Bike Trips: Gaspé Peninsula:
July, 1992

Roger Kenner
Montreal, Qc,
Canada 2002

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Day 5: Grande Vallée to Anse au Griffon

Sunday, July 26, 1992

Getting Started

Click on photo to enlarge
Original Map Used: (Quebec Tourism Map: 1992)
Day 5 - 8 Map
The ambience of my campsite, with the soothing sound of the gentle surf, was so that I slept in until 07:00. As I was packing up to go, I compared notes with the cyclist couple from Quebec City. We examined the map to determine where the next campground would be. The campground book seemed to indicate that we would have to go all the way to Anse au Grifon [Griffon Cove], nearly 80km away. They decided they would probably end up there too, so we felt we might meet again at the end of the day. I got packed up and on my way by 9:00, while they remained behind to cook breakfast on their little stove.

The road out of Grande Vallée climbed back up from the sea quite a bit. It was a bad climb, but nothing like the day before. Just 6km down the road, in the town of Petite Vallée [Little Valley], I stopped for breakfastat at an excellent little family restuarant called "La Coukerie". Breakfast was from 9:30 to 10:00.

The Morning Ride: Mountains and more mountains

(La Carthèque Map: 1992)
Day 5: Grande Vallée to Cloridorme

Between 10:00 and 11:00 I did the road from Petite Vallée to Cloridorme, which was about 15km. There was another bad climb about halfway along, just past Pointe-à-la-Frégate [Frigate Point]. It was on this climb that my two fellow cyclists caught up with me and passed me. First the man, and then a few minutes later the woman, passed me like I was standing still. It made me realize even more that was cer­tainly not "hot stuff" when it came to cycling. The cycling guidebooks I had consulted la­belled the Gaspésie circuit as an "intermediate" trail. Well, I guess I was just a rookie on my tryout for the intermediate class.

On this particular hill, the "easy" part had only a 9% grade. Then, 200 metres from the top, the slope almost doubled. For the first time on my trip, I had to dismount and push the bike the last 100 metres. I just could not move it up, even when standing up on the pedals!

During my slow climbs I had plenty of time to defin in my head various types of grade. The easiest were those I didn't notice once I got onto them, where I did not have to shift gears or change my cadence. Then there were grades that were "sustainable", I would have to shift into my granny gear and put some more effort into the pedals, but a near-normal cadence was still possible. The next level were those where I had to make an extreme effort just to keep going. On these I had to pace myself and stop for a rest every 100 metres. Finally, there were the ones so steep that I had to walk the bike. As it turned out, the one I had just passed was to be the only one of those encountered.

(La Carthèque Map: 1992)
Day 5: Cloridorme to Anse-à-Valleau
After Cloridorme began another long, gradual climb, but it was at least sustainable. From the top of the mountain, I had a clear view far out into the ocean. Through my binoculars, I saw two distant ships as well as the far off profile of Anticosti Island, a large, somewhat mysterious island in the middle of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Then followed a breathtaking one-minute descent back to sea level. I did not have a speedom­eter on this trip, but I felt I must have been doing at least 60km an hour.

The formation I found when I got to the bottom of the hill was most interesting. I was at the base of a narrow cleft in the mountains, barely a few hundred feet wide, and with sheer cliffs rising on either side. The road I had just come down could be seen switchbacking down the side of the western cliff. Inland, where the road now turned, opened up a wide open, seemingly flat expanse. A river ran down through the narrow divide, emptying into a pond. The pond was completely cut off from the sea, but only by a narrow, rocky, cresent beach which spanned the entire cove. A "halte" had been built out on the beach which separated the pond from the ocean.

This presented such a beautiful, wilderness view that I couldn't resist the temptation to stop for a while. Besides, I had to tank up on water. Each major climb exhausted my three litres of stored water. While stopped at the rest area I met several other cyclists who were making the same trip. All were obviously in better shape and had much better equipment than did I. There was one who was doing the circuit in the opposite direction, from east to west. When I asked him why he would choose to do the entire trip against the wind, he shrugged nonchalantly, "C'est pour le fun." ["For the hell of it"]

Heading inland, the road skirted the eastern side of a vast, picturesque mountain lake called Grand Étang [Big Pond]. Once past the lake, it began to climb yet again. First it turned up into a narrow valley, then the valley became a ravine, formed by the river that fed the lake. I was clearly going over some kind of pass. I was small potatoes, though, after some of the earlier climbs.

I stopped at 13:15 near some nameless lake close to the summit for a lunch and water break before starting my descent. According the map showed the road would hug the water again after the next town, so according to my theory that should have meant it would be fairly flat. It was not to be. As I came flying down the grade into the town of Anse-à-Valleau, I could already see road take a turn and head right back up to climb over the next point. It was to be like this for each little town down the coast. There would be a high promontory to climb over, then the road would dip all the way down to the beach, where the town would be found, before climbing back up and over the promontory. These were serious hills, of my 100-metre-at-a-stretch variety. Beginning with Anse-à-Valleau, I had left the wilderness and was once again riding through developped countryside. Towns were only a few kilometres apart, and along the road in between were interspersed cottages and restuarants.

Along the Coast: Still more mountiains

(La Carthèque Map: 1992)
Day 5: Cloridorme to Anse-à-Valleau
The climb from Anse-à-Valleau up to Pointe-Jaune [Yellow Point] was to be the worst of the entire section. From Cloridorme to Anse-à-Valleau, a distance of 25km, had taken 2.5 hours. I had reached the town at 13:30. The 3km on to Pointe-Jaune would took an additional 30 minutes, for an aver­age climbing speed of 6km per hour.

Dropping down on the other side of Pointe-Jaune, I entered the town of L'Échouerie [Where-the-Ships-Run-Aground]. I spied here a small little roadside snack stand and realized how hungry I was. It was 14:15. I had a toasted tomato sandwich and filled up my water bottles. While I was eating, my two new-found road-companions, the couple from Quebec City, passed by on the road and waved to me. They must have stopped somewhere along the way as well. I also spoke briefly with a motorcyclist who was touring. He was from the States, so it was an occasion to speak English for a few minutes. I felt a certain comraderie, as we were both on two-wheeled vehicles. I got on my way at 14:30.

The next hour and a half were kilometres from Hell! My legs were beginning to tire from the full day of mountainous climbs. Each little town along the course, every three or four kilometres, was separated by a high ridge that had to be climbed over.

Click on photo to enlarge
(Quebec Tourism Guide: 1992)
Rivière au Renard: Aerial View
I plodded doggedly along through the tiny fishing hamlets of Petit-Cap [Little Cape], Petite-Rivière-au-Renard [Little Fox River], Rivière-au-Renard [Fox River], and L'Anse-à-Fugère [Fugere's Cove].

Anse au Griffon

Was I really glad when I finally approached my destination of Anse-au-Grifon! As luck would have it, my travelling companions and I managed to arrive at just the same time. As I climbed over the last crest, I looked to the National Park Information Centre, and saw them just as they were leaving. We caught up with each other on the descent and rode into the campround office together.

Click on photo to enlarge
(Forillon National Park Guide: 1992)
Forillon Map (Large)

The very tip of the Gaspé peninsula has been set aside as a National Park, Forillon National Park. After Rivière-au-Renard, the whole mountainous interior of the peninsula had been Na­tional Park. Only a one or two kilometre strip of coastline was still in private hands.

It was 16:00 when we reached the evening's campground, Camping Griffon. We took adjacent sites, perched high on a cliff overlooking the sea below (The campground was only half-way down the hill.). By now, Gilles and Josée seemed like old friends. We had a lot of time to talk and get to know one another during that evening.

Once my tent was set up, I headed into town for supper while Gilles and Josée remained behind to cook their own. Travel­ling from 9:00 until 4:00, seven hours altogether with six hours of cycling, my longest day so far, I had covered 72km. My average speed was down to only 12km per hour. My legs were really dead from all the mountains.

Click on photo to enlarge
(Period Document)
Anse au Griffon: Campground Map

So bad was the weakness in my legs that I was worried about getting back up the hill as I coasted down into town. Then, as a cruel joke, I had to climb up another useless little hill that they could easily have driven the road around.

The town of Anse-au-Grifon con­sisted of basically little more than a bar/restuarant combination, a small combination food store and hardware, the fisherman's wharf with some fishing boats, and a famous landmark house, La Maison Boutillier.

Click on photo to enlarge
(Period photo: taken in 1992)
L'Anse au griffonCloseup of Bike & Gear

See the Notes on Anse au Griffon for more background.

Back in the 1800's a certain Monsieur Boutiller had run a cod empire along the small outports of the north Gaspé coast. He had built a magnificent house in Anse-au-Grifon to oversee his fishermen. They had now turned it into an historic site and fancy restuarant. The restuarant was closed, but I was able to have supper in the bar. I checked out their breakfast menu for the next morning.

Click on photo to enlarge
(Quebec Tourism Guide: 1992)
Anse au Griffon: Manoir Le Boutillier

The climb halfway back up the hill to the campground wasn't so bad. I sat with my new-found companions between 19:00 and 21:00 while we discussed everything under the sun. I discovered that Gilles was president of a local cycle-touring club in Quebec City, and that they did this sort of thing all the time. It explained their better gear and cycling shape. We studied the national park map, looking at camprounds and trails. Josée wanted to stay on the north side at Cap des Rosiers, where they had a very nice beach. I preferred the south side, at Petit Gaspé campground. I figured it would be too cold to enjoy the beach anyway. I was more interested in taking the cycling trail on out to the lighthouse at the very tip of the peninsula, a trail that was only accessible from the south side. Once climbing over the mountains, I had no intention of backtracking. Besides, with the final climb out of the way, I would be on the same side of the peninsual as the town of Gaspé, my primary destination. My colleauges remained unconvinced. We left it at, "We might see you tomorrow evening."

I settled into bed by 21:00. During the night I was awakened by rain beating down on the tent. My luck with the weather had run out. All during the week I had been stopping at peo­ple's mailboxes to steal a look at the weather map in their newspapers. I had watched each day as a nasty weather front slowly approach from the west. I took hope in the fact that it seemed like a narrow front. Maybe the rain would be over by morning.

Daily Report

The day's progress is reccounted above. [See the Kilometrage Study for more details]

[On to Day 6]

Prepared by Roger Kenner
January, 2002