Alain Lessard

How did you find out about the Sentier Massawippi trails, even though you are not from the Eastern Townships?

A friend of mine, a resident of North Hatley, introduced me to the Sentier Massawippi and Scowen trails.

She and I are both active people, and we have been going regularly, about twice a week, for a little over two years now, on one trail or the other.

In addition to offering a calm environment with its forest, mature trees, streams, birds and deer, the trails are safe, well-maintained and the Sentier Massawippi offers us as well, access to the Lake.

Moreover, as an added bonus, it is always a pleasure to cross paths with other hikers and salute them on the way.  

Last fall, my hikes in these exceptional natural sites sparked the idea of undertaking a long-distance adventure.

After a bit of research on the Internet, and because of its reputation as one of the most difficult but also most magnificent hikes in Europe, my choice was made….the GR20 in the mountains of Corsica!

And yes, with its total length of 180 km length and its 11,000 metres of positive vertical drop, you mustn’t be afraid of a challenge to tackle this great hike, especially if you are a 70-year-old! For me, it’s now or never!

With 15 refuges along the way, 15 days is the standard time to complete the hike. The more athletic hikers will do it in less than 10 days, which is not my case, wisdom, prudence and humility being my motto for this great adventure!

I am planning to start at the beginning of May, but the refuges don’t offer accommodation, catering, repair services, tent rental, etc. until May 22. Traffic and hot summer temperatures are the reasons for my choice of early May. So l will have to carry everything I need in my backpack to enable me to sleep as soundly as possible and to have the food I need to give me the energy required to successfully meet this challenge. I’ll spare you the long list, which amounts to a payload of around 25 kg. 

So, to get back to the Sentier Massawippi trails, they naturally become a perfect training site. With a potential vertical drop of over 400m and a possible distance of around 10km, hiking the trails is an excellent workout that can be enhanced by adding weight to your backpack.

This physical exercise also enables me to test the hiking equipment that I will be using in Corsica: hiking boots and socks, crampons (there will be snow and ice in the mountains in May), hiking poles and backpack. Between now and my departure, I plan to hike other trails such as Mont Chauve via David Creek, 12.7km and 550m ascent, Mont St-Hilaire closer to home, 12.7km and 537m ascent, and Mount Mansfield in Vermont with its 12.4km and 880m ascent.

I am aiming to be ready by mid-April in terms of my training. This allows for a week’s rest and time for final preparations before departure, as my flight is scheduled for April 27.

And then, off we go for a great adventure!!




We are hearing all too often about children spending too much time indoors and in front of screens (phones, tablets, computers and TV).  Have you heard about nature deficit disorder?

What happened to parents telling their kids to stay outdoors until the street lights came on? Or kids playing street hockey, using their backyards or simply walking to buy a Popsicle? Studies are showing that children are suffering from a lack of being outdoors.

How are we going to ensure that they, the future stewards of the environment and our planet, participate in keeping it alive? The answer to this question is that we need to expose children to nature, starting at a young age, building upon their natural curiosity.

There is a pre-existing bond that children have with nature. Whether they are sitting on the grass, beach or curbside, floating little sticks or leaves down rivulets of rainwater, it all seems like such a natural way to spend time outdoors. They jump in puddles, even as their teacher or parents say Nooo! What better way to spend time outside than walking through the mud for the sheer joy of feeling your shoes being sucked in and the delicious sound of their release.

Time in nature is soothing.

Environmental education is important in developing effective ties to nature, the local environment and positive attitudes towards the earth we live in. It is important to give children the opportunity to bond with the natural world and create an affinity for the environment. By building the Massawippi Trail both in the village of North Hatley (Scowen Park) and on the ridge in Sainte-Catherine-de-Hatley, the Massawippi Trust has given the public the right to walk ‘on the wild side’. Testimonial after testimonial are filled with praise for the positive experience of each walker.

By getting kids outdoors with their schools or their families and friends, we are giving them access to a healthy experience, offering them the benefits of physical activity as well as improving their cognitive skills. They will perform better and be less open to the risks arising from stress and obesity. We have even seen a link between children who spend time in nature and the development of pro-environmental attitudes and behaviours as adults.

There are several factors shaping the new reality. Often, both parents are working and sometimes hold more than one job each. Children are highly scheduled with their activities and have less free time for play. There is a fear of crime. ‘What if my child is hurt or worse?’ in what is perceived as an unsafe environment. There is a diminishing amount of natural space as more and more people live in cities. In 2021 nearly three in four Canadians live in large urban centres with populations of over 100,000 people (Statistics Canada 2022-02-09 ). Race, ethnicity and socio-economic status may also influence a child’s access to nature.

One study, conducted by Balmford, Clegg, Coulson, and Taylor (2002) showed that eight-year-old children were more proficient at identifying popular Pokémon characters than they were at recognising common local flora or fauna.

When thinking ahead to the future of the environment and our world, we need to play a role in exposing children to nature so that they can learn to love it and not fear it. “What’s important is that children have an opportunity to bond with the natural world, to learn to love it and feel comfortable in it, before being asked to heal its wounds” (Sobel, 1996, p. 10)

In the famous words of Jacques Cousteau, “People protect what they love.” By getting outside, we will develop deeper connections to the environment and conservation helping the love grow in our hearts.

It is a question we ask ourselves very often before going for a walk in nature.

As the popularity of winter hikes increases, more and more products and accessories are available for sale to help make our experience more enjoyable. From walking poles to cleats to snowshoes to backpacks with first aid kits or water bottles, the variety of equipment is huge.
But for now let’s limit the talk to cleats (also called crampons) and snowshoes.
By definition cleats come in a variety of styles for use on city sidewalks to mountain hiking. For walking on a nature trail, ask the retailer to show you the middle range especially made for hiking. The cleats or studs are slightly more accentuated than the city sidewalk version.
Cleats are great to keep in your car, handy to have on hand (and foot). However they can rust easily, so remember to dry them well after use.
The Massawippi Trail is well travelled.  Most of the time the trail is hard packed with snow in the winter. As people are walking even after a fresh snowfall, you will find the snow to be trodden unless you are an early bird. This is the perfect venue for cleats which will give you good traction (except on sheer ice where nothing really helps, except possibly a prayer). We know they are popular because our wooden stairs down to Ethan’s beach got a bit chewed up last winter. This year those steps have thick rubber mats to protect the wood and the brave or curious who go down to see the lake in winter. Beautiful.
Often people choose to walk on the trails with snowshoes which has a long tradition in Quebec and provides a different exercise experience.
Snowshoes are designed to help distribute your weight when walking on thick, deep snow. They are designed for flat terrain. It is true that they help your grip but what about the stairs? There are so many stairs on the trails, from wooden ones to combined  stone and wood. Also steep downward pitches are not easy to walk across. How do you navigate those with snowshoes?
Whatever footwear you choose to use in winter, please remember to stay on the trails. This is a conservation area, winter or summer there are precious plants and wildlife all around. Resist the temptation to walk into the deep snow, off trail.  It is a very big terrain, close to 1,000 acres. By staying on the trails you won’t get lost and stranded.
Some people advise that you should carry both types of gear when hiking. For the Massawippi Trails, snowshoes are the best if there has just been a big snowfall but otherwise probably cleats or simple boots with good treads are fine. Check the weather and make your decision accordingly.

In the words of a local writer when asked about snowshoes or cleats, he replied
“Snowshoeing is for people who like to walk but with an added layer of difficulty.”
For more humorous stories look for Ross Murray’s book A Jerk in Progress…a story with a happy ending, “We could have died out there!”

Enjoy your walk.   Leave no trace.

By Marie-José Auclair, President of Appalachian Corridor’s Board of Directors

Although hiking is a low-impact activity for the environment, our behaviours while enjoying the trails can sometimes be devastating and lead to permanent impacts on surrounding flora and fauna. Garbage, fires in forbidden areas, improvised bathrooms in the bushes, and loud hikers; all of these disturbances can unfortunately be damaging to natural habitats and spoil our intimate contact with nature. The principles of the program Leave No Trace (www.leavenotrace. ca) offer an outdoor code of conduct adopted by more than 90 countries and suggest the adoption of key behaviours for the practice of our activities on foot, on bikes, on skis or in kayaks in order to leave natural habitats intact
Appalachian Corridor encourages the adoption of the following seven principles from Leave No Trace:
• Plan ahead and prepare for the unexpected in order to have a safe and pleasant experience.
• To avoid damaging the vegetation and reduce erosion, travel only on established and durable surfaces, and camp on designated sites.
• Dispose of waste properly and don’t leave any items behind.
• Leave what you discover intact so that others may enjoy it too in its most natural state.
• Minimize campfire impacts and preferably use a lightweight stove as a heat source.
• Respect wildlife and avoid disturbing animals, especially during the delicate periods of mating, nesting, or raising young.
• Be considerate of other visitors by limiting excessive noises, let nature’s sounds prevail so that all can enjoy their experience.

Reproduced with the permission of Appalachian Corridor, our partners in conservation.

Not too far away from the Massawippi Trail in Sainte-Catherine-de-Hatley is another jewel of a place for bird watchers and for people who enjoy nature. The Ile du Marais site includes an island and marshland and is now a privately owned conservation property.
The wetlands were formed around 1910 when a new dam was built. The marsh and the island have a surface area of nearly 150 hectares. The land trust “Île du Marais Inc”, was founded in 1984 and it is a non-profit organization that protects the island, the trail leading to it and part of the marsh. It is a private property, but like the Massawippi Conservation Trust’s properties, some areas are open to the public. Four kilometres of trails run through the site and give visitors privileged access to the heart of this ecosystem.
Fortunately, despite its private nature, the people who created the trust, as well as all those who have been involved on a volunteer basis ever since, are committed to keeping it open to the public. Their mission is to preserve the natural environment of Lake Magog, particularly its wetlands.
The fauna and flora are abundant on Île du Marais. More than 190 species of birds have been observed there! Many species of plants, amphibians and reptiles are also present here.
The Fondation Massawippi Foundation gave its very first grant ($15,000.) to the Ile du Marais Inc. in 2011 to help them raise the funds necessary to rebuild their boardwalk. When Claude Goulet, President and Marc Hurtubise, board member, met with the author, they laughed as they told the story of this large and unexpected gift. It helped them to kick-off the campaign to raise enough money to rebuild the aging boardwalk.
Imagine the hundreds of thousands of birds that have nested and used the land over the years. We are lucky to have this conservation group protecting their habitat ensuring that the birds will continue to roost and profit from this safe environment. The site is recognized as one of the most exceptional heritage nature sites in the region.

To learn more, please visit their website
To go directly to their list of birds seen on their property listed in French.

Matthew Cleary came to Canada from California. He had been working in national and state parks in the USA and moved here with his skills and his Québecoise wife in 2008 to raise their family. Our trail director, Mahicans Diamond, met Matthew in the region and soon they became good friends through their shared experiences.
Mahicans called Matthew to team up with him and build the trails at Scowen Park in North Hatley. Together they have been working on the Massawippi trails since the Trust first started to build them six years ago.
Everyone, without exception, that I have met has enjoyed their walking experience and many have said they are the best trails they have ever used. Known for their natural, easy going surfaces that blend into the environment, the Trail has been “discovered” during the pandemic as one of the best kept secrets. Some people want to keep it a secret, but not Matthew. When asked what he wanted to see in ten, twenty or thirty years, he replied, ‘’ I hope our network of trails will become widely known and that people come to use and enjoy them. It is good for their health and for others to see people walking, knowing they are not alone in this endeavor to enjoy the woods. It is good for the health of a community.’’

Our network reflect the personality of the trail builders. When I first met Matthew, I was struck by his kindness and generosity of spirit. As the Massawippi Trail foreman he is responsible to bring Mahicans’ dreams to life. He is practical man, a teacher, someone who studies the forest, it’s natural and human history. He notes the way people have left their imprint on the land. Smiling, he tells the story of cleaning Ethan’s beach and finding the history of Quebec beer through the bottles and cans people had left in the woods. An anthropologist perhaps, but first and foremost a trail builder who wants to build paths through the forest that respect the environment as well as creating a safe, friendly space for people to benefit from the woodlands.
Matthew is part of a team of three professional trail builders. Each summer, students are hired to be trained and work alongside the professionals. Matthew is their teacher and guide. I think it is a testament to the quality of their experience that the students often return for a second and third year. He loves their enthusiasm and desire to learn new skills building the trails. It is one of his favorite aspects of the job.
In the Spring, Mahicans and Matthew study the terrain and lay out a plan for each section they plan to build that year. Depending on the year, they build between two and three kilometers of trail. The Massawippi  Conservation Trust who owns the land and is responsible for its conservation has a goal of building up to 25 kilometers of trails in all.
The Trails is mostly built by hand. Occasionally some equipment is brought in for a particular section or piece of work but generally the builders use human power and ingenuity such as ropes and pulleys to haul logs and rocks. 90% of the materials used are from the surrounding forest. Matthew says not only does this save money but it is also means they are not introducing any foreign substances that might alter the biodiversity.
He speaks respectfully about cutting trees to be used on the stairs and other infrastructure. “If you remove one tree from a spot, it means more light, more water for the smaller trees who can then grow faster.”  He selects trees which are tall and straight (less waste) and those that are close to other trees. Or he chooses those that are in danger of falling down. “I hate to cut a tree but I don’t feel guilty because we are not removing anything from the system.”
Rocks, carefully selected from the forest, help people cross streams and line the edges of the trails to prevent erosion. Steps are built of logs, whose bark is removed and that are flattened on top to create a natural spot to place your foot. The trails follow the contours of the land. The person walking is considered, adding steps where the incline might be too steep to climb or a rock bridge to help them hop across a gully.
Margot Heyerhoff, President of the Massawippi Foundation which is the funding arm of the Massawippi Conservation Trust added this comment:
”From our earliest days, our Board decided it wanted to put ecologically sensitive trails into our protected properties.  We felt that it was not enough to just admire this conserved mountain from driving along Route 143 on the other side of the lake.  We wanted people to be able to experience what had been conserved by being inside this amazing forest. Matthew is helping make our dreams a reality.”
The trail network is almost complete on Wardman sector. This summer Matthew and the team will finish the loop on the Wippi North trail and then move onto a whole new section of the property.
No longer a secret, I think Matthew is pleased to know that the result of the hard work of the team has paid off and has helped so many find a healthier balance in life by walking here during the past difficult year.
I look forward to walking under the green canopy very soon and hope to run into Matthew and the trail builders who will be back at work in May.  If you see them, please stop and say hello.

Following our article last month about the Quatre Vallons cross-country ski trail maintained by Mr. Gilbert Beaupré, here is a sequel about the old Skiwippi trail which many readers will fondly remember.
The old 33km (20 mile) long trail went from Auberge Hatley (Robert and Lilian Gagnon) via Hovey Manor (Stephen and Kathryn Stafford) to the Ripplecove Inn (Jeffrey and Debra Stafford). It was the 1980’s and cross-country skiing had become very popular. Herman Smith-Johannsen (1875-1987), nicknamed Jackrabbit, is credited with introducing the sport to Canada. Originally from Norway, he was a  pioneer in North America and spent his life promoting his sport. Interesting fact – He died in 1987 at the age of 111.
In 1985 three of the Townships top inns created an innovative and luxurious skiing and dining experience. This award winning idea, recognised by the provincial government as a first in co-op marketing was a hit with tourists and locals. The alliance offered the clients a unique opportunity to ski from one end of the lake to the other. The package included six nights’ luxury accommodations, six country breakfasts and gourmet dinners. Skiers slept in a different hotel every second night.  Bags and sometimes guests were transported to the next stop.
When interviewed, Mr. Stephen Stafford said people loved the idea and quite a few of his customers came to the hotel because of the huge amount of publicity generated by the Skiwippi package.

Articles appeared in the


Nordic Skiers Pampered with Fine First Class Fare

“QUEBEC’S SKIWIPPI TRAIL links the Hatley Inn and Manoir Hovey in North Hatley, and the Ripplecove Inn in Ayer’s Cliff overlooking Lake Massawippi in the Eastern Townships.”
High Class Ski Week
Canadian Skiing Trail Is the Inn Place to Be 
“The best part of the trail, however, is that it links three of Quebec’s best inns. After a day in the frosty outdoors, the inns–Auberge Hatley, Hovey Manor and Ripplecove–glow in the darkness, beckoning skiers to evenings of fine dining and vintage wines.”
“The scenery and serenity of skiing from Inn to Inn.”
An Anglo-French Corner of Quebec
“Outward appearances in Estrie may suggest New England. But this is not New England. It’s certainly not Ontario either, the nearest Anglo province, nor even the Quebec beyond its boundaries. Trying to define it, the Quebec Government guide book describes it as being “a celebration of bicultural existence possessing a discreet Anglo-Saxon charm blended with ‘quebecoise’ joie de vivre.”
Find LINKS below.
The trail was free and open to the general public as well as guests of the hotels. Each hotel contributed to the upkeep of the trail. The rights of passage agreements were held between private landowners and the group.
Along with the three hotels another favorite stopping place was the Refuge Les Sommets, an outdoor base in St. Catherine de Hatley. It was at the end of chemin des Sommets, which turns off Chemin de la Montagne.
The view was amazing as was the lunch and hospitality offered by Madame Juliette Deland. She served rich hot Québecois food, including ragout, tourtière and the “best pea soup you ever tasted” to quote Stephen Stafford.
Michael Greyson, North Hatley native remembers Mme Juliette, an older silver haired lady, quite petite, who ran a great kitchen and large dining hall, with many tables often filled by Scouts, cubs or girl-guides. Especially in summer, but also winter weekends. During her 30 years, she welcomed and fed thousands of people, from diverse groups from all over the world. There were testimonials to her all over the walls, signed by grateful campers, who stayed in dormitories in separate buildings.Michael also fondly remembers skiing through the field alongside Highland cattle, dropping down to the Hovey for a hot drink and carrying on afterwards down the lake. It was not an easy trail. It was filled with hills where you had to be sure of your skills.
The south end of the trail was in Ayer’s Cliff. You had to ski across the frozen lake before joining the southern mountain trail. The views were breath taking. The hospitality was the best blend Eastern Townships English and French culture and tradition.
The Auberge Hatley and the Refuge des Sommets are both gone. However sections of the trail are still available to the public via the Quatre Vallons trail which crosses the Massawippi trail.

Cross-country skiing is experiencing another resurgence. People are rediscovering the joys and benefits of being outdoors. How lucky we are to have access to trails right here in our backyard.

An old sign, left over from the Skiwippi Trail, still visible today on the Massawippi trail.

LA Times Dec. 1990
NY Times

Originally a forest inhabited by Abenakis, this land now comprising Scowen Park was partly cleared in the early 19th century for settlement. Over the years, a sugar camp was built in the maple grove high on the ridge. Blackberries grew abundantly. Below, a house and barn stood, while cattle grazed in the pasture nearby.

In 1980, the land was bought by prominent businessman and Townships historian Philip Scowen, and his wife, Eulah (Reed), residents of North Hatley. Eulah was a descendant of the Reeds, early settlers who built houses and mills in this area once known as Reedsville. Soon after buying the land, Philip and Eulah donated it to North Hatley and Hatley Township for recreational use by citizens and to preserve it as a green space in the center of the growing village.
After 30 years of sitting vacant a solution was found by involving the Massawippi Conservation Trust.
In 2015 Margot Heyerhoff, in her role as Chair of the Massawippi Foundation, spoke with Annis Karpenko, who is a grand-daughter of the late Philip Scowen. They agreed that the land be donated to the Massawippi Conservation Trust so that it could be used as originally intended. So much time had gone by that the original people involved in the donation, the Mayors and citizens of the time who knew the intention of the donation were no longer around.
After a period of negotiation which included reserving a parcel of 1 acre for the possibility of a future Fire Hall, the other 34 acres were transferred to the Massawippi Conservation Trust in 2016. We would like to thank the members of the family (Martha Maksym and Annis Karpenko in particular) and municipal councils who took part in the negotiations. The park officially opened on Thanksgiving weekend in 2016 with initial public trails and many Scowen family members present. These were the first trails built by the Trust on conserved lands. Now with 4 ½ kilometers of trails at Scowen Park they are enjoyed for hiking and snowshoeing on a year round basis.
The park is maintained by the Massawippi Conservation Trust. One hundred trees and shrubs were planted by the local school children in 2019 at Capleton Road to provide a shaded path from the road to the forest. In July 2021, we plan to have an event open to all at the park to celebrate our 10th anniversary. The official announcement will be posted on our website and Facebook page, as well as in our newsletter.

The park is a generous legacy from the Scowen family for all to enjoy and work together to protect. We thank Philip and Eulah Scowen for their visionary donation and we thank their descendants for their role for making this park what it is today.

*P.S. The trails need ongoing maintenance. You can continue to support them through your donations.  
Contact us at [email protected] for more information.

L. to R. Martha Maksym, Martin Primeau, maire du Canton de Hatley, Margot Heyerhoff à l’ouverture du parc Scowen octobre, 2016..

Martha Maksym chez le notaire signant, au nom de la famille Scowen, l’acte de donation, printemps 2016.

L. to R. Peter Scowen, Margot Heyerhoff (Chair of the MASSAWIPPI Foundation) and Martha Maksym, two grand children of Philip and Eulah Scowen.

Decendants of Philip and Eulah at Scowen park during the 2016 Thanksgiving opening.


As we celebrate the 10th year anniversary of the Massawippi Conservation Trust and Foundation, our neighbour, Mr. Gilbert Beaupré has been operating his trails for much longer than us. In 1977, Mr. Beaupré decided to build some cross-country ski trails. He has made this his labour of love and his duty to maintain over 12 kilometers of trails every winter for more than 40 years.

The circuit crosses over several private properties so he needs to get a seasonal right of way from the land owners to allow him to open the trails. Starting in the fall, he renews his permissions. He cuts back scrubby growth that might be in the way of the skiers. With the help of some family and his wife Yvette Beaupré, who acts as secretary, he cares for the trails. You can find him every weekend at the kiosk behind the Saint Catherine de Hatley community centre. This is the entry point. An annual membership costs $35 for individuals or $70 for families or you can pay the day rate which is $4.

The trail offers all the charms of the countryside: wooded areas, raised trails and panoramic landscapes. It is a demanding destination for skiers as the terrain is very hilly. When you start on the trail, you start by climbing up a field from which you have a beautiful view of Mount Orford and then you never stop going up or down afterwards. Where there are valleys, there are hills! At one point the ski trail crosses our snowshoe trail and in other places they run parallel to each other.

The contact phone number is his home phone. Mrs. Beaupré answers the calls. Gilbert laughed when he told me that sometimes people call late at night, expecting to leave a message on a business phone. After 10 p.m. he doesn’t answer.

Mr. and Mrs Beaupré don’t see each other very much in the winter as Gilbert is busy 7 days a week grooming and manning the ticket booth.
He used to ski as well, along with his family. He doesn’t ski anymore and his kids have moved away. When they come to visit, they still like to go out on the trails.

Website, Facebook page, other social media accounts? No, he doesn’t need any marketing. People discover the trails from friends and word of mouth.

Somewhat like the Massawippi Trail, Les Quatre Vallons ski trails are a treasured find for Townshipper outdoor enthusiasts.

“Thanks to the rights of way offered by the many owners, including the Massawippi Trust, we can offer very beautiful trails,” says Gilbert Beaupré, who looks forward to the arrival of the winter season every year.

Les Quatre Vallons will continue as long as Mr. Beaupré remains passionate. He intends to continue the picturesque circuit for as long as possible.

76 Rue la Grande, Sainte-Catherine-de-Hatley, (Quebec)
Téléphone : 819 843-7324