Patriots’ Day on Mont Saint-Hilaire
Jürgen and I are really clever guys. Check this out: while planning our hike on Mont Saint-Hilaire, we decided against going on a weekend, and instead chose a Monday. Because the mountain would be less busy. Now that’s clever! But as it turns out, Quebec was celebrating Patriots’ Day on this particular Monday. Turns out, we’re not so clever after all.
Across Canada, Victoria Day is celebrated in honor of Queen Victoria’s birthday… but not in Quebec. In 1837, while Victoria was being anointed Queen of Great Britain, the people of Quebec were embroiled in a bloody rebellion against the crown. It’s not like they’re going to celebrate the enemy Queen, now. Instead, Quebec calls the holiday National Patriots’ Day, in honor of the fallen heroes of the 1837 uprising.
So everybody in Montreal had the day off, and approximately half of them decided to go hiking at Mont Saint-Hilaire. Just to get to the visitor center’s parking lot, we were stuck in a traffic jam for over an hour. That’s not an exaggeration. It was beyond crowded, and made even worse by the presence of a community “fun run.” We had planned to be hiking shortly after nine, but didn’t even start until well past noon.
It could have been so wonderful! Mont Saint-Hilaire is beautiful, and perfect for hikers. The trails are well-marked, and there are several loops you can do depending on the amount of time you have. There’s a gorgeous mountain lake (Lac Hertel), a few breathtaking viewpoints, and even charming woodland creatures (we saw two deer and a dam built by beavers). And the weather was perfect; sunny and warm, but with a steady, cool breeze drifting in.
But it’s hard to concentrate on all the beauty, when the trails are so packed with other people. When you’re constantly listening to the inane conversations of the group of college girls walking two steps behind you. When the kid ahead of you is blasting Eminem out of his backpack. When you’re getting shoulder-checked off the path by a self-important trailrunner. When you have to stand in a line before seeing the Rocky Top Viewpoint. After a couple hours on the trails, we couldn’t get back to the car quickly enough.
This is a really unfair account of the trails Mont Saint-Hilaire. The mountain is gorgeous, and we only have ourselves to blame for the misery of our excursion. We’ll let our photos show off the park’s beauty, and leave you with a warning: only visit when everyone else in Montreal is working… and don’t forget to double-check the list of local holidays.