Food & Terroir

Rush to Hautes-Gorges Park

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Rhéal and Lucille made Hautes-Gorges de la Rivière-Malbaie National Park their Eldorado in the hippie years, when the road hadn’t even reached as far as the end of Saint-Aimé-des-Lacs, yet... There, with the help of generous friends, they built themselves a country home in the middle of nowhere. There, in line with deeply held values, they raised a fine family. And there, for 30 years, they have welcomed guests, met interesting people, and provided a restorative haven for those who sought it… In short, they have shared this part of the backcountry, tamed it with their wonderful endeavour: the Auberge le Relais des Hautes-Gorges inn.

Le relais des Hautes-Gorges

Rhéal left Ontario for a new life, where being francophone would no longer be an obstacle. Along the way he met his great love, for whom he would have moved mountains: Lucille. Instead they chose to take to the mountain road… and to build a new life together. This wasn’t the Gold Rush, nor was it the rush to go west. It was the rush, a growing one in those years, to get back to the land. Oh, we’re not talking about finding an existing farm house and settling in. No! As was true for many young people growing up in the 70s, Rhéal and Lucille’s dreams of nature could be found only by taking country roads all the way to their very end, where nothing existed, yet. No more road. No sewer system. No houses. Nothing but unspoiled wilderness. Of all the concession roads in Quebec, in all of Charlevoix, they picked a special one: one that took them to the dizzying heights of the Hautes-Gorges de la Rivière-Malbaie. Along the border of this national park, the territory was northern and rugged, the green of vegetation gave way to rocky outcrops here and there, land gave way to the river and its valley formed lakes, the area teemed with life, and animals were masters of this place. First, a camp, then a shelter, then a house, and finally, the property as it exists today… By their own toil and sweat, they built a place that exists beyond the hectic pace of outside life. On this fertile ground, they raised several children, nurtured by values of peace and love, and the respect of and deep love for nature. Inspired by the wild orchids in their little corner of the forest, it’s no surprise that the family includes botanist and jeweller Bénédite Séguin, who made those one-of-a-kind flowers her signature!

As it’s still such a beautiful part of the region today, we don’t guard it jealously: we share it, fill it with friends, help visitors discover it. At least, that’s how it is with the Séguin family! They’ve made an inn of their hideaway. An inn for explorers, whether novice or expert, to venture out onto the trails to see the park’s impressive topography. An inn for those who seek a few days of rejuvenation in the kind of lifestyle this couple chose to fully embrace over 30 years of managing this inn. Of expanding it with the sweat of their brows. Of cooking up the boreal flavours found on this property, in this forest and, more generally, in the place they’ve adopted as their home. Thirty years of smiles, gatherings, friendships, and hospitality celebrated with the installation of a work sculpted by a great friend of the family, Conrad Paradis, known as PIBO!

Surrounded by friends of long standing and newer partners, the Séguin family, with Rhéal and Lucille’s partnership at the heart of it, celebrated the anniversary of the business that, with all their hearts, they want to see last a long time yet. Years pass, and one’s health becomes a reminder that one cannot take everything on alone, forever… Which is why it’s even more important that the inn be full of life, full of plans, full of the next generation, and new faces! 

Rush towards local flavours

Wanting to translate his love of this region into gourmet dishes that incorporated the area’s local products [terroir], Rhéal went to school and studied the culinary arts to earn the chef’s apron for this mountain inn legitimately… 

The land occupied by the Relais des Hautes-Gorges inn is bountiful for the chef who hungers after nature and authenticity, even here, in remote Saint-Aimé-des-Lacs. Freshly picked mushrooms, berries, and wild herbs add that Je ne sais quoi to the menu. The greens, aromatics, and edible flowers that abound on the menu can be found in the gardens on the property itself. 

Then, there are all the local producers in the vicinity who complement the menu nicely, providing cheese, duck, bread from wood-fired ovens, microgreens… and even emu. The inn has made a signature dish of this large, strange bird, raised not too far from here! The dining room is available to more than just the inn’s lodgers. The invitation to hit the road and treat themselves to a seat at the table is open to locals and tourists alike!

Road to relaxation

The inn has recently decided to embrace its naturally relaxing character by adding a wellness centre. In a charming solid-wood building surrounded by birch trees, beauty and massage treatments are skillfully provided by therapist Marlène St-Pierre. Complementarily, wellness retreats and workshops are also offered here: outdoor yoga, meditation, conscious walking in the forest, communication and listening… These innovative offerings are entirely in keeping with the spirit of the place, and with the vision of the establishment’s founding couple. You’re invited to come and relax at the foot of the Hautes-Gorges with any of their available packages: whether you want a muscle-relaxing sports massage after a walk in the national park, or to book a group or team outing, you’ll reconnect, relax in the great outdoors, and experience an out-of-the-ordinary company retreat! 

Among the various projects on the table? A thermotherapy spa is now under construction. Soon, visitors will be able to move through a circuit consisting of therapeutic bath, dry sauna, steam hammam sauna, followed by a cold shower, surrounded on all sides by this exceptional natural area.

Young Rhéal had the instinct to settle down in the deep woods, on the boundaries of the national park and the edge of his own acropolis, located at the crossroads leading to Mount Morios… He and Lucille have put elbow grease and love into this bit of land which, today, features an enduring record of their occupation of this formerly rugged, now tamed, territory - with an infinite respect for the beauty and abundance of nature. An abundance that still, and always will, inspire them to open their doors wide to visitors!

Camille Dufour Truchon, Mark Lindenberg (translation)
Sylvain Foster, courtoisie (Wellness center picture)

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