I was still high on my experiences of having ridden to New York and then of having been able to ride in the Laurentians, when Sheryl proposed a day-long outing to the farm of one of the members of her herb group, where they were all having a meeting. The plan was for me to drive out with her to the farm, just past Beauharnois, and then to spend the day riding while she explored the herbs on the farm. It was a beautiful day as I drove out to the home of Jennifer:
We arrived at 09:00 in the morning and I set off almost immediately on may way. I would cycle until nearly 16:00, almost seven hours. Cycling up along the Chateauguay River had long been on of the rides I had in mind, and this turned out to be very pleasurable, although I was not able to go as far as I would have liked. Since my ride was to be a loop, I was forced to turn back just after Noon. I discovered, then, and for the first time, the excellent bike path alongside the Beauharnois Canal.
My Original Notes on this ride were written soon afterward, and have been revised and expanded below.
We were up at 06:45 on the bright, Sunday morning, to be ready to pick up Sheryl's friend and herb colleague, Karen, from her Rosedale home at 08:05. Bike rack mounted on the back of the car, I drove everyone over the Mercier Bridge in the direction of Beauharnois. I was not sure exactly where we were going, but I had a vague idea, and we were equipped with good directions. Climbing up the hill out of the town of Beauharnois, up past the church, on Route 236, we were soon heading across open, flat farm country. I could see, to the west, the line of trees marking the Beauharnois Canal. Just beside this distant line of trees ran a massive power line.
We arrived at the small hamlet of St. Etienne de Beauharnois, marked by a small church and a hand full of clustered houses, and followed the direction over a tiny bridge to Chemin de la rivière on the far side. We followed this to the left of a ways, until we came to the farm, which was almost at the town line. The Holzgang farm stretched all the way from the road back to the Beauharnois Canal.
It was 09:10 when we arrived and I wasted no time in getting on my way. As soon as the initial hellos were done, I had my bike and gear unpacked, bade Sheryl a good day, and set off. Before I left, however, the lady of the house passed me a map of the local bike trails and reminded me of the nice one along the Beauharnois Canal. I thanked her, but did not think to myself that the knowledge was immediately pertinent. I rode back out onto the road at 09:20 and retraced the route back to the centre of St. Etienne de Beauharnois at Route 236. I had a map with me, which showed the quickest route over to the Chateauguay River to be a road called 'Rang du Dix'. It marked a ruler-straight path through the cornfields towards yet another distant line of trees.
|Rang du Dix: On the way to Chateauguay River|
I was very pleased to finally arrive at the Chateauguay River at 09:55. The main road, Route 138, ran along the far shore. On my side was the much quieter 'Chemin de la rivière Chateauguay', a tree-lined country road that meandered along the properties and houses that bordered the river, and on which only passed the occasional car. There would infrequent bridges across the river, and I came to the first one almost immedately.
|The Chateauguay River|
About 20 minutes down the road (10:20), I came to the park and monument to the Battle of Chateauguay, where an invasion of Montreal was foiled during the War of 1812. It was near the 'town' of Allen's Corners, but there was not much of a town. I stopped in at the information centre for a short break, where I picked up some literature about the park and some maps and tourist brochures for the region. Then I set out once more alongside the river. I was 6km distant from Ormstown.
All along the way, I was treated to frequent views of the river, which became my soothing companion. On the other side of the road was typically open farmland, broken only by the occasional homestead, with silos, barns, garages and family house. Some fields held rows of corn, in mid-harvest. Others were pastures where dairy cattle roamed, or sat quietly by near the road watching passers-by like myself.
I came to the Ormstown line at 10:50 and within 5 minutes was at the town centre. Along the way I passed by the now-deserted Ormstown Fair Grounds, where I had brought my children back in 1992 for a day at the fair. The centre ot Ormstown was only a couple of blocks long, punctuated by several village churches, old businesses, and stately houses.
I found a bridge over the Chateauguay River from which I was able to get a good photo of the old mill structures. My stay in the town was quite short - I was on my way again by 11:00
|Chateauguay River at Ormstown|
Just past Ormstown the main road (Route 138) swings over to the west side of the river. Luckily, there was another small, country road, 'Chemin Island', which continued right alongside the river. It was marked as Route 138A and must have been the old road. Inland, usually separated by little more than the breadth of a farmer's field, ran the new highway. I continued to have many marvellous vistas over the river.
|Chateauguay River along Route 138A|
I soon (11:35) came to the small hamlet of DeWittville, where I took a few minutes to explore an old, wooden bridge over the river. At this point I came upon the first rapids that I had seen along the Chateauguay.
|Chateauguay River at DeWittville|
At 11:55 I was within sight of the town of Huntington. I reached the centre of town, where the river was crossed by a bridge, at 12:05. Across the river was an old mill, dating from the 1830s. Beneath the bridge was a low dam, which must have served the mill in former days. On my side was a small park, served by a small parking lot. The parking lot and park were jammed with sightseeers, others like myself who were out for a sunny afternoon.
|View of Bridge & Dam at Huntington||Huntington: The Mill|
My original intention had been to ride up the Chateauguay as far as the border, or perhaps beyond, to the edge of the Adirondacks. At Huntington the reality of my short day set in. I was still 15km from the border, and I calculated it would take me an additional three hours to make it there and back. I abandoned that idea and consulted my map. Rather than retrace my way along the river, I saw that I could cut north to the lakeshore and come back along the Beauharnois Canal without adding appreciably to the time or distance. It was only then that I began to study carefully the bike trail map I had been given earlier.
Before continuing though, I needed some lunch. Nearly everyone in the crowd at the river were getting fries and other fast food meals from this little fries place in the building across the street. I left my bike under the watchful eye of someone resting in the park while I went in and bought myself a hamburger and fries. I would find out later that I had eaten at a very famous and popular local eatery. I took my meal back across to the park and relaxed while listening to the soothing sound of the water going over the dam.
|Huntington: The Bridge||Huntington: The Dam|
It was 12:40 when I was on my way again. I headed northeast out of Huntington along Route 202, which was first Chemin New Erin and then Montée du Lac. The road made a long, gradual climb up out of what had almost imperceptibly been the valley of the Chateauguay. Near the top of the ridge, I could look back and see all the way to the foothills of the Adirondacks.
|Climbing up Rte 202 towards Ste. Barbe|
Once over the crest of the rise, I had a panoramic view of Lac St. François, stretched out before me. I could trace the road I was following as it descended the to Ste. Barbe. There it met, and for short space joined, the main road of Route 132 as headed west from Valleyfield. I remembered the sharp curve at Ste. Barbe from earlier drives I had made out to this area. I came to the Ste. Barbe line at 13:15 and by 13:20 had reached the town, where I joined Route 132 as it curved northward. The distance to cover along the main road was thankfully short and, as it curved once more, westward along the shore line, I continued straight ahead on a small street.
The short one-block street left me at Chemin Bord de l'eau, which ran right along the edge of the lake. I stopped briefly, then, at a local depanneur to buy a bottle of water before proceeding. Although there was no public access to the water's edge, the single thin line of beach houses did not prevent me from viewing the lake. The lake water seemed much higher than usual, partly covering many people's lawns.
|Lac St. Francois near Baie des Brises|
I passed the last turn-off for St. Stanislas de Kosta, the town centre, and proceeded on, past the 'Cul-de-sac's sign. I was confident that there would be access to the bike trail I was seeking. The shoreline road came around a tiny bay, sheltering a small clustered community of tiny beach houses, and came out at the point. A sharp, wooded rise of twenty feet or so cut this area off from the land behind. It was 14:15 when I reached the point, and I took a few minutes to rest and take in the spectacular vista.
|The Point and Tete-du-canal from Valleyfield Side|
|Rough Lake at Point|
a small gravel extension led out from the point about fifty feet into the mouth of the wide Beauharnois Canal. I had a wide view three/quarters of the way around. I could see far out onto the lake, where I spied several ships. I could see across to the Valleyfield side, where I had come in times past by car. And I could look up the canal as far as the Route 132 bridge.
|Lac St. Francois from end of Canal|
|View across the Canal at end||View up the Canal at end|
After taking in the view for a few minutes, I set off along the gravel trail leading alongside the canal. It was cut off from the land side by the high, forested embankment.
|The Beauharnois Canal|
|Bike Path along Canal before Rte 132 Bridge|
I was soon within sight of the highway bridge, under which the bike path would take me at 14:30
|Rte 138 Bridge at Valleyfield|
On the far side of the bridge I was delighted to find that the trail was paved. I had been cycling now for some time and my legs and knees were beginning to feel the strain.
I found 10km section between the two bridges to be a wonderful cycling experience! The trail was nicely groomed, and lined with trees. The water's edge was only a few feet away and the view out over the watery expanse soothed me, as it always does when I am riding along the water. The strong breeze in my face was less welcome, however.
|Bike Path along Canal after Rte 132 Bridge|
About halfway along, I came to a small relais. The small peninsula jutting out into the water was called Presqu'ile Park and was groomed cut grass and dotted with picnic tables and bar-b-q's. It was 15:00 when I got to the park, and Sheryl called me to check in while I was there? She was done and was wondering about how much longer I would be. I suggested an hour or so.
|approaching bridge at St. Louis de Gonzag||Under the Bridge|
I got to the second bridge at 15:15. My route would then take me up along the highway, but I took a few minutes to explore, first, the path under the bridge. On the far side, the bike trail ended in a large parking lot. It was not possible to go any further along the canal, which I felt was too bad, since I knew the farm to which I was headed backed onto the canal.
I came back under the bridge to catch the highway heading south towards St. Louis de Gonzague. I only had to ride a short ways along the main road before coming to my turn off for the river road. In St. Louis it was called 'Chemin St. Louis Nord'. As the quiet road twisted its way along the small river, passing a farmhouse every couple of hundred meters, I could feel my legs quickly losing their strength in the headwind. It felt like was was never going to reach my destination! Slowly the house numbers descended from in the hundreds down to #2. Then, as I crossed the town line into St. Etienne, they started up again at #236. It was disheartening, except for the fact that I remembered having been told that the farm was near the town line.
It was somewhat hard to recognize from the opposite direction, so I was nearly at the driveway before I realized I was there. It was 15:50 when I arrived back.
All of the other members of the herb group had already left. Only Sheryl and the farm family remained. They invited me in and offered me coffee as I recounted my travels of the day. When I mentioned that I had gotten as far as Huntington, they were impressed. Apparerently everyone in the area is familiar with the fries place where I got my lunch.
Sheryl and I left about an hour later and drove back into town.
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