office, swept up in the daily hustle of professional commitments. But the Ottawa River lingered in my mind: the warm hospitality and the colours of fall, the quiet streams cutting through the trees, the vast silence of the wilderness under the nighttime sky.