Monday, July 27, 2009

Path: LA-5, LE-4

YouTube  l  Panorama
Lac-à-l'Épaule (Substitute)
LA-5 Lapalme Lake / Lac Lapalme
LE-4 Legault Lake / Lac Legault

July 29, 2009

Day 1 – July 27, 2009

Rivière-à-Pierre to Fossambault-sur-le-lac

Woke up early to a rainy morning. Packed up my bike and headed down the Lachine canal to the VIA Rail station to catch the 8:30 train to Rivière-à-Pierre. Took off my front wheel and was able to stuff my bike and tent in the box they provided. The scenery was grey and gloomy, as it rained throughout the ride. Right before Rivière-à-Pierre a group of canoeists got on, smelling of campfire, looking ravenous and chilled to the bone. When I got off at the station, there were about six other cyclists ready to board. The rain had stopped but the air was heavy. The sun tried to pierce through the clouds, but just created a blanket of damp heat. My breathing was raspy, but as the first few kilometers of gravelly road passed through a forest, the air cooled a little. The trail was a little monotonous but at the same time, it gave me plenty of time to think as I just had to plod along in a straight line, brought out of my reverie by the occasional big dumb horsefly. Many doves of a brown-rose colour and the frequent cawing crow. Eventually fields appeared on either side and the sun peeped out. For the most part, I was on my own. I crossed only one other pair of cyclists and a few locals on the trail. I startled a calico cat who jumped and glided in the tall glasses as if it were a hare. I had to laugh out loud as it was so graceful in its fright. There was the occasional picnic table and portable toilet. I had enough snacks to tie me over. Passed the communities of Saint-Léonard, Saint-Raymond, Lac Sergent, Sainte-Catherine-de-la-Jacques-Cartier and finally reached Fossambault-sur-le-Lac in the afternoon. I could have kept going, but it started down pouring, so I circled back and headed for the campground. I got soaked to the skin and had trouble finding my way as my maps got all wet and I had to turn off the GPS. Of course, as soon as I entered the campground, the rain stopped. Though I was grouchy, I was relieved that I would not have to pitch my tent in the rain. The annoying thing about cycling solo is not being able to share camping fees. It cost me $40.00 for a little damp square of earth. Not my idea of camping. It was the kind of campground where families go with their trailers and stay the whole summer. There was no privacy between the lots. I'm surprised I didn't hear anyone snoring. Was next to a family with a very noisy dog who whined and whimpered when left alone. Went to bed early and packed up early the next morning, anxious to get going.


Day 2 - July 28, 2009

Fossambault-sur-le-lac to parc de la Jacques-Cartier

Was on the Corridor des Cheminots, which leads to Quebec City, before I knew it. I didn’t have detailed maps so I was uncertain how I was going to get to the parc de la Jacques-Cartier, otherwise known as the parc des Laurentides. I stopped on the side of the road close to Wendake to pore over my maps. A cyclist stopped to see if I needed help, Andrée from Charlesbourg. A local, she knew all the routes and advised me not to take my planned route through Tewkesbury as it was extremely hilly. The smaller roads through Lac Saint Charles would be a better option. She was on her regular training route, but said if she had time she would circle back and ride with me. I turned onto Boulevard de la Colline and went and ate a late breakfast. I asked a rather handsome cop for more detailed instructions and he obligingly wrote down the route for me.



At Grande Ligne, I hesitated. The direction looked wrong as I referred to my GPS and map. I decided to go the other way. Thankfully, I ran into Andrée who was headed towards me from Charlesbourg. She laughingly informed me that I was heading towards Quebec City, not north and offered to ride along with me for a bit. She suggested we take a more scenic route turning right on Bellerive, left on Rivière Jaune then right on Éthier to join Boul. Talbot, which is the 175. There was a lot of traffic but it had a decent shoulder. It turned out to be a boiler of a day. We were both sweating profusely. We stopped at a gas station in the shade to look at my map. Andrée, perhaps hungry for a good ride, offered to go a little further as it was part of her regular training route and Stoneham promised nice climbs. (Or perhaps she was worried because I was on my own. Fair enough, anything can happen. Though I do spend a good amount of time planning my trips I do leave a lot of room for error, for whims, for encounters. And I can’t control traffic. That’s where I have to let go. I realize that part of this project is about letting myself be helped by people instead of always striving to be self-sufficient. Or appearing to be so… Embrace the vulnerability, allow the other to experience the small joy of helping another. It is another way of connecting, to ask for help.) She was much faster than I was. I am generally slow because of the asthma, but also because of the camping equipment. I am however a steady cyclist with good endurance. Stoneham was indeed a very quaint town. We stopped at the 175 junction and chatted before parting ways. She told me about her recent trips with Vélo Québec and some of the trips she did overseas with her partner. She even gave me her phone number and told me to call her if I needed anything at the park. Truly a very kind person. She did me a great service, probably saving me hours of cycling. I slathered on the sunscreen before steadying myself for an uphill climb. Insane traffic whizzing by, but the shoulder was generous enough. I reached the park entrance only to find out I had another 10 km to go before I got to reception – with some wicked hills. The scenery as I entered the Jacques-Cartier valley was breathtaking. It felt so green and clean compared to the aggressive highway traffic.

I had registered online for my campsite – le Grand Duc — so I simply had to sign in. I decided to treat myself and dug out my quarters to take a hot shower, wiping the layer of dead bugs stuck to my legs. It was another 5 km to my campsite, following the Sautauriski river. I was delighted with the site, surrounded by evergreens and mossy areas with the river babbling in the background. They even delivered a bag of wood for the campfire. I pitched my tent and cycled back to the registration area to pick up my cell (which they agreed to recharge for me) and eat supper. I did not have room on my bike to bring cooking equipment and so I settled for a sandwich at the cantine. Back at my site, I started a fire and read, but after about 20 minutes of contentment, it started raining hard. I had to retire to my tent. I tried to read as late as I could so that I was not wide awake at 3:00 AM, but finally dozed off around 10:00. I knew I had a rough ride the next morning so I needed to rest up. At one point in the night, I woke up. My tent kept flashing white. I was so sleepy, I thought it was fireflies at first until I heard the sky cracking. Eventually the rain came down like nails and I realized that there was a thunderstorm directly overhead. Alone in my tent, I'll admit that I was scared. There was another group of campers in the next lot, so I was not completely on my own. It was more of an existential aloneness in that I felt small and vulnerable in my flimsy shelter. There was nothing I could do if a lightening bolt were to strike me. I felt like a petrified little rabbit as I froze and adopted the fetal position. I just had to wait it out for what seemed like hours. I admit to mouthing a continuous plea to the heavens. People say that there is very little chance to be struck by lightning, but it is an irrational, animal fear that takes over. I always think of my mortality in thunderstorms and in planes — situations where I have little control. After it died down, I slept in until 8:30 AM, exhausted.


Day 3 - July 29, 2009

Secteur de la vallée to secteur Lac-à-l’Épaule return

The next morning it was muggy and the air was heavy with the threat of rain. I was wheezing more than usual going uphill. I was apprehensive about my ride to Lac-à-l’Épaule. Lac Lapalme (LA-5) and Lac Legault (LE-4) while in proximity of each other, were simply too remote to attempt cycling there alone. Lac-à-l’Épaule was chosen as a substitute, not only for its proximity to the other waypoints, but for its historical significance. While political figures like Churchill, Roosevelt and de Gaulle had all met at the remote fishing camp bordering Lac-à-l’Épaule at one time, Georges-Émile Lapalme had also been a visitor. On the 4th and 5th of September 1962, he met with Prime Minister of Québec, Jean Lesage, and other cabinet ministers including René Lévesque to discuss whether they should launch an election on the theme of the nationalization of Hydro Québec. The expression “tenir un lac-à-l’épaule” stemmed from this historic meeting. This idea of gathering in a remote outdoors setting to discuss issues, to defend views and possibly come to a compromise, appealed to me considering the symbolism of the coordinates of the LA-5 and LE-4 waypoints. The Lac-à-l'Épaule area also has historical value for Aboriginal people. In the 17th century, Jesuits followed a "montagnais" trail from Lac-à-l’Épaule to the lac Saint-Jean area1. (The Montagnais-Naskapi tribes now call themselves the Innu nation. "Montagnais" is a french term meaning "mountain people" while "Innu" means "people"2.) In terms of mapmaking, the Huron-Wendat chief Nicholas Vincent Tsawanhonhi (1769-1844), whose name means "he who sees clearly"3, described this lake as "Hüaonjacaronté" on a map in 1829 that is known as the "Vincent plan". This lake warrants more research has there is probably a rich history that I've only touched upon.

I had to ride a good 10 km just to get out of the park and another 20 km uphill on the 175, which leads all the way to Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean. The good thing is that I did not have all my camping equipment with me, so my load was a little lighter for what would be a 437 metre climb:  from 277 to 714 metres. Riding alongside a continuous flow of transports, trucks and campers, all going extremely fast, was stressful — this despite a fairly wide shoulder. At those speeds, you never know what could happen. My nerves were on edge from the constant noise. The last 10 km climb was made further difficult by construction, as they were widening the highway. The three lanes converged to two, with room for a shoulder on only one side. I followed the same strategy while on my trip in the Gaspésie. Whenever I saw a transport truck coming towards me, I would get off the road onto the gravel. That way if a transport was coming up behind me, there was less chance of an accident. Overall, vehicles tried to give me space when they could, but there was simply not enough room for two transports and a cyclist. When I arrived at the accueil Mercier, I was somewhat shaken and relieved to be off the highway. Unfortunately, the lake was on the other side. I told the park worker about my project and he suggested a spot where I could get a good shot of the lake. He also advised me not to take the mountain bike path back to the campground when I inquired about it. It was a good 17 km away through rugged terrain and I only had a hybrid bike. Plus it would be foolhardy to go alone. I stocked up on water and bought sunglasses as I had lost the nose attachment to my old ones. Though it was cloudy, my face was sore from squinting. An interesting detail. On a portion of the road on each side of the highway was a tubular metal bridge that was difficult to cross on my bike. I assume that it is a bridge designed to stop animal traffic as I could not imagine a moose navigating the tubes. On the highway island, I woke up a man who was lying across his quad. I wanted directions, but I also wanted to make sure he was ok. I spoke French but quickly switched to English. I think he was American. I thought it a strange place to catch a nap. I first went to the Pavillion du lac-à-l’Épaule — the historic fishing lodge? Unfortunately, I was unable to walk around as a group had already booked the lodge according to the park worker who came to greet me. She also suggested I go a bit further to the “effluves”. I assumed this word meant falls as I found a cascading waterfall. But when I looked the noun up later, I was surprised to see that it meant exhalation, breath. “Émanation qui s’exhale d’un corps organisé” — Dictionnaire encyclopédique de la langue française. I probably did not hear her well. Perhaps she mean “l’effluent du lac”? And yet, the exhalation of the lake is more poetic. It was a nice vantage point as from that angle, the lake seemed to float in midair, contained by a barrage of rocks, with the waterfall running under the bridge I was standing on to become the Lac-à-l’Épaule river. This waterway feeds back into the Jacques-Cartier river, at the foot of l’Épaule mountain. There was a small cabin nearby with a panel explaining that salmon eggs were being cultivated inside and that the saumoneau would be released back into the river. (The park has a tiny museum display where I learned that in the beginning of the 19th century, the Jacques-Cartier river had been depleted of its salmon stocks and the caribou had also been over hunted.)

I decided to take the same shoulder on my way back so that I was facing traffic. It felt safer to see the oncoming vehicles, and there was simply no shoulder on the right hand side. I used caution though veering off into the gravel when anything large came my way. As it was all downhill, I was soon out of the construction zone and on the right side of the road. All was going well when a freak thunderstorm hit. Barely had enough time to put on a windbreaker. Thankful I had bought the sunglasses as they stopped the water streaming down my face from washing away my lenses. The rain was pelting the pavement and despite the poor visibility, the traffic did not slow down. Felt exposed to the whims of the sky and traffic. On one steep climb, I thought it safer to walk my bike. I wasn’t sure what the best course of action was: to stop and hide, or to try and out race the storm? Gradually the rain lessened and the sun even peeped its way out. As I entered the park, I biked those last kilometers at a snail’s pace, my muscles burnt from that intense climb. Though I was soaked to the skin, I was content to take in the park’s scenery and simply breathe in the clean, crisp air that follows rainfall. I met another camper back at the site, Ronald Oosting from the Netherlands, on a visit from New York. He was also an artist, specializing in figurative wood carvings. We were banned to our respective pup tents for a good two hours by the heavy rain, but when I emerged he very kindly shared his piping hot supper. We enjoyed the campfire and traded tales until the next rain fall. Though it was a grueling ride, I’m glad that I was able to document Lac-à-l’Épaule. Seeing how remote it was, I realize I have to let go of cycling to the LA-5 and LE-4 waypoints in the Réserve faunique des Laurentides. A future hiking and camping trip perhaps, as there is a cabin nearby on Lac-Henri-Mercier. It’s too bad because I was 29 km away from the Secteur Jumeau entrance, and from there it was only another 115 km to Chicoutimi. My A-6 waypoint, close to Mont-Apica, will probably have to be left to the imagination.


Day 4 - July 30, 2009

Parc de la Jacques-Cartier to Neuville

Packed up my tent, and was at the cantine by 7:30 looking forward to a hot coffee before I set off. Unfortunately, it was not open so I hastily munched on my remaining rations: a granola bar, a stick of cheese and some prunes. As the 175 was all downhill, I was at the Stoneham junction before I knew it. Decided to keep going but quickly discovered why Andrée had suggested the alternate route. Cyclist are not allowed beyond the intersection of the 73 and the 371, which leads to Tewkesbury. I had to backtrack, and turned left on Crawford which I was relieved to see brought me to 1st avenue and then on chemin de l’Hibou through the village. I decided to go straight towards Lac Delage. What I failed to realize was that Grande Ligne was also on the other side of the lake. I had to circle back once again. In Lac Saint Charles I went the wrong way again. I wasn't thinking clearly as the sun was intense and I was getting hungry. By the time I stopped to eat, I was surprised to see that I had already cycled 55 km. Once outside the park, a sign said that Quebec City was 40 km away. Of course, I was on small backroads and kept getting lost. The Corridor des Cheminots used to be an old railroad, passing mostly through suburbs. Nearing the end I chatted with Bernard, a friendly fellow who I was surprised to see cycling while wearing a speedo — wouldn't that be uncomfortable? He offered to show me a shortcut to the port area as he too needed to visit a cycling shop. I tried to buy the nosepiece to my sunglasses, but they did not have them in stock. He offered me his own as we had the same glasses. He knew of a sports warehouse. It was very sweet of him as I had not had much luck in the past with spare parts. This trip was truly a mix of grueling rides and kind people.


Setting out towards Montreal, I enjoyed the new Littoral trail bordering the Saint-Laurent. Unfortunately, it stopped abruptly at Sainte-Foy. I asked a few people for directions: crossed the parking lot, up Ross, left on Saint-Louis, followed a Chemin du Roy sign… and promptly got lost, cycling around in circles. It was my fault for not having detailed, recent maps. I eventually got back to the 138 and decided to call it a day in Neuville. I found a B&B on the main drag and happily soaked in the view of the Saint-Laurent from a garden swing.


Day 5 - July 31, 2009

Neuville – Trois-Rivières

The next morning, I admired the pretty houses in Cap Santé and stopped to eat my lunch in Deschambault at an old fashioned country store. Bought some goatmilk soap close to Grondines and talked to another cyclist going the opposite way. We both remarked that there were very little cyclists on the roads. I knew I had a lot of ground to cover, so I did not stop much except to photograph the occasional church steeple or Croix de chemin. It was a flat route but I had a head wind. Near the end of the day, I made my way to the old section of Trois-Rivières, crossing the rivière Saint-Maurice. I was so struck by the architecture – the Couvent des Urselines especially  – that I decided to stop at a B&B instead of continuing on ahead like I had planned. A good choice as Trois-Rivières was celebrating its 375e anniversary and the streets were animated with people strolling about. The terrasses were full and street performers were on every corner. At night fall, on the Rue des Ursulines, I watched “Parade Issimo” by Les Sages Fous which featured big mechanized bird puppets, a hit with the kids. Then the more sober “Stones” by the Orto-Da Theatre Group from Tel Aviv, Israel. It was all very well planned: the first performance more ambulant with the kids following the puppeteers like the Pied Piper, while the second one provided little stools for its audience. The historical setting added to the magical quality of the night.


Day 6 – August 1, 2009

Trois-Rivières – Montréal

The next day was very hot and I was exposed to the sun on treeless country roads (rangs) surrounded by fields in Maskinongé, Saint-Barthélemy and Saint-Viateur — away from bathroom facilities and food amenities. My GPS turned off right before Louiseville, so I lost track of perhaps 15 km? I ate in the late afternoon at a cantine outside of Saint-Sulpice and had a nice chat with the owners. I admitted that I was already very tired. If I took the 138, it was more straightforward, but with lots of traffic. As they told me that L’Assomption was quite pretty, I decided to take the Route Verte, not fully realizing how many km it would add to my day. My route turned out to be a real labyrinth: I got lost in L'Assomption then in Charlemagne trying to find the bridge to Repentigny. One person gave me directions in one way and another sent me back to the same spot where I first asked for directions, by the Céline Dion globe. I eventually got onto the island, but it was the night of the Francofolies and the fireworks competition so the trails on the east end were congested. I had to walk my bike though the old port. I just wanted to be home and take a long bath. I finally relaxed once I was on the Lachine canal as it is so familiar, I can ride it in my sleep. I inched along at a turtle’s pace, my behind and knees sore, finally getting home at 9:30. I had never done such a long day before — about 175 km. But it was worth it to see the Chemin du Roy and all the historical stopovers on the way.

Day 1 – July 27, 2009 (Rivière-à-Pierre to Fossambault-sur-le-lac)


Time Location Trip Odometer Moving Time Stopped Max Speed Moving Average




N 45°27'578"
W 73°35'842"


N 46°54'258"  W 71°37'281"

Stopped GPS because of rain

58.8 km 3:24 27 min  110k/h? 17.2k/h


Day 2 - July 28, 2009 (Fossambault-sur-le-lac to parc Jacques-Cartier)


Time Location Trip Odometer Moving Time Stopped Max Speed Moving Average
Lac Saint-Charles
N 46°53'331"
W 71°22'282"
32.6 km  1:49 37 min  36.7k/h 17.9k/h
Parc Jacques-Cartier
N 47°10'508"
W 71°22'175"
(264 m)

51.1 km 

GPS battery ran out around Stoneham
51.1 + 28 = 70 km?

2:47 1:04  49.9k/h  18.3k/h


Day 3 - July 29, 2009 (Secteur de la vallée to secteur Lac-à-l’Épaule return)


Time Location Trip Odometer Moving Time Stopped Max Speed Moving Average
Secteur Lac-à-l’Épaule
N 47°14'292"
W 71°14'807"
(714 m)
30.6 km  2:05 10 min  45.3k/h 14.7k/h
Bridge by Salmon Nursery, Lac-à-l’Épaule
N 47°14'191"
W 71°15'095"
(655 m)
Reception, secteur Vallée
N 47°10'508"
W 71°22'175"
(277 m)
65.9 km  3:50 29 min  123 k/h? 16k/h


Day 4 - July 30, 2009 (Parc Jacques-Cartier to Neuville)


Time Location Trip Odometer Moving Time Stopped Max Speed Moving Average

N 47°00'160"
W 71°21'748"
(180 m)

28.1 km 1:19 10 min 106 k/h? 21.2k/h
Lac Saint-Charles
N 46°53'331"
W 71°22'282"
56.7 km  2:50 19 min    20 k/h
Stopped: 30 min 
Leave: 1:25
Quebec City Port
N 46°49'095"
W 71°12'036"
(12 m)
74.6 km  3:42 30 min   20.1 k/h
End of Littoral
N 46°45'832"
W 71°16'701"
Saint-Augustin-de-Desmaures 112 km 6:12 1:09  150 k/h?  18 k/h
N 46°41’864"
W 71°34'631"
(9 m)
119 km  6:37 1:11    17.9 k/h


Day 5 - July 31, 2009 (Neuville – Trois-Rivières)


Time Location Trip Odometer Moving Time Stopped Max Speed Moving Average
N 46°38'919"
W 71°55'721"
37.8 km  2:11 13:37  326 k/h? 17.2k/h
Notre-Dame-de-la-rive (outside Trois-Rivières)
N 46°23'773"
W 72°26'925"
95.1 km  5:23 44 min   17.6k/h

N 46°20'781"
W 72°32'412"

110 km  6:19 1:03   17.4k/h


Day 6 – August 1, 2009 (Trois-Rivières – Montréal)


Time Location Trip Odometer Moving Time Stopped Max Speed Moving Average
N 46°15'356"
W 72°56'454"

20 km? 

GPS stopped – lost 15 km?

55 min 20 min 183 k/h? 21.7k/h
N 46°11'508"
W 73°07'580"
39.8 km?  2:00 27 min   21.7k/h

N 46°04'820"  W 73°10'594"

Public bathroom in park facing church

58.1 km?  3:05 41 min   18.8 k/h
Cantine outside of Saint-Sulpice 89.2 km?  4:49 55 min   18.8 k/h

Got lost in Charlemagne.

Eastern tip of Montreal Island

128 km?  7:06 1:15   18.0 k/h
Ville Émard

163 km? 

163 km + 12 km (Louiseville) = 175 km

9:29 1:25   17.2 k/h


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