Melissa explores more of her surroundings in Canada as she continues her Masters education in Marine Bio.
Melissa Lenker
Melissa explores more of her surroundings in Canada as she continues her Masters education in Marine Bio.

I have had a whirlwind summer of traveling, research, and fun. As you may remember from my last blog, I spent the month of May and early June gillnetting for lake trout in New York State’s Adirondack Park. After the spring field season, I worked up the spring field data and moved into a beautiful new apartment next to McGill University’s Macdonald Campus.

My body did not have time to recover from field work and the heavy lifting of moving before my family took me on week-long vacation to Quebec City. Quebec’s capital city, a French outpost founded in 1608, exudes a distinctly European vibe with winding cobblestone streets, cafes, and horse-drawn carriages. Whereas Montreal is roughly bilingual, Quebec City is conspicuously French.

Quebec City

View of Quebec City from the Citadel

Quebec City boasts one of North American’s largest waterfalls: Montmorency Falls. For adventurous tourists, there is a “via ferrata” on rock face next to the waterfall. Via ferrata, which translates to “iron road” in Italian, is basically rock climbing for dummies; iron rings are drilled into the rock for handholds so anyone who is physically fit can scale a cliff.

As is expected of attractions near Quebec City, sections of the Montmorency Falls website are completely in French with no English translation. Being relatively competent in basic French, I translated portions of the website and decided I wanted to sign up for the via ferrata… which I thought was simply a steep hike from my (poor) French translation. So you can imagine my surprise as I spent my 23rd birthday suspended several hundred feet over Montmorency Fall’s rock face, with churning rapids waiting below should I fall. The lesson here? Use Google translate.

Montmorency Falls

Climbing Montmorency Falls outside of Quebec City


A quick congratulatory selfie at the top of Montmorency Falls to commemorate my climb

My time in Quebec City was well spent. I snacked on cheese, smoked sausage, ice cider, and currant wine on Quebec’s agro-tourism island, the Île d'Orléans. I also attended the Fête nationale du Québec festivities, which celebrate Quebec’s founding and is roughly equivalent the 4th of July in the United States.

At a fromagerie with my sister

My sister and me enjoying smoked sausage and fresh cheese at a fromagerie on the Île d'Orléans

I toured the Citadelle de Quebec on my last morning in Quebec City. The Citadelle is an impressive stone military installation dating back to the 17th century. More impressive, is that the Citadelle remains operational despite its 400-plus year age and houses Quebec’s well-known Royal 22e Régiment. Back in Montreal, I attended the Montreal Jazz festival, and watched Montreal’s annual International Pyrotechnics (fireworks with paired music) competition.

Batisse the goat and the Royal 22 Régiment

Batisse the goat is the official mascot of the Canadian Force’s Royal 22e Régiment, located at the Citadelle de Quebec

Montreal Jazz Festival

Enjoying bustle of the Montreal Jazz Festival

At the end of my family vacation, I flew straight from Montreal to California to spend the month of July home in Laguna Beach. While in California, I hiked in the Sierra Nevadas, climbed Potato Chip rock in San Diego, and visited old friends, all while continuing to work on my research. I flew back to Montreal at the end of July only to leave a week later for Boston and camping trip in southern Vermont. I worked in the lab for another two weeks before leaving for another hydroacoustic survey of Follensby Pond in the Adirondacks to estimate the lake trout population size with sonar.

On Potato Chip Rock

Potato Chip Rock on the Mount Woodson Trail in Poway, California

Next week I leave for a road trip across New York State that will take me to two fish hatcheries, a United States Geological Survey field station on Lake Ontario, and my beloved alma mater Cornell University.

Despite the fact that my blog reads like an advertisement for Quebec tourism, my research has continued steadily this summer. I have spent more than a month in the Adirondacks doing field work, worked up most of the data collected this spring, finished revisions on my amphibian-Bd paper (recently published), and continued to research lake trout spawning timing for the second chapter of my thesis.

As I sit here eating moose spaghetti and drinking maple syrup flavored coffee (I kid you not), I am truly thankful for an amazing summer of adventures equal parts Canadian and American. Let the Fall 2014 semester commence, or as the 10th incarnation of Doctor Who would say, “Allons-y!”


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