Friday, March 11, 2016

Le Petit Train de Nord - a cycling trip: Overview

I know this blog is for canoe camping in Algonquin Park. However, I'd like to share some other self-propelled outdoor adventures and this trip qualifies for that.

I'd been discussing taking a cycling trip with a friend I work with. She's primarily a runner, but we talk cycling as I commute to work on my bike and she had been meaning to do more of that. Her husband had cycled a lot when he was younger, but it had been a while since he'd done much riding. In their spare time they would often kayak. She would occasionally talk about backcountry camping with some friends and I'd throw up my hands and say "car camping for MEEEE". How I ate those words the next year!

Another friend of theirs joined us for the trip, so we were four in total. His wife didn't feel ready for this length of a journey, however she was inspired enough that the following year the same group (minus me) went on an even longer trip.

One route that is fairly accessible from Ottawa is the Petit Train du Nord. We did this trip in 2014. It is considered a linear park and the dedicated bike trail runs from Mont Laurier in Quebec down to Ste-Jerome. I think it has extended a bit since we rode it. We planned to do 200 km from Mont Laurier to St.-Jerome, QC.

Here's a link to their website:

We made reservations through a website that not only set us up on the shuttle bus, but also reserved our three rooms each night in the three bed and breakfast places we would stay at. Also we had a shuttle bus picking up our bags each morning and dropping them off at our next stop so we weren't carrying much on our bikes. The next time I do this trip, I would carry my own bags on my bike. We found that even if we didn't want to get up super early and prepare, we pretty much had to as our bags needed to be ready by 9 a.m. each day.

We would drive to St.-Jerome the night before in 2 cars and stay in a hotel near where we would leave our cars, take the shuttle bus, and return to via bike several days later. The shuttle bus will transport you, your bike and your bags to the point where you will start cycling, although I guess you could do it the other way around (cycle from your car, get a shuttle back).

Here's the link to the shuttle bus:

This area is in the Laurentians, a hilly part of the country. We do call them mountains, although next to the Rockies they are just hillocks. Our strategy was to start in Mont Laurier and cycle to St.-Jerome. We thought that we would be cycling more downhill that way. In the booklet you get describing the route there is a map that shows elevation, just like they do for the Tour de France!

The path is built on a former train track bed. There is something very special about cycling these routes. Trains needed quite a distance to power up a hill, so the hill climbing, although it still exists, is much more gradual than you might find on a regular road or path. The rail bed tends to be a bit straighter too, no sharp turns.

We did the trip in early September (Sept. 5 to 8, 2013). The weather is usually gorgeous, the bugs aren't too bad, the kids are back in school, and the crowds should be a bit thinner.

We all took Friday off work and on Thursday night we headed to St.-Jerome. Nat drove with me. I am able to put a couple of bikes inside the back of my Hyundai Elantra GT. Ask me about when my sister convinced me a new bathtub for her renovation would fit in the back of my car - it did! I only had my bike though, the other three bikes though were strapped onto Nat's husband's Jeep Compass.

Both Nat and I were very disappointed that we'd already eaten dinner before we got to our hotel that first night, there was a St.-Hubert next door and we both love their chicken!

We got our rooms and were able to lock our bikes up into a special storage area the hotel provides for all the cyclists. After mingling a bit in the lobby we all went to our own rooms.

Day 1                       Day 2                         Day 3                      Day 4

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