Bike Trips: Gaspé Peninsula:
July, 1992


Roger Kenner
Montreal, Qc,
Canada 2002

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Day 6: Anse au Grifon to Petit Gaspé

Monday, July 27, 1992

Getting Started: A cold, slow morning

La Carthèque Map: 1992)
Day 6: Anse au Griffon to Parc Forillon
The rain was not over by morning. When I awoke at 06:00 it was cold, rainy, and overcast. The radio's morning weather report was not encouraging: Rain all day, becoming more and more intermittent as the week progressed. Luckily, I had only planned for a short ride that day, some 25km. It would take no more than a couple of hours. That now seemed now like exactly the right choice. My legs would appreciate taking it easy. They were still a bit wobbly and quite stiff from the previous day's experience. I had mentally been preparing for rain all along, now I would have a chance to test myself and my gear against it.

I hung around the campsite until about 10:00, doing laundry, showering, and packing up my wet gear. While packing up, I attempted to keep dry what still wasn't wet, things such as sleeping bags and clean clothes. I finally bid farewell to Gilles and Josée, with a promise to meet them again that evening at the Petit Gaspé campground, if that was where they ended up. Josée was wavering. The nice beach seemed academic in the current weather. Even though I was leaving before them, I fully expected them to pass me on the road before too long.

I stopped at the restuarant in town for breakfast and, soon after, along came Gilles and Josée. I had been hoping they would stop and join me. First they stopped at La Maison Boutiller, where I was afraid they were going to decide to eat. But they didn't. They homed in on my parked bicycle and so we had breakfast together. They had given up on trying to cook their own in the pouring rain. The restuarant was called the "Nor-wester". I was soon to discover why. After some stimulating breakfast conversation, we set out to­gether at 11:00. We didn't even make an attempt to stay together. They quickly outpaced me on the gentle hill that led out of town.

I was fully decked out in my rain gear. My yellow rain cape covered most of me. I continued to wear shorts, figuring my legs would get wet anyway, but I had switched to high woolen socks. I had heard that they would stay warm when wet, and sure enough they did. My usual shoes were tucked away inside the saddlebags and replaced by canvas tennis shoes. I had learned in previous bicycling that my main shoes, once wet, would stay so for days.

The rain was pouring down so hard that it was hard to see anything. Looking to my left, out to sea, I could no longer see where the ocean and the horizon met. There was just a grey haze. I found the friendly tailwind that had been my constant companion for days was gone that morning. The wind was no longer at my back, but was now coming straight on in my face. Such was the famous "Norwester" wind that the restuarant had been named after. In continuing along the peninsula, I had now turned almost due south and was no sheltered by the mountains, but was facing the prevailing Atlantic winds.

I slogged it on in the pouring rain for about an hour. With the grey skies, grey sea, and rain in the face, I felt like the mariners of old. My rubberized raincover stood in for the oilskins of old. Thankfully, the wind in the face ventilated the rubberized jacket so that I didn't get wet from perspiration. It was 11km to the town of Cap des Rosiers [Rosebush Cape], which was at the very entrance to the park. The hills were no longer too bad, yielding to a slow, gradual, and easily sustainable climb.

Cap des Rosiers

When I got the tiny hamlet of Cap des Rosiers, I spied Gilles and Josée's cycles parked at a dépanneur [conven­ience store], so I stopped there as well. They were busy shopping for supper and I was quite flattered when they invited me to join them. They had finally decided on staying at Petit Gaspé. We split the carrying of the food load three ways.

Josée was still sad about missing the Cap des Rosiers side of the park. The clerk at the store told her of a foot trail that one could take from the north to the south side, over the mountains. This trail would be an alternative to taking the main road. She assured us that the trail was cyclable, "except for a few rough patches". I decided to give it a shot and throw in my lot with them. I left a little before them and headed on into the north side of the park.

The town of Cap des Rosiers marks the end of the private land holdings along the coastline. The town ends in a famous lighthouse, and there begins the national park. The main highway, Route 132 makes a right turn and heads on south over the spine of the mountains. A smaller road leads off along the seawall towards the north entrance to the park and the Cap des Rosiers campground. As I rode along in the light rain (The rain had mercifully begun to end), the pounding surf was striking the beach and seawall to my left, while to my right was a vast salt marsh.

(Forillon National Park Guide: 1992)
Route 132 over the Pass
When I reached the north gate of the national park, I encountered the first complication in Josée's plans. One could only register for the Petit Gaspé campground at the park's south gate, on the other side of the mountain. Secondly, the ranger assured me that not only was one not allowed to take bicycles over the footpath across the mountains, it was also, indeed, quite impossible. I waited patiently for Gilles and Josée to arrive. We discussed the situation and decided to take the main highway over the mountains.

The climb over the crest to the south side of the peninsula was a really bad one. Though the distance was only 10km, it was to take me two hours. Gilles and Josée were soon out of sight and I climbed on in solitude. Though the climb was not as bad as the first major climb at Cap-de-la-Madeleine, the two days of mountain climbs had taken a terrible toll on my legs. They would certainly need a rest when I got to the campground.

I proceeded up the grade, 100 metres at a stretch. Then I would rest for a spell, and catch my breath, before going on another 100 metres. Just when it seemed like I could go no further, I encountered a couple of hitchhikers walking down the other way. When I asked if the ridge just ahead was the crest they assured me it was.

The drop was really spectacular. From the top, I had a clear view out over the entire bay of Gaspé, and could even see the famous Percé Rock far off in the distant haze to the south. The climb I had been making for 9km, I dropped back to sea level in 1km. I felt like I was going straight down, like on a roller coaster. It was definately the steepest grade I had descended on this trip, perhaps ever. My hands clasping the brakes tightly, I could barely keep the loaded bike from accelerating. I doubt if I could have stopped if I had wanted to. Thankfully, there were no curves or other obstacles that would have required me to stop.

At the bottom of the hill, a left turn took me on towards the south entrance of the park. Upon my arrival, I found that G & J had already reserved a space for me right next to theirs. I took it for two days, figuring I would want to look around a bit, and hoping to regenerate the lost strength in my legs.

Click on photo to enlarge
(Period Document)
Forillon: Campround Map
 

These national park campgrounds are like country clubs compared with private or provincial camprounds. Each space was separated from the other by at least 25 metres, far back in the bushes so that it was impossible to see any other campers. [Later in the evening, this isolation would even be a bit frightening, especially as the cape was known for its bear population.]

The campground was divided into sectors. Each sector having a magnificent wooden clubhouse housing absolutely the most modern and pristine heated showers, toilets, and so forth, with hot and cold running water. It was like a hotel! In addition, each had a vast, en­closed public room, with working wood stoves in the centre and tables all around. On rainy days such as this one, families could come indoors to eat their meals.

Gilles, Josée and I would get a kick out of the hot and cold water taps. Many American tourists scald themselves terribly in Quebec, because the faucets are marked "C" and "F", "C" being for "Chaud" or "Hot", not for "Cold". Well here in the national park, being run by the federal government and in the spirit of official bilingualism, one sink would have C & F faucets, the next H & C, and so forth. Now everyone could be confused, not just the Americans.

Click on photo to enlarge
(Period photo: taken in 1992)
Camping at Forillon
 

I had my tent set up by 3:00, so took a walk over to G & J's site, and then all three of us decided to take a nice walk over to the beach. On the way, we passed the main clubhouse of the campground. This ultra-modern complex housed a proper restuarant, a massive laundry room, a pool, tennis courts, a store, and other amenities. Unbelievable! We discussed how nice it was to finally be able to take advantage of our tax dollars at work.

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

We passed a famous old church, an English language, protestant church. Unlike the north side of the peninsula, which had been settled in the 1800's by French-Canadians from lower Quebec, the south side of the peninsula, the bay of Gaspé side, had a history of English, Irish, and Jersey settlers.

There was a lot of bad history around the Forillon National Park. Lots of small fishing towns, similar to those I had been passing through, had been expropriated and razed to make room for the park. This church was all that remained of the original town of Petit Gaspé.

We finally climbed down a cliff to the rocky beach and sat on the large, round, and smooth rocks watching the surf and talking. I was to learn the next day that these types of rocky beaches, called "graves" in old French, were sought out as excellent places for drying the codfish, back in the days of the inshore fishery.

One could see a series of ships moving in and out of the bay, Gaspé port being fairly busy. With my binoculars I studied carefully the road leading along the south side of the bay, the road I would be taking on my way to Percé. When the aire started to get cold, we decided it was time to head back for supper.

We started supper at 17:00 at G & J's campsite, but were soon forced into the clubhouse public room by the renewed rain. Several families were cooking on the wood stoves, but Gilles set up his tiny portable just outside and did his cooking there. All in all, my two companions were great cooks and prepared a wonderful meal. We had an evening of spirited conversation, soon sharing our table with others forced inside. The whole campground, at least those with only tents, shared an indoor evening together.

I returned to my dark, foreboding campsite at 21:00. Before retiring, I took the precaution of raising all my food on a rope up into the trees, and well away from the tent. One cyclist I had spoken to at dinner had warned me that sometimes the racoons would chew up the bike tires. I would not have slept well if I had not been so exhausted.

Daily Report

I had been on the road for only 3h30 minutes this day, actively cycling for only three. I had travelled 21km in total, for an average speed of only 7km/hr. [See the Kilometrage Study for more details]

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Prepared by Roger Kenner
January, 2002