Friday, September 13, 2013

Eastern Townships 2013, Day 2: Ange-Gardien to Mont-Orford National Park

< back to day 1 > forward to day 3

The night in the tent was cold. We had left one side of the rain fly open for better ventilation, and to save some space and weight I had brought only my middle-of-the-summerßweight sleeping bag. The bright morning sun and a cup of coffee warmed me up quickly, though.

As it is usually the case on the first few days of a tour, it took us a while to get ready; but by 9:45 we were on the road again. Our tentative plan for the day was to make it to Mont Orford National Park, about 80 kilometers and a bunch of climbing. We knew that this might be a challenge; but since there were a number of other campgrounds along the route we went for it anyway.

The road from the campground was mostly empty on this beautiful Saturday morning, and after only a few kilometers we reached the Route Verte 1.

Our progress towards Granby was slightly delayed when another cyclist flagged us down to ask where he was. There was clearly some mismatch between the distance he said he wanted to go and his degree of familiarity with the route. We did our best to guide him on the right way but I'm not entirely sure if we didn't just confuse him more...

It was a bit longer into Granby than anticipated, and so we stopped for a quick Clif Bar somewhere on the trail. By the time we arrived at the lake near Granby's downtown it wasn't quite time for lunch yet, but we stopped at a grocery store in order to stock up. Most larger grocery stores in Quebec offer a decent selection of prepared foods, and we enjoyed our third breakfast on the shore of Lac-Boivin.
Fountain in Lac-Boivin in Granby

Third breakfast

Kiss the flatlands goodbye!
Bike traffic on the Route Verte had picked up a lot -- everyone, from hand cyclists, families with tag-alongs, or what looked like the local e-bike club, was enjoying the day on their rides. Whereas so far our ride had been dead flat, in Granby we would start seeing the mountains of the Eastern Townships. Our route also started climbing, but for now it was just the gentle grade of the Estriade, a rail trail.
But a climb is a climb and so we were happy when we reached a lovely bike rest area at the outskirts of Waterloo. Toilets, water, picnic tables, two folks from the local tourist info, and a restored caboose made for an excellent spot for having lunch.
Inside, there was a model railway and information about the Estriade and its history
Waterloo's significance for cycling lies in the fact that it's home to the headquarters of Raleigh Canada. Raleigh bikes are still being manufactured there today. Not for much longer, though, as Raleigh announced at the beginning of 2013 that production will be shut down by the end of the year.

The Estriade ends in Waterloo, and the Route Verte continues on the appropriately named Montagnarde. Right after getting out of town, we were on a rough gravel path along a pipeline corridor -- and the climbing got a lot tougher. The path ended soon and for the next hours we'd be riding on magnificent gravel roads. Riding on gravel roads is all the rage these days, and no matter if you buy into the hype or not: they make for some fine riding! We encountered very few cars and the road surface was smooth enough to not cause any discomfort.

Discomfort was only caused by the relentless up and down of the route. Steep climbs were followed by rapid descents, through a pastoral landscape of meadows, forests, and mountains.



and gravel.
The road, called Chemin de la Diligence, leads straight west for many kilometers. Close to the village of Stukely, there suddenly were dozens of cars parked along the side of the road -- as it turns out there was a Country music festival going on.
Not exactly our kind of scene, and so we we continued. The direction of the road didn't change, but now it was paved again. This made the big hill out of Stukely that we had seen from the summit of the previous ascent a little less challenging. But both the biketopus and I started to feel the effects of the up and down on our legs. I announced every 10 meters of climbing that we completed to keep us motivated.
Someone needs to hook that up to a fatbike

Big hill out of Stukely

Almost there!
Fortunately, this was the last major climb of the day. After a very fast descent, we reached Lac d'Argent. There are two very nice looking campgrounds right on the lake and we pondered if we should maybe just stay there instead of continuing the remaining kilometers -- and an unknown amount of climbing -- to the National Park. At any rate, we would have to get groceries first, and so the biketopus took a break on a big rock while I rode into the town of Eastman.

Eastman had some very tempting looking restaurants with sunny porches, and was just generally bustling with weekenders. But I just got food and a cold sixpack and returned to the biketopus. After some deliberation, we decided to just continue to the park. The Route Verte guidebook had a warning of an above 10% climb on the way there, but whatever! The path from Eastman to the park is a gravel trail through quiet woods. And while there were a few steep climbs, we were very happy to have finally reached the park border and soon after the turn-off to the campground without any hills worthy of a warning sign.
Most national parks in Quebec have introduced new cyclist-only campsites this year, similar to the hiker-biker sites in US National and State Parks on the West Coast. This means that cyclists have priority, no reservation is required, and they're a little cheaper than the other campsites. Other than one other cyclists who was going the opposite direction, from Sherbrooke to Montreal, we had the nice space all to ourselves.The normal campground, in contrast, was fully booked.
Bienvenue Cyclistes!
Whereas at the previous campground at least cold showers had been free, at the park all kinds of showering cost $1 for 4 minutes. Not exactly unreasonable, but grouchy me was unwilling to pay and instead hopped on his bike to ride to the nearby Lake Stukely. This turned out to be a great decision. The lake is absolutely beautiful, and this was emphasized even more by the sun just about to set. I floated around in the clean, warm water for a while before washing my hair over a sink and then pedaling back to our campsite. This was clearly the best campground on our trip.
Lac Stukely in the morning
As I realized only after returning home, unfortunately my GPS had crashed at some point during the ride, and therefore the track below is missing the last third of the ride.

> forward to day 3

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