Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Road Trip with a Wheelchair: East Coast & Quebec's Gaspe Peninsula

Having already driven the Prius to the northernmost point in the contiguous USA (the Northwest Angle in the chimney of Minnesota), it seemed obvious that this trip should be expanded a little to incorporate two similar destinations: the easternmost and westernmost points of the contiguous USA.  

Atlantic Ocean at
Stonington Point, CT

The beginning of our trip was a mad dash across the country, as we couldn’t leave Washington until the car was serviced, while we needed to be in Connecticut for a reunion a few days later.  With the exception of a few stops, we drove straight through, making it from Seattle, WA to Stonington, CT in less than 5 days.  

West Quoddy Head, ME 
(the easternmost point in the 
contiguous USA)

After the reunion and a brief meeting with more relatives, we headed north and a bit more east to the easternmost point in the contiguous USA –West Quoddy Head, ME.  Racing the sun, we made it in time for sunset and a short amble around the lighthouse before the ranger kicked us out.

New Brunswick
moose warning

In the dark, we continued driving north to the border town of Calais, ME, from which we crossed into Canada the next day, following dirt roads and highways to the Gaspe Peninsula of Quebec.  

Cabin in the heart of the
Gapse Peninsula

After a few days of respite and laundry at a remote river cabin in the middle of the peninsula, we headed even further east toward the Canadian Atlantic coast on the Gaspe Peninsula.

Perce Rock off of the Gaspe Peninsula

In the summer season, the coast of the Gaspe teems with tourists swarming through cute little tourist town and beaches.  In the winter, I imagine, the Gaspe is more like the forlorn and desolate, backdrop described by Louise Penny and Inspector Gamache.  Luckily, we were there in July!  

Either time, visitors are rewarded with stunning coastal and ocean views, and cyclists (and wheelchair users) can ride on paved bike lanes along and on the side of the highway with regularly spaced rest stops boasting views and picnic tables.   We had a difficult time finding a cheap motel that was at all accessible (maybe a higher price range or more advanced planning would help?).

La Mie Veritable
in Carleton-sur-Mer

On the way, we passed the small town of Carleton-sur-Mer – a Francophone town with steepled churches, bike paths and bikes.  Most importantly, we visited the first boulangerie-patisserie of the trip -- Boulangerie La Mie Veritable (sadly, up a series of steps, so Ted had to bring me my pastries).  We were in town only a short while, but I left convinced that I wanted to return (in summer months and with an able-bodied person who could climb those patisserie steps!)

Hiking trails at 
Pointe Tracadigash
outside of

A breakwater and a sandy spit out to Pointe Tracadigash leave the mainland next to the town.  Before leaving, we drove out the spit to the point, alongside a paved bike path and beaches and past a campground, with accessible restrooms and a ramped dining cabin.  

Hiking trails at 
Pointe Tracadigash
outside of

We consumed our first Quebecois croissants at the beach, traveling on trails that were very well maintained and accessible in and near the campground to trails that were not so well maintained but still accessible further out and up until the beach. 

Pointe St Pierre
(Easternmost point
of our trip)

We then got back in the car and headed east and then north, reaching the easternmost point of the Gaspe peninsula at Pointe St Pierre: 4444 miles from Seattle.  

Trails at
Pointe St Pierre

To mark this key location -- the easternmost point of our trip -- we got out of the car, and I went a short way on a narrow trail to see the ocean.  I hadn't gotten very far before rain began to fall in earnest, so our hiking was limited, but the trail was too narrow anyway.

Forillon National Park on
Cap du Rosiers

After Pointe St Pierre, we circled clockwise around Gaspe Bay, then drove northeast past Forillon National Park.  If we’d had more time, I would have like to have spent time in this park.  The park has a webpage geared toward accessibility and accessible activities, (, and it has several accessible activities, including hiking trails, different camping options, an accessible beach, indoor centers, and a swimming pool.

Sentier Du Banc at
Forillon National Park
south of Cap du Rosiers
The only activity we came close to exploring was the Du Banc trail (, which offers sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean, Forillon cliffs, and Cap du Rosiers lighthouse.  The hike connects the (accessible) visitors’ center with the parking lot via a mostly-flat, 4 km (round trip) trail on boardwalk and hard-packed stone dust.  At the visitors’ center and along the way you’ll find accessible restrooms and an accessible picnic table.  The park “rents” (for free) a GRIT Freedom Chair – a manual all-terrain wheelchair with levers).

Cap du Rosiers is the point where the Gulf of St Lawrence in the Atlantic Ocean becomes the mouth of the St Lawrence River.  From there onward, the Prius journeyed west.

up next: traveling west from the mouth to the source of the mighty St Lawrence River ...

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