From Patagonia's snowy slopes to Russia's polar regions, photographer, director and producer Annie-Claude Roberge has had her share of extreme moments over the past 20 years. Sixty countries later, the adventure-fuelled woman took advantage of the pandemic to go with the flow and stay where her passion for the outdoors was born: the woods of the Lanaudière region.
On the Matawinie Trail, a section of the National Trail in Quebec (SNQ), Annie-Claude's touring skis glided over the snow for 100 kilometres over five days last winter. Elevation changes of 400 to 600 metres and 180-degree views marked her journey, which she shared with her ultramarathoner friend Hélène Dumais. “Such a wild, remote place near Montreal is rare,” says the filmmaker.
Although the section in the foothills stretching over some 30 kilometres was hard, she wasn't at all in the mindset of taking on a massive challenge, conquering a summit or beating a record. The goal was simply to peacefully reconnect with the wilds where she had grown up.
“The outdoors isn't just about big challenges. It's also about being in harmony with nature and respecting it.”
The way she thinks about nature evolved after the return to her roots. In the rocks' contours, the snow-covered treetops and the shaggy mosses spreading all over tree trunks, the small suddenly became bigger. It's one thing to experience the often imposing, boundless wilderness found elsewhere. Experiencing nature in a familiar area is another.
“Yes, I get out into the great outdoors when I travel. Except that here, it taught me to live slowly, day by day, in harmony with the elements that forged me. That made me the person I am today.”
In little things experienced during that humble expedition on the Matawinie Trail, the woman from Lanaudière found her treasure. With her teammate, everything was a pretext to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. “I had just as much fun, if not more than in Alaska because I was with someone who made fetching water from a creek exciting,” she says.
Because she still enjoys exploring her backyard, Annie-Claude will once again pack her backpack by spring to pursue a movie project in northern Quebec. Yes, she'll be travelling, but she'll be travelling better from now on. “I don't want to go just anywhere and emit carbon by flying anymore. I want to do what is meaningful for me.”