Riding that Train
 
   

During the night the rains were extremely heavy and I had forgotten to pack my ground sheet (using a list would have prevented this oversight). The tent was in a run off area and the pressure of my sleeping pad allowed water to come through the floor. My down bag was wet and my feet were cold all night.

The next day I awoke early and watched anxiously through the trees looking for the rising sun and clear blue skies. Patches of blue started to appear and I just knew it was going to be a good day. I had a feast of raman soup noodles, gorp and a pepperoni stick I had picked up the night before.

I had to dry out the tent and my sleeping bag as best I could, so I found a sunny spot in the forest and draped them over some saplings. Since I was stuck here for a little while I decided I might as well go exploring. The campground as I mentioned is right on the Rouge River. The river has washed sand up all along the shoreline making a perfect natural beach.

 
 
 

Tubes are available to ride the river but I wasn't able to ascertain if your in for an idle drift or if there are rapids downstream. Either way it looks like a great way to spend a summers day.

I checked my gear and everything was damp rather than wet so I decided to pack up and get going. As I climbed the hill out of the campground I realized how sore my muscles really were. Fortunately the first strech of my ride on the trail doesn't have any grade. In the afternoon I will be riding the only real grade on my way south. I reasoned that by that time I should be warmed up and ready for it - after all it's a rail trail, it can't be very steep, now can it.

 
 
 

This section of the trail follows closely beside the rouge and provides very nice views of the river and lots of great picnic areas. The day was a mix of sun and cloud with a very comfortable temperature for riding. While the riding was easy, I was looking forward to reaching Mont Tremblant to have lunch and just kick back for awhile.

I pulled into Labelle (km 106) and decided to explore the restored train station. I had the where with all to bring my bike lock but I couldn't secure my gear very easily, so I locked the bike as is an left it where I could keep an eye on it. One of the problems with riding solo is you don't have anyone to watch over your equipment while you buy groceries or check out the colour scheme of a gas stations washrooms. One solution is to find some fellow cyclists to keep an eye on things for you but it isn't always possible or practical.

The Labelle Train Station is an excellent example of how the communities have re-purposed and brought new life to these unique buildings. One section of the building houses the Labelle region tourism office and includes a fascinating wall of old photos of the region. Another section has been turned into a small brewing outlet, with medieval furnishings and one of Quebec's fine microbrewry's beers, Griffon. If it had been a little later in the day I would have pulled up a chair and tried a sample myself.

While the older generations tend to take train stations for granted, the younger generations may never have been inside a country station or any station at all for that matter. As I took a quick tour through the caboose, which was permanently parked beside the station, it dawned on me that the kids playing in it probably never saw one of these train cars before and given that they've retired them in Canada, aren't likely to ever see one in service.

The first of two surprises on leaving Labelle was the Labelle et la Rouge Campground. I had seen the short description in the guide book which lead with the word "teepee". Since the last time I had any desire to spend the night in a teepee was when I was six, I quickly jumped to the next listing in the book. The campground is beside the Rouge in a beautifully forested area and the nicely constructed teepees actually look interesting in this setting. You'll also find some rustic cabins for rent which look cozy. All in all not a bad option for a nights stay.

The second surprise was completely unexpected (they are in the guide but I guess I missed them). As I was traveling through a wooded section of trail two woman seemed to walk straight out of the thick forest just ahead of me. As I approached I realized there was a beautiful country B&B just about on top of the bike path but hidden on approach by the trees. Les Jardins de L'Achillee Millefeulle is a rather unique place with a restaurant-bar serving health food surround by a beautiful ecological garden.

 
 
   

My only scheduled stop before Mont Tremblant (km 91) was the 100km sign post which I just had to take a photo of. Like most of the communities on the trail Mont Tremblant has also restored it's train station but in this case it has turned the building over to local artists to exhibit and demonstrate their work. You'll find the artists friendly and interesting if you drop in.

Since the Mont Tremblant area has gone upscale with the wildly successful resort development at the ski hill things have changed considerably. The downside for me at this time is I couldn't find a casse croute (snack bar) anywhere in town. I had planned on a take out lunch and a nice spot in a nearby park or better still at the beach beside the station. I was disappointed and decided to continue on to St. Jovite.

When I reached the St. Jovite (km 80) area I learned a lesson about the P'tit Train - just because a town is marked on route doesn't mean it's directly on the bike path. St. Jovite's main street is a kilometre or two away, no problem except when your hungry and in my case tired from one and half days of pedaling. The short hill into town is no big deal but it really let me know where all my legs muscles are.

I reached the patate stand and I was too tired to try and find a grassy spot nearby so I just commandeered one of their picnic tables near the sidewalk and settled into my meal. As I ate, I began to feel a little better and the endless parade of people on this busy thoroughfare was stimulating and entertaining. If you knew St. Jovite back in the 80s you wouldn't recognize the town today. Shops, boutiques and restaurants are everywhere and the place is just abuzz.

 
 
 

Back on the trail I started to notice the grade as I rode and while it isn't much my muscles started to complain. After a while I began telling myself that every small incline ended right around the next corner which of course it never did. The climb into St. Faustin-Lac Carre (km 70) is gentle and only about 10km but it seemed like a hundred. It was this miserable attitude that had adopted which had me thinking I should just find a hotel or B&B for the night and forget the campground. So when I finally reached the station I called several area establishments. Of course being Saturday night on a long weekend they were completely booked. This had me worried about the campground, so I called rather than rode over. The indicated there was no problem getting a site, so I jumped on the bike and went flying down the hill to pick up my spot. It was a good thing I hurried, since all of the tent sites were taken within a half hour of my arrival.

The Domaine Desjardins campground was typical of many I had seen before but they have done some interesting things to accommodate and encourage bikers. They have set aside designated spots for cyclists to camp, which are well set up and for the most part relatively private. At the far end of the campground you'll find several nice trails where you can do some mountain biking if you aren't totally exhausted. I couldn't help but notice that all of the campgrounds facilities were very clean and well maintained. Now that I was settling in at my campsite I was very happy that I hadn't been able to find a hotel room after all

Chicken primavera for dinner with some fresh croissant from the bakery on the side and a nice bottle of what I consider Ontario's finest Chardonnay, Jackson Triggs 2002 (a gold medal winner in France). The chicken is from a freeze dried package and if you haven't had dried camp food since your scouting days, you're in for a surprise. Most of what's available at a good backpacker's stores is excellent. The downside of course is the price but after a 75km on a saddle today, I would have paid a lot more.

I had taken the time while I set up camp to hang my sleeping bag in the sun and air out the tent. By the time I was ready for bed everything was more or less dry. I fell asleep just about dusk and didn't get up until first mornings light. As I packed up and made breakfast I stretched and tested my muscles. I was surprised to find that I wasn't really very stiff and I felt another day of riding was easily doable, particularly since the grade is in my favour most of the way to St. Jerome.

 
 
 
 
   

The P'tit Train du Nord is built on an abandoned railway line which started in Montreal and headed into the Laurentian Mountains to the north The trail runs from St. Jerome in the south, through cottage country to Mont Tremblant Village then on passed the Ville du Riviere Rouge to it's terminus in Mont Laurier. The lower section of the trail is surfaced with crushed gravel, while the upper section passed Labelle is paved. The trail has little in the way of a grade but you'll find yourself on an incline into Lac Saguay from either Mont Laurier or Nominingue, from Mont Tremblant south to St. Faustin-Lac Carre and from Mont Rolland (Ste. Adele) north to Val Morin. There are over 20 designated access points with parking. The trail is open to cyclists, hikers and backpackers in the summer season. In the winter the upper section above Val David is used for snowmobiling while the lower section is reserved for cross country skiers. The trail connects into two other regional bike paths, the Aerobic Corridor and the Lower Laurentians Linear Park (paved).

The trail travels through a variety of scenery from forest to field, passes a number of lakes and follows along side the regions beautiful rivers, the Rouge in the upper section and the Riviere du Nord in the south. It also makes it's way through a number of small villages and towns where accommodations, restaurants, supplies and normally (but not always) a bike can be found.

 
 
 

Bike rentals are available at some of the converted railway stations as well as in a number of towns along route. Shuttle service is available for cyclists, both end-to-end and to points on route (for more information see the contact information at the bottom of the page). For further details on the bike path, along with accommodations, restaurants and other services on route consult the following:

The P'tit Train du Nord - Out-There's feature article and resource listings for the linear park

Out-There's Laurentians - The Laurentians Region
Out-There's Mont Tremblant - The Mont Tremblant Region and Resort
Out-There's Montreal - The City of Montreal

Association Touristique des Laurentides
14142, rue de la Chapelle, Mirabel
Quebec, J7J 2C8
450-436-8532 or 514-990-5625
Laurentians Tourism
info-tourisme@laurentides.com

 

The following is contact information for firms mentioned in the article.

Transport du Parc Lineaire Domain Marie-Max - Shuttle service
Boise de Fou du Roi - Campgrounds, L'Assomption
Camping Labelle et la Rouge - Camping and Rustic Cabins, Labelle
Les Jardins de L'Achillee Millefeuille - B&B and Restaurant, Labelle/Mont Tremblant
Camping Domaine Desjardin - Campgounds, St. Faustin-Lac Carre
Cafe de la Gare -
Cafe, Bike Rental, Mont Rolland Station
Les Excursions Riviere du Nord - Canoe rentals and shuttle

 

 
 
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