I got up very early the next morning at 05:30. Sheryl was still asleep as I carried all my wet camping gear out to the parking lot and opened it out to dry, pegging it down so the wind would not blow it away.
While waiting for things to dry, I took advantage of the early morning light to photograph the college. I had hunt around for a good vantage point, where I could get the whole tower in view.
When things were dry, I packed up the car with all the gear I would not have to carry with me any longer. Only then did I return to wake Sheryl.
While she was getting ready, I returned to the 'secret' room with the panoramic view. Unfortunately, an early morning haze covered the lowland and nothing could be seen, neither the opposite shore nor even the river itself.
We drove down the hill to the McDonald's at the Route 132 crossroads, where we had breakfast (The 'Big Breakfast': eggs, pancakes, hash browns, toast, coffee).
Once finished, we drove back up to the college. While I was setting out at 08:30, there was no need for Sheryl to leave that early. Nothing she was interested in would be open at that hour. Now was the time that she could take advantage of the 'secret' room. I left it to her to return all the keys.
I set out at 08:30 and the first order of business was to descend the killer hill. At first, I wanted to race down, fully-loaded and without breaking, but halfway down, feeling lift-off was imminent, I lost my nerve and began applying the brakes lightly. The crossroads was located right at the base of the hill, so stopping at the light was difficult.
|LaPocatiere: Morning View out over Lowlands|
I turned my bike eastward and continued along Route 132 from the point I had left the evening before. The morning haze had cleared by that time and I had a great, unobstructed view across the St. Lawrence to the mountains of the far side.
The road left the shadow of the high ridge upon which La Pocatière stands and headed out across the flatland towards another, distant and much lower ridge, one which stood out at the river's edge like an island on the flat sea. Between the two ridges was a vast, flat plain, cut by a meandering river. The Highway 20 Autoroute also cut across the flatland, between me and the river.
La Pocatière to Kamouraska (Adapted from Ecotours)
Along the way from La Pocatière to Kamouraska, the St. Lawrence is almost completely hidden by the dikes or aboiteoux built to prevent salt water from flooding farmland reclaimed from the river. No further reclamation of wetlands for agriculture is being done today, so as to protect what natural habitat remains. This section of the estuary is a transition zone from brackish water to saltwater and the flora in the wetlands changes from the bulrushes (Scirpus) to salt marshes dominated by the Spartina species (cord-grass) and therefore called Spartina salt marshes. Behind the dikes are the rich farmlands of the Kamouraska Lowlands, dotted still with small, erosion-resistant hills called monadnocks. These latter are covered by scrubby conifers, providing a stark contrast to the quilt-like pattern of the farmland below.
I crossed once more over to the river side of Highway 20. The expressway would inland to climb onto the higher ridges and become the high road. (I have driven the route along Hwy 20 and know that it offers spectacular scenic views of the river and valley through this section northeast of La Pocatière.)
|Route 132: Crossing Hwy 20: Looking West||Route 132: Crossing Hwy 20: Looking East|
|Route 132: Looking across to La Malbaie|
Soon I came upon the tiny village of Rivière Ouelle, which straddled a slow and muddy river of the same name. As I crossed the river over an old bridge, I got a close-up view of the old, stone church whose steeple had served as a beacon for me. It was 09:00 when I crossed the river and headed on through town and back out into the flat, green fields.
|Ville de Rivière Ouelle|
|Crossing the Rivière Ouelle|
|Rivière Ouelle: The Church||Rivière Ouelle: View back towards town|
After not long, Route 132 finally reached the far, stony ridge and took a path perched along its inland side, at a slight elevation over the valley. I was able to look back upon the lowland I had crossed and see the still prominent CEGEP building standing out on the ridge of La Pocatière, far behind.
|View back towards La Pocatiere|
|St. Denis: Along now quiet Route 132|
Ridge to left - Valley to right
Whereas before La Pocatière, Route 132 had sported a fair amount of traffic on its own, the road was now nearly empty and deserted. The quality of the roadbed, alas, also had decreased in function with the amount of traffic.
I knew the river to be not far away, just over the rise to my left, but I could sense no sign of it as I looked out over the green fields of the lowland separating me from the higher ridges further inland.
At 09:30, I stopped to catch a photo back towards the still visible college at La Pocatière. At 09:35, I came to the town line of St. Denis. The road continued on, with the wooded rise to my left and the valley farms to my right.
|Ville de St. Denis|
|St. Denis: Church at Town Centre|
It was not until 09:50 that I came into St. Denis proper. The town consisted of little more than a strip of houses bunched more closely together along the road. Many of these 'village' homes had farms stretching out behind them into the valley below. I came to the church at the centre of town, at which point was a crossroads and a road leading up from across the valley. There were few businesses.
I suppose if I had taken a detour to the left and had followed the cross road up over the rise, it would have brought me to the river. Within town, there was still no sign that the mighty St. Lawrence lay within a few hundred feet.
I did not catch a glimpse of the St. Lawrence again until 10:05. By that time the road had left the town and ridge behind and had dropped off once more onto the lowlands, crossing, as it were, to yet another rocky "island" off in the distance.
|St. Denis: Looking back on town from Valley|
And true lowlands they were, as I discovered when I came to a bridge over a small creek. I saw then that a vast system of dikes was holding back the high tides of the river estuary, so that the flat, green fields could flourish. In days gone by, these rocky ridges that looked like islands must have been islands indeed, at least at high tide.
|Route 132: Irrigation Canal between Dykes|
Once conscious of the dikes, I noticed a long one, perhaps ten feet high, which paralleled my route, at the far end of the fields separating me from the river. The dike kept the river from my view, but I know now that it lay just beyond.
I continued pedaling down the narrow, almost deserted road towards the next distant, but ever-approaching ridge. The grain silos of the farm nestled at the nearer end of the ridge served as a beacon.
|Route 132: Quiet Road - Farm in distance|
As I drew up even with the farm, I saw some stone sculptures that the farmer had placed out in the fields. A beaten down track led from the road, through the crops, to the scultures. I stopped to catch a photo.
|Route 132: Farm reached - Statue of 'Sower'|
Off across the bottomlands the road stretched again, towards the next distant stony ridge which appeared as an island amidst the flat green fields. Upon this next ridge was the famous town of Kamouraska, where Sheryl and I had stayed back in 1994. I reached Kamouraska at 10:30
|Route 132: Kamouraska in distance|
|Ville de Kamouraska|
As I followed the highway up onto the ridge, I had a chance to see, end-on, the long dike which had been my ride-hand companion for some time. I was finally able to see the river side of the dike looked like. As it was currently low tide, the outside did not look too different from the protected side. I am sure that all was water-covered at the highest tides, though.
|Route 132: 'River' side of the Dykes|
Riding up the hill, I passed the motel and restaurant called “Au Relais”, the restaurant at the edge of town where Sheryl and I had eaten supper during our 1994 overnight stay. In the parking lot of the motel was a straw scarecrow dressed as a cyclist and sitting astride a bike.
|Kamouraska: Straw Cyclist|
I would end up exploring quaint and picturesque town of old Kamouraska for about an hour's time. I first visited the museum that had been made out of the old courthouse. Kamouraska had once been the principal town and county seat of the region. During the railroad era, however, the town’s "island" setting doomed its growth, for heavy railroad tracks could not easily be laid across the marshy bottomlands surrounding Kamouraska. It was at that time bypassed in favour of Fraserville (now Rivière du Loup).
The town of Kamouraska is basically only two streets wide, and perhaps a mile long. Route 132 forms the main street, and runs along the crest of the ridge. The other parallel street runs along the lower, river face of the ridge. Quaint, old houses, many quite tiny, line these streets and the small intersecting ones. Directly behind the yards of those houses on the landward side of the main street begin the fields of lowland farms. Along the main street are a few trendy shops and artists’ galleries, but not nearly the number of stores one would expect from a town of that size.
Riding along the main street, I kept my eyes out for the Bed & Breakfast where Sheryl and I had stayed in 1994, and I finally located it.
|Kamouraska: Waterfront||Kamouraska: St. Lawrence View|
I rode down to the waterfront pier, in order to see the town from the river angle. Checking out the far side of the river with my field glasses, I could make out the Manoir Richelieu at roughly 11:00, La Malbaie at 12:00, and distant Tadoussac at 14:00. I recognized Tadoussac by the way the highway climbed straight up the hill from the ferry and by the characteristic rocky point.
|Kamouraska: View across to La Malbaie|
It was 11:30 when I left Kamouraska. The highway led out through the northern end of town, past the more mundane and less trendy sections of town: Houses with modern architecture and the sort of businesses one would normally expect: Food markets, gas stations, etc. Soon I was clear of Kamouraska and once more out onto the flatland.
In stark contrast to the expanse of low, green fields which surrounded me on all sides, I spied ahead of me a small, wooded oasis. When I stopped to explore it at 11:40, I discovered that it was the old Kamouraska cemetery. Information plaques informed me that the cemetery was on the site of the original town of Kamouraska. For its first hundred years, from 1692 to 1791, the town had been located in the lowlands.
|Route 132: Old Kamouraska|
Ten minutes further along the road, at 11:50, I found myself at the turn off for the town of St. Germain, which was easily visible about 1km away, up towards the inland ridge. What stopped me were teams of 10-12 cyclists each, with orange-vested guards in front and bringing up the rear. As I approached the corner, I watched a succession of these teams turn the corner from St. Germain and head down past me, towards Kamouraska.
|Ville de St. Germain|
|St. Germaine: Trains of Cyclists|
At the crossroads was a magnificent roadside cross, covered over with a permanent 'abri'. I read that it had originally been built in 1860, restored in 1930, and then restored again in 1982. It was over 140 years old! As usual, I did not leave the presence of this roadside cross with crossing myself and offering a prayer for protection and guidance. In this way, the roadside cross still serves its vocation.
|St. Germaine: Cross at Crossroads -Since 1860|
North of the crossroads, the lowland valley along which I was traveling grew ever narrower, as the ever-higher inland ridges moved out to meet the river. At 12:00, when I stopped to check in with Sheryl on the cell phone, the highway was climbing up out of the valley towards a rocky point. (Sheryl had taken my suggestion and had backtracked to St-Jean-Port-Joli, where she was checking out our regular antique stores.)
|Route 132: Dykes & St. Lawrence beyond||Route 132: Scenery Change: Climb out of Valley|
I had been on the lookout for a nice, shady place to stop for lunch. Signs along the highway continued to announce the upcoming 'Halte Ecologique', so I figured this would be a good place to stop. When I finally reached it, I found that it occupied a rocky ridge similar to the one that housed Kamouraska, although tinier and tree-covered. It formed the head of the point. The ‘halte’ was a private affair: At the same time picnic ground, campground, and day-resort. Although I did not climb over the ridge, I expect there was some sort of beach on the far side.
I paid my $1.50 for the privilege of using a shady picnic table (and the washrooms) and spent from 12:30 to 13:00 enjoying a lunch of cheese, salami, and grapes. I was on my way at 13:00
|Ville de St. André|
From the point, the road dropped back down into the lowlands. The next town I came to was St. André‚, a small town stretched out along the river's edge, backed with a narrow shelf of green fields and then the inland, tree-lined ridges. I saw more of the dikes which had reclaimed the land from the river, although these were smaller than before. I tried to catch a photo of the massive complexes of eel-nets strung out in the river, but no good opportunity presented itself.
|St. André: Gaily Painted House|
It was 13:20 when I had gotten to St. André. As I left the town, I noticed that a headwind was developing. The road was climbing up towards the next point, as the inland ridges came out once more to cut off the tiny, lowland shelf.
|St. André: Looking back on the town|
The Rivière-du-Loup Shore (Adapted from Ecotours)
Leaving the zone of the lowlands and monadnocks zone, the highway encounters the rocky ridges and cliffs of the highlands, as they approach the St. Lawrence. What houses there are are huddled along the narrow shoreline. The climate becomes more maritime because of the sea breezes. Not readily apparent from the road, peatlands abound in this area, their presence usually indicated by low-growing, scrubby black spruce and scattered tamarack.
|Route 132: The road through the hills|
As I crossed over the point, I came to another roadside cross. This one was built right in the middle of what had once been the old road. The old, narrow pavement was still clearly visible.
|Route 132: Roadside Shrine on 'Old Road'|
Coming out on the far side of the point, I was treated to the vast vista of the ever-widening St. Lawrence Estuary. In the foreground were many more of the small, rocky islands for which this region is known. Off in the distance, I could see the steeple and buildings of a distance town, nestled along a low shoreline that was backed immediately by a cliff and a high ridge.
|Route 132: View of Rocky Island in St. Lawrence||Route 132: View of St. Lawrence|
|Route 132: View of distant Notre-Dame-de-la-Portage|
Les Pelerins Islands (Adapted from Ecotours)
As the resistant rocky ridges of the northern end of the ancient Appalachians reach the shores of the St. Lawrence river, they form distinctive islands such as Les Iles Pelerins (Pilgrim Islands), off Saint-André. The play of warm and cold air currents form images which alter the islands' profiles so that they resemble hooded pilgrims.
|Ville de Notre-Dame-de-la-Portage|
What I had seen was the town of Notre-Dame-de-la-Portage, which I reached at 14:20. At the town entrance, I faced a choice. Route 132 headed up the hill, to pass along the top of the ridge. The lower street began with a roadside and waterside park. It then ran along the base of the cliff, with rocky beach and tidal flat to the river side and a single line of beachfront houses backed by a 150 foot cliff on the other side. Occasionally the view of the beach would be interrupted by isolated houses sitting out on the rocks. The narrow town stretched quite a long way along the water's edge. As I neared the centre of town, the river side also began to fill up with houses. All of the houses were quite nice, and situated within nicely groomed and treed lots.
|ND-Portage: View along Shoreline||ND-Portage: House along Shoreline|
|ND-Portage: Centre of Town|
When I got to the town centre at 15:00, I got myself a mint-chip iced cream cone and rode down the hill to the end of the town dock to relax and enjoy it. There was a great view up and down the beach and could make out distant Rivière du Loup. I called in to Sheryl, who was still enjoying the antique stores of St-Jean-Port-Joli.
I learned that Notre-Dame-de-la-Portage, now a resort town and upper-income bedroom community for Rivière-du-loup, had once been an important link in the overland route to New Brunswick. The importance of the portage, which began with a stiff climb up the ridge right where I was standing, ended only with the construction of the railway.
The Grand Portage (Adapted from Ecotours)
Before the days of the railroad, travellers to and from the Maritimes had to walk the Sentier du Grand Portage, a trail leading from Notre-Dame-du-Portage to Lake Temiscouata, whose name means "deep lake". The Amerindians first pioneered the 60-kilometre portage, then it was adopted by the French. In 1750 the British reconstructed and widened the Grand Portage route to three metres and it became an important link for the movement of troops during border conflicts with the Americans. Later is was part of the post road linking Quebec City and Halifax. When the railway and highway were eventually constructed, they followed the same corridor. Now that the railway is gone, one can still experience the original Grand Portage trail by following Le Petit Témis bicycle trail.
I ended my relaxation and continued on down the road at 15:20. I had grown quite apprehensive about the night’s lodging after I had found out from a passer-by at the pier that Rivière-du-loup was to be the host that weekend to the Jeux de la francophonie.
The tiny beachfront main street of Notre-Dame-de-la-Portage finally rejoined Route 132 after passing inland of a vast, marshy cove. The quiet two-laned road that had been Route 132 before its bypassing the town had grown once again into a busy, major highway.
|ND-Portage: Marsh at east of Town|
As I climbed up the final, remaining ridge, I began to see the high rises of Rivière-du-loup, which was no small town.
|Rivière-du-Loup: Approaching Town||Rivière-du-Loup: Town on the Hill|
I did not yet understand the geography of the city, but was armed with a decent map. I could see from the top of the ridge, where Route 132 crossed over the Hwy 20 freeway and thence was instantly transformed into a major, urban boulevard leading in through the valley amongst the suburban strip malls. A tiny street called Rue Fraser cut off to the left and ran more or less parallel to the main boulevard, but along the top of a long ridge. I chose Rue Fraser.
Riding around, across, and through the complex freeway interchange, I was finally able escape and follow Rue Fraser up to the top of the ridge. I came upon a series of vast motel complexes, the first of which was Motel au Fleuve d'Argent. It offered a magnificent view out over the river, so when I stopped in and discovered they still had a vacancy, I did not hesitate. It was pricey at $80, but I figured the cost (and comfort) would average well with the night before.
By the time I got checked in and checked out the room, it was already 16:00. I called Sheryl, who was still back at the Seignurie des Aulnaies. I told her I had a room, gave her directions, and told her to call me when she got as far as St. André‚. I figured that, from anywhere in town, I could get back to the motel in the time it would take her to reach Rivière-du-loup from that point.
Once I had spoken with Sheryl, I set out on an exploration of the town. I dropped down to the main street at the foot of the ridge, whose name was now 'hotel de ville'. I stopped in at the Zeller's to buy some more film, noticing at the same time the Cage-aux-sports restaurant which was nearby.I rode in along the wide cement boulevard of hotel de ville, down the centre of the wide valley bounded on both sides by high ridges topped with buildings, until I got to the tourist information centre, which was situated in a large, old brick mansion. I stopped in to get a town map and to inquire about the start of the Petit Témis Bicycle Trail, which would be the next leg of my trip.
Rivière-du-Loup Rivière-du-Loup, formerly known as Fraserville, is a city built first on the fur and fish trade and then on the lumber trade. The city may derive its name name from the seals (loup-marins) that gathered in large numbers at the mouth of the river. Another possible source of the name is the French ship, Le Loup, which was forced to winter at the mouth of the river in 1660. Tradition, however, links the name to Champlain's encounter with the local Algonquian tribe called the Mahicans, or "wolves". A spectacular attraction is the Riviere-du-Loup Falls, which are 33 metres high. There is a lookout where one can get a view of the whole town and of the river. The dam and powerhouse at the Falls, now restored and in active operation, contributed greatly to the industrial growth of Rivière-du-Loup
With cheerful explanation and a town map, I would leave with a much better understanding of the layout of the city. The Highway 20 freeway that I had ridden over cuts down to run along the river north of town. It was so well hidden by the cliff that I could not even see it when looking out over the river from my motel. A branch off the freeway heads south, around the town, towards New Brunswick. Rue Fraser runs along the crest of a long, narrow ridge. Parallel, but in the valley to the south, runs 'hotel de ville'. A large part of town sits atop the much higher ridge on the inland of the valley. The high rises I could see at the top were part of the University. Hotel de Ville and Fraser would both come to an end at Lafontaine, a major boulevard that curves southward into the main part of town. Unfortunately, my guide could only give me the roughest indication of where the Petit Témis trail began.
|Rivière-du-Loup: Main Street: Lafontaine|
I continued my ride in along Hotel de Ville. The suburban strip malls had ended at the tourist information corner and the street beyond became narrower as it entered more developed parts of the town. The businesses seemed older and more established, and there began to be apartment buildings and houses. I turned right at Lafontaine, which turned out to be quite a trendy shopping street. Lafontaine had a fairly steep climb to it, but I slogged on anyway. Along the way, I stopped into a designer bakery (boulangerie artisanale) and bought some bread.
|Rivière-du-Loup: Church from Dam|
Sheryl called me at 17:00, while I was still down in the hole. (I was lucky I got the call!). She was on her way, and had just passed the town of St. André. I walked my bike back up the ultra steep roadway to the crest. Before heading back, I took a moment to walk out onto the pasarelle to get a photo of the falls and gorge from the higher vantage point.
|Rivière-du-Loup: Falls & Dam||Rivière-du-Loup: Falls|
|Rivière-du-Loup: Old Powerhouse at Falls|
|Rivière-du-Loup: Crest of Falls||Rivière-du-Loup: Falls from Crest|
(Taken the Next Day)
|Rivière-du-Loup: Gorge below Falls||Rivière-du-Loup: Bridge over Gorge|
(Taken the Next Day)
|Rivière-du-Loup: River below Bridge|
|Rivière-du-Loup: Fountain in Park|
I remounted my bicycle for the hard climb back up to the street, one over from Lafontaine, which would take me back down the hill. When the downtown, one way section was done, the two streets merged and I was back onto Lafontaine. I followed this avenue this all the way back down to Route 132, stopping a number of times for some quick photos. I passed many interesting sights, such as the fountain in the city park.
I did not return on 'Hotel de Ville', as I had come, but continued on down to meet Fraser. At the intersection of Fraser, I had a glimpse out over the old riverside Rivière-du-loup which I knew from earlier drives. As it cuts around the city, Hwy 20 + Route 132 dissolve into a major boulevard, which makes an arc around a vast cove, bounded on the far side by the peninsula of Cacaouna. My vantage point at the top of the ridge was from a hundred feet above all this.
I rode back west along Fraser, which clearly had not too long ago been the main highway. All along its route, it was lined with motels. I passed a breakfast restaurant which looked quite interesting.
As it was, I got to the motel a bit before Sheryl, so I had a chance to sit out on the terrace and enjoy the late afternoon view of the river. I watched the ferry heading out to St. Simeon, on the north shore.
|Rivière-du-Loup: St. Lawrence in the Evening|
Sheryl found me thus, at 18:00. She was pleased with the accommodations, their being such an improvement over those of the night before!
Sheryl’s Day: La Pocatière to Rivière du Loup: 111 miles on the odometer (360-249)
Sheryl spent the early morning in the private sun room overlooking the River. As the opening hours of the stores approached, she checked out of the room and gave in the key. She then back-tracked, as I had suggested, to the antique store, marchés aux puces and permanent garage sales along Route 132 in the town of Saint-Jean-Port-Joli, including some of our ‘regular’ stops. She checked out the Fol Galerie + Jardin Fou (Daniel Hamelin). She was in Saint-Jean-Port-Joli when I called her at 12:00 and at 15:00.
Sometime during the afternoon, she set out on a wild search for an herbalist, off along the inner rangs of the countryside. She never did find the place she was directed to, and gave up when the roads turned to gravel.
By 16:00, when I called, she was back at Seigneurie Des Aulnaies, where she checked out the bakeshop and café. She then stopped in at La Ferme L'Emu d'Or, where there was a boutique selling products made from the emu.
Following the brief look around the room, we set out by car and I took Sheryl on a drive along pretty much the same route I had explored before, and ending at the falls. I then asked her to indulge me in trying to find the beginning of the bike trail. We climbed on up the rest of Lafontaine, to the top, and then took a major street across the top of the higher, inland ridge, until we came out at the PetroCan station at the Route 185 freeway interchange (The road to New Brunswick). We were at the very top of the ridge, and out behind town. Southward, the land dropped down into yet another transverse valley, closed off by another ridge off in the distance. We drove around and around several times, but I had no luck in finding the trail head. (We were actually right on top of it: It was behind the PetroCan station. It was so poorly marked that we could not see it driving around in a car.)
Rather than return in a vast 'U' to our starting point, we cut across town as best we could. Many of the through streets around the university were set to be closed for the "Jeux", but we got across just under the wire. (The flashing lights of municipal crews dropping traffic cones were all around us!).
I found the way back to the Cage-aux-sports I had seen earlier and we had a supper of an onion block appetizer, followed by steaks.
It was 21:00 when we retired back to the room, made coffee with the in-room coffee-maker, and relaxed. I stepped out onto the terrace for a while to look out on the river at night. Fog covered much. Even earlier, as I had been watching the ferry, I had seen it vanish into a fog bank at mid-river.
I called ahead to the next town, to reserve us a place at a B & B (sight unseen) and then I wrote in my journal before finally retiring at 22:00Top