Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Le P'tit Train du Nord

I am sure that if you are a regular reader of the Snack you already know that I love rail trails. I have always been a train buff and now that I am riding bike, combining the two is a great way to get exercise and to learn more about trains. The last time I was up in Mont-Laurier for a fishing trip was 2005 which was when I just started riding again and never really gave it much thought back then but on this past trip to Quebec, I was drooling over the possibility of riding this trail. I have been coming up this way since 1980 and can remember seeing trains on this line, box cars sitting on sidings and at Mont-Laurier a nice rail yard with a few tracks. Now the tracks are gone and it's a mixture of paved and finely graveled trail bed stretching 200 Klicks (120 miles) from Saint-Jérôme to Mont-Laurier.

You would think with all the push towards eco-tourism, exercise-tourism and how Canada prides itself in this arena compared to the lower 48 that there would be many online resources about this trail but sadly there are not. I did happen to find this exc
erpt that describes the trail pretty decently:

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).

And there is a good description of what it's like to ride the whole trail in an on-line article called Riding That Train. The one thing I couldn't really find is a decent m
ap of the trail. The New York Times did a travel piece on the trail called Easy Slopes Please: Biking the Mountains of Quebec. The times article does have a good overview map of the trail.

The quandry I find myself in is that I really want to ride this trail, apparently it takes three days, but I can't seem to get over the fact that if I am going to travel 90% of the way to the place that I have been going to for fishing since 1980, I need to some how figure out a way to go fishing as well. I guess it's something that I will have to keep thinking about until there is an opportunity to make such a trip.

In the meantime, I took a few pictures at the northern terminus in Mont-Laurier. This section is paved but most the sections are not. Seems they are paved when going through the towns so that they can be used for roller blading, too.

This caught my eye, a full squish Special-Ed Epic FSR pulling a trailer. Talk about overkill!

After taking this picture I asked the couple about their trip and they said they were dropped off here by a service that caters to bikers from Montreal. They were going to make the three day trip and camp along the way. Apparently, his companion's pannier got messed up in transit.

Upon closer inspection of her bike, it looked like she was riding a Cannondale F700, with 700c wheels and cycle cross tires. Combined with a headshock, this bike appears to have more aptly suited for this type of riding.

At the terminus there is a parking lot and picnic area. While eating lunch this group of riders on road bikes came in, got lunch at the nearby McDonalds and then reassembled to ride back to where they came from.

All these bikes were top of the line road bikes with carbon forks and STI shifters. Again, maybe a little overkill for this type of riding, especially on the unpaved sections.

This is a trip definitely worth making. The sights along the way are breath taking, especially as you get into the Laurentian Mountain Range and in and around the Mont-Tremblant area. I wonder if anyone has ridden the whole trail single speed or on a fixie for that matter? Now that would be an adventure!

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