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I’m knee-deep in snow, dragging a plastic sleigh with my belongings through La Mauricie National Park, halfway between Montreal and Quebec City. As my eyes adjust to the evening darkness, I spot my accommodation for the night – a cross between an A-frame cabin and a prospector tent.  

Quebec’s Laurentian mountain range is a popular winter destination; snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and hiking draw nature buffs to the 536-square-kilometre conservation area. But I’ve made the trip north from Montreal to get a taste of the wilderness with oTENTik, a Parks Canada program that has recently been extended to the colder months. A play on the French pronunciation of “authentic,” oTENTik is offered at national parks across Canada and was created as a hassle-free way for visitors to overnight in the great outdoors (no camping gear required). Even hotel faithfuls can retreat in relative comfort; the tent has foam mattress beds, and the nearby lodge offers hot showers and electric stoves. 

oTENTik tentEach oTENTik tent includes three beds and can accommodate up to six people.

Lantern in hand, I march past white-tipped conifers around the loop containing eight oTENTik tents. Each one sits on its own private piece of land, surrounded on three sides by walls of trees. In the centre rests the communal lodge, ideal for a family requiring space to spread out – not that I need it. The tents are equipped for up to five campers, so I’ve got plenty of room. I don’t bother with the barbecue outside, opting to heat my packed chili over the wood stove. (Basic kitchen supplies are provided.)

The next morning, I rise with the sun to take advantage of the over 80 kilometres of trails that criss-cross the park. Full of confidence, I test my snowshoeing skills on an intermediate run. The lightly packed path winds up and down hills and across a small wooden bridge, and after about 10 minutes, I’ve already broken a sweat. Trudging up one particularly steep hill, I come to the top of a small mountain overlooking frozen Lac Solitaire. It’s an apt name for this tiny body of water nestled in the middle of a sprawling landscape. I notice fresh deer tracks in the snow, but I haven’t spotted a single other being during my two-hour trek. 

As I make my way back to the lodge, which serves hot cocoa and coffee to day trippers and campers on the weekend, my mind turns to the fire that’s waiting for me. I think back to the night before, when, at 3 a.m., I woke up shivering, my cabin’s fire almost depleted. Wrapping myself under a blanket, I found some old newspaper to feed the flame. The heat conquered the cold almost immediately, and I sat by the window watching the snow come down in a delicate flurry. It was kind of like being in a snow globe. Miles from beeping phones, car horns and Wi-Fi signals, I was in a little world of my own.  



Getting There

Air Canada and Air Canada Express operate more flights to Montreal and Quebec City than any other carrier.

Comments… or add another

Bruce Sach

Monday, February 3rd 2014 18:54
One of Quebec's most beautiful national parks?? Has the author been to many of them?


Monday, February 3rd 2014 20:38
Very brave of you to stay all by yourself in a cabin in such a remote area. I would've freaked out when the fire went out at 3:00 am in the morning especially in such cold winter like we had in Quebec this year.
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