|Mont Rolland by the River|
Despite my apprehension, I had finally fellen asleep. When I awoke, it was to a bright, sunny morning and I was happy that I had passed the night without incident. I quickly got dressed, packed up my gear and reloaded my bicycle. I walked my rig out of the underbrush and re-emerged on the bike path, legal once again. I turned my handlebars towards town and promise of breakfast at the Tim Horton's.
Following breakfast, I decided to explore Ste. Adele a bit. From the shopping centre at the base of the hill, Hwy 117 climbed up in a long, straight and tough grade. As I slogged my way slowly up the hill, I noticed that the borders of the highway grew more and more built up and commercial. Ste. Adele's main intersection was at the top of the hill. The cross street climbed sharply to the left up yet another, steeper hill. I recognized in the quaint little shops on the side street the Ste. Adele that I had frequented in the late 70s, stopping often at the Crepe Bretonne outlet that had been there.
I climbed up the steep, steep hill of the side street and found at the top, to my surprise, Le Chanteclair. I had heard of this resort, but had never seen it. I stopped to take some photos of my bike at the crossroads and then rode on, halfway around the small lake, to get a better photo of the hotel.
|Crossroads at Le Chanteclair|
|Bike - Fully Loaded - at Le Chanteclair|
After poking around the area of Lac Ste. Adele and Le Chanteclair for half an hour or so, I descended the steep hill once again, to rejoin Hwy 117. Then I rode back down the hill of Hwy 117 to the bridge for Mont Rolland. As I rode over the autoroute and then the river, I looked carefully at the falls to my right (south). I spied a small road that led under the bridge, to the west of the river, between the river and the autoroute. I carefully picked my way through the streets of Mont Rolland until I found the beginning of this road. Crossing a smaller bridge over the river, the tiny road descended the river for a few hundred metres before coming to an old place sheltered in a stand of trees and just below the embankment of the autoroute. A big sign announced walking trails at the falls, for a fee.
I parked my bike outside the gates and descended to the river, where I poked my way along the rocks until I was able to get past the toll gates. I joined the groomed trails of the little private park and followed them as they descended the river a few hundred metres. I spent maybe an hour exploring the rapids. The climb I had made from Piedmont to Mont Rolland was echoed by the river, dropping in rapids from one stable plain to the next.
|Falls at Mont Roland (During Walkabout)|
I fully expected to head home after exploring the falls, for I knew that there remained at least six hours of cycling to get home, and it was already early afternoon. Some curiousity drove me to ride back UP the trail, however, in the direction of my clandestine overnight bivouac. As I rode past the area, I was again amazed at how hidden I had been. But I was not nearly so isolated as I had thought. Just a hundred metres or so further up the trail was a road, crossing the old rail line, and a house on the right side. I had nearly been in this person's yard!
|Mont Rolland: Trail and Train Station|
The trail left the Rivière du Nord and followed a tributary. There were houses again for a short while, and then the woods closed in on either side. The trail that continued on ahead was straight as an arrow, and one could clearly see its distinct climb in a way that had not been visible on earlier portions. I was not sure how far I would ride, but felt like I would like to do some climbing, so I continued. I came to an old railway trestle, where the stream crossed from my left over to my right side.
|The Railway Trestle|
For a couple of hundred metres I was accompanied by the soothing sound of white water, as the stream tumbled over its rocky bed. Then I came to the small lake that fed the stream. On its far side, I could see impresive waterfalls where the continuation of the stream dropped into the tiny lake. I stopped to get a photo through my binoculars. On a grassy promontory sticking out into the north side of the lake was a fine house surrounded by well-groomed grounds. I crossed the driveway of this estate as I continued upward along the trail.
|Trailside Lake - with Falls||Falls Closeup (Binoculars)|
With sound of the water gone, I was to climb in solitude. There were no more houses and the forest closed in on either side. I had to move to a gentler gear. The climb was not so overly steep as to make me breath or pedal harder, but it was clearly the steepest I had encountered so far on the trail.
|The Trail Climbs|
I came upon a crossing past which, to my right, was a massive estate. High fences, topped with barbed wire, enclosed the carefully groomed grounds. I could only just make out the manor, high up on the hill and mostly hidden by trees. The fencing to my right was a companion for the next five minutes.
Although I could not see out because of the trees, I became aware that I was climbing up the side of a ridge. To my right was a steep embankment and to my left a steep drop-off. I came, finally, to an open and very sandy portion, which looked like it had been a small railyard or siding in times past. The break in the trees allowed me to see out over the valley floor. I saw that I had climbed a great deal indeed. I could see all across the valley to the mountain of Ste. Adele at the far side. I realised that this sandy section would have offered a great place to camp, if only I had known of its existence earlier.
Beyond the sandy, open area, the trees closed in again and I became ever more conscious of the increasing slope. The lay of the land told me that we were approaching some kind of summit. The road curved around a switchback and the slope of the drop-off to my left was becoming more and more pronounced. As I turned the next corner, the width of the trail began to open up.
|Approaching the Summit|
Suddenly I was back into civilisation. I came upon a parking lot, whose shape told me it had once been the grounds of a train station. Everywhere were the signs of construction. Across the road was a building whose sign, "Depanneur de la gare", reinforced my conviction that the area had once known a train station.
|Ste. Marguerite Station|
|Depanneur de la Gare'||The Road the Cars Take (14% Grade)|
I stopped at the depanneur and bought myself some lunch, which I enjoyed outside at the picnic table. It remained a beautiful, sunny summer day. After lunch I explored at bit. I found the location was called Ste. Marguerite Station. I walked over to where the road descended the slope. I was certainly glad of having been able to enjoy the railway grade when I saw the truck warning sign announce a 14% grade on the highway. Looked out over the valley below, I could no longer see the details of Mont Rolland and the valley floor, only the distant peaks all around.
|Summit and Cutaway - Near Wexler Falls|
It was clearly getting on in the afternoon, and I knew I should turn back. Still, the call of the road was loud. I could see that I was not yet at the top, but that the top could not be far way. After my half hour pause, therefore, I continued up the trail from where it crossed the road.
There was a small built-up area near the road. To my right, on the ridge side, were a few houses and a small gravel pit. To my left, at the bottom of a steep drop, I could see a street with houses and their back yards. As the trail climbed up the side of the ridge, these houses grew ever further below. Soon they were no more. I was climbing across the face of a steep ridge. The cliff climbed almost straight up to the right and dropped almost straight down to the left. The depths of the cliff were lost in the dark of the forest.
After a short while I became conscious of the sound of rushing water, far below in the dark depths of the forest, at the foot of the cliff. It sounded like a waterfall. I stopped to peer down the slope, but I could see nothing.
Continuing on up the slope, it was not long before the road turned to the right and I came upon a cut-away through the rocks. I knew this to be the top. It was a strange feeling riding through the cleft in the hillside. Although common on car roads, it was something I had never experienced before on a bike trail.
Immediately past the hundred yards or so of rock face, the trail began to descend and I knew I dared go no further. It was already late afternoon and I had a six hour ride home ahead of me. Nevertheless, I was glad that I had taken the extra time to explore.
As I came out of the cut-away, I caught a quick glimpse of the river and the falls (I was to learn much later that they were called "Wexler Falls"). I saw a number of people sitting on the rocks and swimming. As soon as I continued along the trail, all view of the falls were cut off by the trees.
I decided to take yet a little more time and actually walk down to the falls themselves to explore. I found the entrance to a path and locked my bike up. As I was leaving all my gear, I knew I could not be gone for long. I climbed down the fairly steep trail and passed by some small grassy knolls upon which people had pitched their tents and made small campfires and camps. There were maybe twenty people gathered about. Some were sunning on the rocks; some were diving into the white water (There were relatively calm pools in between the rapids); others were just swimming.
|From the Trail||From the River|
After looking around and taking some photos, I climbed back up. I was sure that I wanted to come back this way again. Likewise, once I had climbed back up to the trail and had looked longingly as it continued to descend towards destinations unknown, I vowed to come back when I had more time.
With sad heart, but ever more conscious of how late it was getting, I looked longingly down the trail ahead, and then I turned my bike around to climb back up the hill the short way back up to the summit.
I stopped briefly at the cutaway to follow a footpath which let up to the top of the hill. Thence, I had a last look out over the valley and at the distant peaks. Looking northward, I could not see much.
The ride down was fun. I did not have to pedal at all! I coasted the five or ten minutes back to the Ste. Marguerite Station, crossed the road, and continued on down. I would be able to coast at a good clip for the next 45 minutes or so, almost all the way back to Mont Rolland. Despite the fun, I found that the increased speed prevented me from looking around too much. I had to keep my attention firmly rooted on the road ahead, so as to avoid the rocks and the potholes.
After some pedalling through the flatland by Mont Rolland, I was able to coast again all the way to Piedmont. Thence I had to go under my own power again. I passed by, in reverse, all of the landmarks I had seen on the way up. I doggedly struggled past the chewed up road after Prevost, glad to come to the underpass, in the knowledge that the road would get marginally better. I raced by the loose dogs before they had a chance to come after me.
At the falls near St. Jerome, where the bikepath left the river for good, I decided to take a detour. I followed one of the hiking paths down into the park, continuing along the river. I imagined I might find another way into the city, for I knew that the same river eventually went past downtown St. Jerome. After twenty minutes or so, I had reached the populated section of the regional park. There were picnic tables, covered with stone pavillions, and large grassy expanses. A lot of people were about. Still, I found no exit save the vast parking lot which led out to the highway. It did not look very interesting so I retraced my route back along the river to the bike path and followed the latter back into the city.
I came upon the beginning of the tracks, followed by the train station. I rode a couple of blocks over to the centre of town, where they had build a boardwalk along the river. I explored it briefly. The city had made they had built a very pleasant shoreline park extending a few blocks along the river, but I could only give it a cursory glance, as it was now getting really late.
I was not looking forward to the four hour trip back to Montreal, but steeled myself to the knowledge it had to be done and headed on south, out of town. The ride along Hwy 117 did not seem as long and interminable on the way back as it had on the way up. I had familiar landmarks by which I could count my progress: the diagonal stretch through the farmer's fields, the overpass by Mirabel, the town of St. Janvier, the Blainville line, the place where I used to live, the left turn my schoolbus used to take, the hill overlooking Ste. Therese and distant Montreal, Rosemere, the bridge to Laval, Ste. Rose, past the autoroute, and into Chomedey.
By the time I reached Chomedey it was getting dark and my legs and knees were really tired. The only thing that kept me going was the knowledge that I had no other choice. Street after street, pedal revolution after pedal revolution, I continued on. I was getting hungry, but decided to wait until I got closer to home before stopping. I was fearful that once I stopped, I would never have the energy to resume.
The bridge into Montreal was a welcome landmark. I went through Cartierville and past Canadair, re-traced my way through Ville St. Laurent, went under the Metropolitain expressway by the Kraft plant, rode through the deserted industrial park, through the Blue Bonnets parking lot, across the tracks by Decarie Square, up through the streets of Hampstead and Snowdon, until I reached Cote St. Luc road.
I decided, then, to head for the Mike's restuarant at Beasconsfield Avenue, where I knew I could get all-you-can-eat pasta. I must have looked a sight as I sat down, all tired, sweaty, and grimy, carrying my bicycle helmet. I was also famished. I went through four bowls of pasta before I was done!
It was only five minutes home, but the last gentle hill up Grand Boulevard was almost more than I could take. I brought my bike into the side basement door of the apartment building, put it in my locker, took the elevator up to the ground floor, let myself into my apartment, and crashed.