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Pamela MacNaughtan

It’s 5:00 p.m. and I’m alone on Île Quarry in the Mingan Archipelago. I’m not referring to the fact that I’m travelling (and sleeping in an oTENTik tent) alone, I’m referring to the fact that I’m the only human being on this island. All night!

When I arrived on Île Quarry this morning, seven campers were leaving, and it was just me and the Parks Canada staff hanging out in the rain and fog. 

Not anymore.

They took the boats and went home for the night.

Now it’s just me, a lot of ducks and hares, fog, rain, and some of the most amazing nature porn in Québec. Oh, and mosquitos. Lots and lots of mosquitos! I have the bites to prove it.

oTENTIK Camping

oTentnik on Ile Quarry in the Mingan Archipelago

Tonight I’m sleeping (alone) in an oTENTik tent, which isn’t really roughing it but isn’t glamping either. It’s more like… flash camping. It’s like being a flashpacker, but you’re camping, not backpacking. Oh, maybe we can call it glamping!!

Yes, oTENTik is glamping at its finest.

Located roughly a half kilometre from the dock, my oTENTik was tucked in the woods. A shaded path led from the rocky shore to an A-frame tent made of pine wood, heavy canvas, and plastic. On the right was a small wood pile, and on the left a picnic table. As I climbed the stairs to the front door, I passed a little patio area with a BBQ. Yes, I had a BBQ with a full propane tank!

Inside was cozy. Six bunk beds lined the back wall (four single mattresses, with a double mattress above), on the right was a table and four chairs, and a couple camp chairs, on the left was a prep table, wooden bench, and a propane heater. Oh, and did I mention the USB outlet that is solar powered?! Oh yes, no worries about a dead cell phone here!

Exploring Île Quarry

Exploring Île Quarry in the Mingan Archipelago, an oasis in Québec's Côte Nord Region

The morning started out sunny, but by 9:00 am it was starting to rain. Naturally, I prayed it would be short-lived, but as I rode the zodiac to the island, I was pelted in the face with rain to the point where I couldn’t open my eyes. Clearly, Mother Nature had other plans. 

I experienced Île Quarry in a state of rain and fog. I started the day with straight hair, but within five minutes of being on the island, my hair was curly and soaking wet. Thankfully the air was warm, otherwise, I would have been absolutely miserable.

Dropping my gear (a pillow and blanket, food, water, and my day bag) off at my oTENTik tent, I decided to take my camera and explore the island, despite the rain. I made it as far as the warming hut. I was soaked. The fire in the wood stove was stoked, and I wanted to relax and dry off a little. 

“So, you are all alone on the island tonight”, a Parks Canada staff said, “I am?! You guys don’t live here?”, I replied.

Nope. Parks Canada staff most definitely do not live on the island. 

Okay. Breathe. It’s foggy and rainy, but let’s not think about creepy stuff. No creepy stuff!!

Slightly drier than before, I grabbed my camera and bag, bid farewell to the parks staff, and began exploring, taking the wooden path closest to the dock. The island is home to boréal forest, bogs, and shoreline, and is a delicate ecosystem – which is why one must explore only by a boardwalk, or shoreline path. 

As I walked I was overwhelmed by the silence and beauty of the boréal forest. The trees were tall and covered in multi-coloured fungus, and moss. The ground was so green, I couldn’t help thinking that I’d have to tone down the saturation on my photos because nobody would believe the ground was this green naturally. Stopping briefly to take photos (the longer I stood, the more mosquitos showed up), I continued down the winding wooden path, wet from the rain, through the boréal forest and into a bog, before reach the shore on the other side of the island – and the reason why I was in Mingan Archipelago.

The fog was getting thick, and the tide was coming in, but I was still mesmerized by the monoliths. These rocks, which have been shaped by the wind and sea, are the reason I’m here. From the moment I saw a photo of them, I knew I wanted to go to Mingan Archipelago.

Ideally, I would have liked a sunny day with blue skies, but the rain and fog added a romantic moodiness to the scene. I sat there, on the rocky shore, staring at the monoliths, watching the ducks freak out over my presence, and breathing deeply. So this is what complete solitude feels like. 

By the time I returned to the warming hut/cabin the Parks Canada staff were gone. I was now completely alone. The only human on an island in the Mingan Archipelago. This is something I never imagined, and while I secretly wished I had a volleyball to keep myself company (see what I did there?), I took advantage of being somewhat disconnected. Sitting at the table that night I started writing this blog post on a piece of paper, under lantern light, before turning the propane heater on high and crawling into bed.

Now, I would LOVE to tell you I was a total camping rock star, but that would be a lie. You see, there are windows in the tent, and they look out into the surrounding forest. While this is super cool during the day, at night it’s a little freaky as I had visions of being watched. By what, I have no idea. It’s not like a gang of rabbits was going to watch me sleep and eat popcorn. At one point I was woken by a strange sound and started to freak out, thinking it was wolves, and then remembering I was on an island and there are no wolves (or bears, or anything that would hurt me), I calmed down and realized it was just birds. Damn birds.

With the heat from the propane heater lulling me to sleep, I woke up around 3:00 a.m. hoping for a clear sky and a spectacular sunrise. I was greeted by fog so think that I could only see five feet in front of me. 

My prayers for an hour of good weather for photos were never answered, but I still loved my time on Île Quarry and the Mingan Archipelago. Spending the night alone was so peaceful and liberating. It’s something everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime. 

Hopefully next time I will have more time to explore the other islands, as well as sunshine and blue skies.

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