[In this Lite Version, all the maps and links to supplementary sources have been removed]
The bike trail continued along the river side until it approached the end of the park. Any way forward along the river's edge was blocked by an imposing cliff. The trail rose sharply up the embankment, rapidly climbing out of the gorge, and entered a small neighbourhood park, complete with playground. Just shy of a tall fence marking the limit of the park, the bike trail made a sharp right turn and came out at Boulevard Gouin, at the level of Rue de Bruxelles, now in Montreal North.
The bike trail continued as a marked path alnog the left hand side (northern side) of Boulevard Gouin. The neighbourhood was mostly new, residential. Beyond the houses to the left could be caught brief glimpses of the gorge beyond. I was not riding along the top of the cliff.
|Pie IX Bridge - from Laval side||Looking upriver at Dam - from below Pie IX Bridge|
It took only a few minutes to reach the Pie IX Bridge and it was after 10:00 (and after yet another ten minute break) when I passed under its approaches. The imposing structure of the bridge had been looming over the gorge beyond, just as I has started climbing out of it. Boulevard Pie IX marks the centre of the town of Montreal North, and has a historical connection to me. It was not possible to see much of it from below, on Boulevard Gouin, however.
Vignette: The City of Montreal North was established in 1915, out of what was left of the Parish of Sault-au-Recollets after the village of the same name was annexed by Montreal. By the 1930s it was already a town of fairly respectable size. The building of the dam in 1930, the CN line across northern Montreal Island (which marks the town's southern boundary), and the Pie IX Bridge, a Depression-era make-work project, completed in 1938, all contributed to give the town an impressive industrial base. Prior to amalgamation in 2001, Montreal North was among Quebec's largest cities.
Montreal North and the Pie IX Bridge hold a special signifigance for me, as it was across this bridge that my parents first settled upon our coming to Montreal. Pie IX Boulevard and Montreal North were the focus of our daily travels during that first Summer. The Post Office box for my dad's business and the assembly shop were both in Montreal North.
Just past the bridge overpass, the bike trail turned off to the left again, dropping down a long embankment into its own riverside park. The narrow park went along behind, and somewhat below, the houses hugging the edge of the cliff. Gradually, as I rode along, the embankment became more shallow, and the houses were more at my level.
The park was too good to last. Soon I came out onto Albert Brosseau, a quiet, waterfront street, where the trail was but a pavement marking along the left. Five blocks later, I was back into a parkland right-of-way, for the length of one block, and then I was back out onto Boulevard Gouin. I was at the level of Sainte Gertrude Street. East along Gouin, the bike trail regained once more its paved-lane-on-the-left (north side) nature.
|Parkway along river||Mini-park along river|
As I was riding along past the long lines of fairly new and fancy residences, with very few trees, I saw that the City of Montreal North had a most ingenious idea. Every dozen houses or so was a little "mini-park" one building lot wide. In the tiny park would be a bench or two, and one could get right down to the river. I would pass five of these mini parks in the mile or more that this neighbourhood continued. Between the parks, only one lot's width separated me from the river, so I would get frequent, furtive glimpses of the water as I rode along. Elsewhere, there were a lot of fancy houses on the river side, and it was only one lot through to the river, so one had lots of water views.
At 10:20 (and after a ten-minute break), I came to the end of Boulevard Lacordaire. There I found a vacant lot on the river side and took advantage of this to descend right to the waterfront. From there, I could see the St. Vincent de Paul prison over on the Laval side. Beyond the prison, I saw a long freight train passing along the main Canadian Pacific line, heading east towards the Terrebonne Bridge and Quebec City from the St. Martin Junction. The high embankments of the gorge were completely gone at this point. The water level was only about ten feet below the embankment. The river itself was wide, quiet, and apparently shallow.
|St. Vincent de Paul, across the river|
|New and fancy high-rise condos|
at Riviere des Prairies boundary
I continued eastward. While the riverside was still lined with a single row of very stately houses, the land on the other side began to rise up an embankment. This allowed for two tiers of houses: There were the houses on Gouin, and overlooking them, the back windows of the houses which must have been facing the next street inland.
At Langelier the houses gave way to a few blocks of huge, modern apartment "complexes", one of which had this most ostentatious fountain. The blocks of high rises continued for five or six blocks and lined both sides of the street. They only gave way just past the Montreal North boundary line.
Just past the last tower was a block-long mini-park, into which the bike path had once descended. The way was blocked, unfortunately, blocked off at this time.
While I was in Montreal North, the bike trail continued to be a marked-off section to the left of the street at this point. As soon as I came to the Montreal (Rivière des Prairies) line, the bike trail went up on the sidewalk, as it were, flowing around both sides of the telephone poles. There were still residences on both sides of the road, but they were neither as new or as fancy as they had been in Montreal North. Boulevard Gouin, too, was now more narrow and quaint, more like a country road.
|Typical 'bike path' along Gouin|
in Rivière des Prairies
|Bike path behind houses in|
Rivière des Prairies
I passed under a set of massive powerlines, heading off across the river towards the north. Then I passed by this private island. The entrance to the bridge was all fenced off and overgrown. Big fences kept everyone out. There were huge warning signs. (It had been the same when I had last passed this way, back in 95 or 96).
There were signs of a lot of new development on the landward side. Gone was the "country" atmosphere I had noticed along this route the first time I had taken it, some twenty years before. I kept looking for the house that Sheryl and I had looked at back in '95. Either I missed it, or it simply was no longer there.
As I would ride through the Rivière des Prairies district, the bike trail would take me on and off of Boulevard Gouin a number of times, often for breaks of little more than a block or two.
|View east along Rivière des Prairies|
at Pointe Moulin de Rapide
|Looking across at RDP Church - from Laval side|
It was at 11:10 (after having made fifteen minutes worth of stops) that I found myself at the waterfront park in the centre of the old town of Rivière des Prairies, facing the historic chruch. I tried to get a picture of this stately church, but could find no good angle without my wide angle lens. The river at this point showed a shallow sort of rapids, with the boat channel marked by red and green bouys.
Vignette: The settlement at Rivière des Prairies is quite old, dating from 1675. There was a well-established town by 1845, when the region was officially given civil status. It was annexed by the City of Montreal in 1963.
The trail along side Gouin resumed at 69th Avenue, and continued a few blocks through what must have been the old town of Rdp. At 71st the houses gave way on the riverside, and the area began to take on more of a country appearance. Boulevard Gouin approched a point, jutting out into the river, and it was raised up on an embankment. Along this way, the trail was protected and separated from the road by concrete barriers.
The curve by the point was at St. Jean Baptiste Boulevard, which looked like it had only recently been pushed through. (In fact, many of these streets had been pushed through in the last 20 years, since I first took this route along a what was then a country road.)
It was 11:20, and I was at the boundary of the Rivière des Prairies and Pointe-aux-Trembles wards. Looking out on the river, I could see what looked like the end of Ile Jésus (Laval Island) and, further on, the Hwy 40 bridge. There was a long sandbar running out into the river, with perhaps 100 feet of dry land and another 100 feet of very shallow water. Hundreds of white birds could be seen standing far out in the stream, in water only inches deep.
Just around the curve, the bike trail entered a park, which soon became a very wild, overgrown area. After three blocks or so, both sides of Gouin became equally wild. At last, there were no longer any houses, just a wall of green. This began at 89th Avenue, the site of the last house.
After the longest way through the wilderness, the trail came back once more to Gouin, although in this section, the old, crumbling pavement had given way to brand new pavement and there was a very nicely marked left-hand shoulder for the cyclists, maybe ten feet wide.
There was yet another curve, and a second set of massive power lines leading off away to the north to pass under. Inland, the Urban Community's Giant Trash Incinerator reared its head from beyond the trees.
The bike path crossed over to the right-hand side of Gouin at 102nd Avenue and then left the road entirely for the length of one block to take a turn into the Regional Park of Pointe aux Prairies. Many paths led inland, but the main trail soon regain Boulevard Gouin.
Just past the mission at 12050 Gouin, the road rounded a point and the bike trail cut inland, across the neck of the point, for a length of almost half a mile of paved country path through marshes, woods, and open fields.
I was back along Gouin once more at number 12630, passing by the College St. Jean Vianney. Looking out over the river, it appeared as if I could see the mouth of the Mille Iles River, but I could not be sure without looking at a map. (It was indeed so.)
|Hwy 40 Bridge at end of Island|
About a 1/4 mile from the Hwy 40 Bridge, the bike trail took off sharply to the right, to head inland, and I was forced to continue along Gouin itself, now more than ever a quiet country road. At 12930 Gouin, I passed a quaint, old Quebec farmhouse and at 13150, I passed under some more big power lines.
It was 11:55 (having taken ten minutes worth of stops) when I reached the Hwy 40 bridge. I was able to take cool shelter from the sun under the massive span, built of huge metal tubes. Just before the bridge, the bike trail re-appeared from mysterious points inland, only to take off again just after. I guess they had no way to get it across the highway. As I looked inland, westward along Hwy 40, I could see lots of construction of some sort going on, off behind the shoreline, where there seemed to be a U turn from the freeway. My suspicion is that new housing developments were going in. I sighted north, back along what looked more and more like the Mille Iles river.
|Rustic Boul. Gouin|
approachng Ile Haynes
at 127th Avenue
|Looking across Ile Haynes|
towards C.N.R. Bridge
Leaving the Bridge area, I came to the 127th Street sign, only there was no street - just the sign.
At 13470 Gouin, the road took what appeared at first to be a sharp curve inland. Actually, though, the road had not turned inland, but was merely following the shore as it curved around a tiny island. The area was so marshy and overgrown with green that was hard to make out at first that the "point" was, indeed, an island. Haynes Island, it was called, and was joined to the mainland by a small foot bridge leading across the marsh.
I came upon a roadside plaque, neatly placed within its own little and well-groomed, 20' x 20' park. The plaque told of the historic battle of Rivière des Prairies, in 1690, when the French ambushed a group of marauding Iroquois.
Boulevard Gouin came out to an end not too much further on, at its intersection with Sherbrooke Street. The last address on Gouin was around 16810 East and the last numbered street was 134th. Over its last few blocks, the quiet, country experience gave way to a little, modern community of new houses. A number of streets led off to the left and right into the new housing developments.
When I reached Sherbrooke Street, I decided to backtracked and explore the sidestreets on the river side: Pierre Mercure, 100th Avenue and 99th Avenue. I was looking for a way to continue along the river's edge, without having to go inland to meet Sherbrooke Street. Alas, nothing crossed the railroad tracks and I was forced to return to Sherbrooke. Just prior to passing under the railroad embankment in through a small, ancient looking underpass, I stopped at a small depanneur and got myself a bottle of water.
Vignette: The railroad line is today the CN's main line heading east along the North Shore. Originally it was built in 1895 by the Chateauguay & Northern Railway, a subsidiary of the Great Northern Railway. The line had been built into Montreal from Joliette, in order to give the latter a Montreal terminus, which it had at the Moreau Station in the Town of Maisonneuve. Later, after the line passed through the hands of the Canadian Northern Railway and into those of Canadian National, the latter built a new main line across the northern section of Montreal Island. The original line into the East End then became just a spur.
The current railway bridge was built in 1916.
|Highway complex at Bout de l'Ile|
At 12:30 (including twenty minutes worth of breaks), I was past the railroad tracks, at the massive intersection where Sherbrooke and Notre Dame Streets meet, in a huge maze of intersecting traffic lanes and islands, to leave the Island over the Le Gardeur Bridge.
I had been by this point many times before, and so knew that on the far side of the interchange was a side road and a small hamlet which included the small park at Bout de l'Ile. I decided I would visit that side after crossing over the Bridge to Repentigny.
Vignette: The Le Gardeur Bridge was originally built in 1938. Although the Chemin du Roi, and its successors, were major roads, traffic at this point had long been handled by a ferry service (Except for a brief period in 1806, when there was a short-lived wooden bridge.) Needing to keep the river open for Steamboat service to Terrebonne and for annual log runs long precluded the construction of any simple, low bridge.
The bridge had been rebuilt since I first cycled across it in the late 1980s and in 1990.
|Bike Path over new Le Gardeur Bridge|
|Looking out from bridge|
towards St. Lawrence islands
I rode around the traffic circle until I came to the approach to the bridge sidewalk on the right (southern) side. I then rode across the Le Gardeur bridge to Repentigny, stopping along the way to enjoy the vast panorama of the St. Lawrence and to take some pictures of the Bout de l'Ile park. The bridge is in two sections, the first span coming to light on a small farming island, before the second span completes the crossing. At the centre is a small side exit for farm vehicles. When I had first crossed the bridge, the railings at least, and perhaps the sidewalk itself, had been made of wood. Now all was steel and concrete.
The bridge sidewalk comes down on the Repentigny side onto a small side street leading to the first major intersection on the highway. At this corner, but across the street, is the Harvey's which had become my traditional stop. To the left is the road that leads very quickly over to the bridge over the Rivière l'Assomption and the Town of Charlemagne. I had explored briefly that way during my 1995 ride this way. This day I continued on down the main highway towards the shopping centre a few blocks down. My goal was visit the Zeller's store there in order to buy a new bicycle tube, as I had none spare. Alas, when I got there I found they had none my size.
Vignette: Repentigny is the first off-island suburb to the east. It sits on a narrow peninsula formed by the St. Lawrence and the Assomption Rivers. Today it is a bustling suburb, which stretches on for miles along the highway east. This is all very recent, however, for as late at the 1950s, the whole area was mostly open farmland.
On each of my bicycle trips this way, I have felt the need to ride across the bridge to touch my feet in Repentigny - just for "completion".
I rode back along the main highway to the Harvey's at the first corner, where I had some lunch. There was quite a crowd, so I had to wait a while. I had their Swiss Cheese & Mushroom burger special, with onion rings and fries, and a diet coke. To escape the noisy, lunchtime crowd, I ate outside on the terrace. It was 13:30 when I was done, and ready to ride back across the bridge.