At the Swaggin Hut!

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Two tales of our winter weekend at the Swaggin hut in
February 2019!

This is my first winter in Québec–and since I lived in San
Francisco for nine years before moving here, it’s my first winter in quite a
while! I’d already spent most of my Thursday evenings in 2019 snowshoeing bilingually
on Mount Royal with Intercultural Outdoor Recreation, so conquering winter with
that group was a natural choice.

As the weekend approached, I become more and more excited
about trying cross-country skiing, and slightly worried about spending two
nights in a rustic hut in the cold.

There was no need to worry. Refuge Swaggin is big and solid,
and most importantly, its wood stove keeps it nice and warm inside. Except for
the lack of a sink in which to spit your toothpaste–which came as a surprise
to one of number–the “hut” is less rustic than glamping, as far as I
can tell.

The amenities quickly faded into the background as the
members of our superbly intercultural group warmed up to each other. I’m sure I
will miss some places of origin, but Canadians, Québécois, Americans and
Mexican-Americans, Moroccans, Jordanians, Turks, Belgians, Colombians, Japanese,
French, and Martiniquais were all represented. We bonded quickly over music,
shared food, and Moroccan tea, as well as our frequent falls into the massive
piles of powdery snow.

The ski piste that was chosen for our first morning was, as
we learned eventually, “a little technical” and “not really
meant for skiing but actually a snowshoe trail.” It was challenging, to
say the least, but there was always someone on hand to pry you out of the drift
you’d ended up in, and we had compassionate and encouraging teachers. Any
discomfort was overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of the scenery anyway.

Snowshoeing in the afternoon was an even better opportunity
to soak in the sights of snowy groves and clearings and frozen waterfalls, the
sound of water rushing out from under the ice and snow that covered most of the
river, and the smell of so much clean, accumulated snow. Adrienne taught us how
to identify several species of conifer, and pointed out the smooth tracks that
showed where a small animal had managed a slope by sliding down on its belly.
After an hour or so on my snowshoes, I was convinced that I could set off on my
own hut-to-hut winter adventure, and moreover that I would enjoy it.

The next day’s skiing on an official piste went much better,
and everyone got really into it–and improved greatly. We capped off the trip
with a group lunch in St. Côme, and vows to remain best outdoors friends
forever.

By Esther Cervantes, participant

From the beginning of the winter,
one side of me wanted to do many things but the other side was concerned to do
anything outdoor under these cold conditions. Every single weekend was checking
and again and again, it was between minus 15-30 and l heard some gossips around
that people are losing their fingers, arms or legs because of these holy
colds!!!   Adrienne informed me about the Saturdays, Fridays and this
activity like in October very early thanks a lot Adrienne..I wanted to join the
Saturdays program but due to my concerns l missed the registration period. Then
I told myself this winter is not going to anywhere maybe you can try to go
somewhere. Then finally in the last minute l found the courage to apply for
this weekend. After the storm still, l had hesitation to join or not but thanks
God I joined and I’ve not been lost any part of my body:))

C’était une super expérience avec le
groupe. J’ai rencontré avec les gens géniaux. La collaboration du groupe était parfaite.
On a vraiment parfois besoin d’être loin de l’électricité et internet de rester
bien et tranquillement en paix.

Nous avons béni avec les deux beaux jours ensoleillés et pour la
première fois j’ai fait du raquette et ski du fond en refuge. Premier jour
était en peu difficile et fatigant mais deuxième jour était génial. Même si
j’ai tombé plusieurs fois et peut-être que ce n’est pas assez encore mais
finalement j’ai appris en petit peu. C’était intéressant de voir que
j’appréciais de tomber:))

L’ambiance de refuge me rappelle mon
enfance. Nous avons même tiré le poêle de bois, nous sommes assis et avons
parlé.

Special thanks
to Adrienne and Fred. Adrienne from the beginning until the end you informed
and provide me everything l needed and Fred as well was there with all his
excellent knowledge and l learned a lot from both of you.

Keep your
smiles.

By Nevzat Ayaz, participant

Thank you to all of our enthusiastic participants! Thank you
to our amazing volunteer guide Frédéric! Thank you Natasha for helping with the
ski groups and logistics! Thank you to MEC for providing the sleeping bags and camping mattresses for
this outing. Thank you to Air Médic for providing us with affordable evacuation insurance. Thank
you to our private donors and to the Maison de l’amitié for your support which helps us keep this activity affordable!

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