One October day in 1991, just after moving out on my own again, I took a bike ride up in the direction of St. Eustache and Oka. The ride was a first in many ways: It set the tone as being one of the first of the 'off-island, out-of-town' rides that would become my norm. It was the first time I had been up in that area by bike in almost two decades. It would be the occasion of my discovery of the Vagabonde bike trail and of the shortcut across the Grand-Moulin dam and western Laval.
Click to Enlarge (JDM Geo) The Grand Two Mountains/Oka/Hudson Tour [Map Removed
It was a cool and overcast afternoon when I set out to explore St. Eustache and points west on my bicycle. I was only recently separated, had a few free days without work or kids, and needed a release.
I can no longer remember why I chose St. Eustache, nor exactly how what route I took to get there. I may have gone first to Rosemere, via Boulevard Labelle, and then retraced my route of 1971 and 74 along Grand Côte. Alternatively, I may have found the St. Eustache road from somewhere along Boulevard Labelle north of the St. Martin shopping centre. I would tend to favour the latter possibility, as I believe I have a dim memory of riding across the bridge at St. Eustache.
The memory becomes clearer once I reached St. Eustache itself. I rode around the old, historic church, and then headed west along Chemin d'Oka, to see what I might encounter. I am not sure that the Oka Monastery was fixed in my mind as a destination.
I remember the adventure of heading west along Route 344. First, I passed from the residential streets of St. Eustache into the more commercial atmosphere of the Town of Two Mountains. I rode under the railway overpass. Soon I was into the more open sections of Ste- Marthe-sur-le-lac, as the houses and businesses narrowed to just a roadside strip. Slowly the road faded into countryside, while at the same time beginning to climb.
As I approached the Two Mountains, I steeled myself for a serious climb. I was not disappointed. Very quickly I left the plain and Hwy 344 took on a appearance of a mountain road. I passed some plant nurseries and alpine restaurants. The hills closed in and I could no longer see out over the valley.
At the crest of the hill was the old stone structure of the Oka Monastery. I had not been there for years, even by car. I stopped into the store and bought myself some cheese. I would have explored further along the road, except that it took a dive into a deep, heavily -forested ravine before coming up once again to a second crest. I could hear the sound of rapids far below. After my lengthy climb, I did not feel like any more climbing, so I did not elect to ride down to the bridge.
Totally surrounded by wooded hillside, I felt like I was completely enveloped by mountains. The fact that I was at the top of two lonely mountains amidst a plain was only an abstract concept.
I found a road that led south from the highway, just east of the monastery. I chose to explore along this road because it did not seem to lose hard-won elevation in any serious way. It was fairly level. After riding not too far, with the monastery behind me at about 5:00, I found myself looking out over farmers's fields. The whole vista of the valley of the Lake of Two Mountains opened up to me. At the far side of the fields in front of me, I could detect a steep drop off. [I imagine I must have been just about over the Oka Park Visitor's Centre, but of course I did not know this at the time.]
Once I had finished my ride-about, I figured it was time to head home. I looked forward to the pedals-free descent off the mountain. It was a thrill to fly along at high speed!
As I came back down into the build up area of Ste. Marthe, I noticed cyclists coming along a bike trail on my right, which was slowly converging on the road. The trail met and crossed the road at an Iced Cream stand. I cannot recall if I stopped for iced cream or not.
I did, though, decide to follow the trail onward, just to see where it might lead. I was quickly enveloped in short sections of deep woods, broken repeatedly by short sections of suburbia or by road crossings. It was a very pleasant ride, and far more interesting than the narrow shoulder of the busy Chemin d'Oka.
At the end of the last stretch of wooded trail was an abrupt end, as the trail came out at the railroad tracks. There was a nearby wooden pedestrian crossing and a beaten trail leading up the far embankment. I came out at the parking lot of a high school and found my way to the street. Where was I to go now?
I knew that Chemin d'Oka had to be to my right, so I rode along the east/west street looking for the first major cross street that would take me through. As luck would have it, I found faded pavement markings indicating the bike route. I followed these down a street until I came out at Chemin d'Oka, just east of the railway underpass I had come through earlier.
The marked bike route seemed to traverse Chemin d'Oka, to continue on down the same street on the other side. I decided to follow it along, to see where it would take me. After about ten blocks of suburbia, I was surprised to come to a crossing of the Mille Iles River to Laval, across the top of a dam. I would not have to return to St. Eustache to get back!
[I have no direct recollection of the event described in the previous paragraph. I cannot recall for sure the first time I found and used the Grand Moulin Dam route to and from Two Mountains. I assume it must have been during this trip, for I cannot recall coming home any other way either. The only thing that I do remember for sure is that I first encounted the end of the Vagabonde trail in a west-to-east direction. I did this a couple of times, and recall how hard it was the first time I tried to find the trailhead in reverse.]
I rode across (or around?) the narrow tip of Laval and came quickly to the ferry for Ile Bizard. I rode around the eastern side of Ile Bizard until I came to the bridge on the south side. The bridge brought me into Ste. Geneviève & Pierrefonds. I would either have taken Boulevard Gouin or Pierrefonds Boulevard eastward as far as Sources Road.
From Sources Road on, I cannot remember exactly how I got home. I may have followed the old route I used to take when dropping off my van at Des Sources Dodge Chrysler. I doubt that I rode all the way down to Lakeshore Road at that time. On one trip I remember nosing my way into every possible street along the back side of Cote St. Luc/Hampstead, trying to find a way through, and finding none. It may have been on this trip (or it could have been on my return from Carillon in 1993).
I returned to my new-found apartment on Grand Boulevard.Top