Saturday, August 29, 2015

Le P'tit Train du Nord - Canada

Another reason we brought our bicycles to Canada was to ride Le P'tit Train Du Nord, a railway line that was abandoned in the 1980's. This was the first of two abandoned rail lines we rode on this trip. The other was in the Adirondack Mountains in New York State.

Le P'tit Train du Nord literally means the Little Train of the North, in this case it is a 200 kilometer (132 mile) stretch of abandoned railway that has been converted into a multi-use trail. From the Spring to Fall, the trail is used by bicyclists, pedestrians, (in some parts) roller bladers, runners, skateboarders, and maybe even unicyclists for all I know. In the winter the path is not cleared and is actively used by skiiers and other winter sport enthusiasts -- in other words, not me.

The path starts in Saint-Jerome in the province of Quebec and stretches to Mont-Laurier. The surface varies from fully paved to hard-packed crushed stone to dirt. They recently added a southern portion of the trail from Saint-Jerome to Labelle, which brings the trail closer to Montreal and more traffic.

We began in Saint-Jerome. After some initial reading of parking signs (which are all in French) we parked the car for the day and paid the meter. At this location there is a place to rent bicycles: "tandems, girafes, et remorques" included. Girafes? We determined that is what they call the one wheeled bike that attaches to the back of a parent's bicycle so the small child can keep up. Remorques are recumbent bicycles.  

We started our journey around 10 AM. Every so often we had to stop to cross a road. The further we were from Saint Jerome, the less often we had to do that. As you can see on this elevation map, it is a pretty flat path. According to the website, people can do all 200 kilometers (132 miles) in one day. Don and his co-worker Chris are looking into doing that next summer. I would drive them to the top early in the morning, and let them cycle back to St. Jerome. Meanwhile, I would park in St. Jerome and ride the distance that interests me (probably trying the southern route this time for variety) and hang out and wait for them. Not much different from this year's experience. I rode with them about 9 miles, then stopped in Prevost. Prevost was the first of many stops along the way that turned an old rail station into a rest stop for users of the trail. They have bathrooms, wifi, and a coffee pot. All the comforts of home.

After they left me, I went for a two mile round trip run as part of my duathlon training. After cycling, I felt as if I was going at a snail's pace. On the other hand, I find it more enjoyable to study scenes like this when I'm not whizzing by them on a bicycle.

Prevost was also my lunch stop. I picked up a pita from the mini-golf/restaurant on the road behind the Prevost rail station. My only challenge was getting an iced tea. I've learned, and accepted, that unsweetened iced teas do not exist in most places in Canada, instead I make a "Canadian iced tea," -- take a cup of hot tea and pour over a tall glass with ice cubes in it. It works beautifully for me. They were out of ice, so after lunch I went to the nearby Subway and made my iced tea (yes, even Subway does not have unsweetened iced teas). I happily sat at the Prevost train station reading "The Gates of Evangeline", and people watching while I waited for Don and Chris to return while they rode another few hours, turning at the 40 kilometer mark (25 miles). They sent me updates. 
They passed lakes, streams, lots of trees that will look amazing during fall foliage. They also passed a balanced rock garden (also known as cairns). As you can tell by my writing, it is hard for me to write about what I did not see and experience.

By the time they reached me, I only had 40 pages to go in my book. Argh. I put the book down and joined their riding.

The trip back we returned through the tunnel with graffiti (similar to the one in Gatineau) and a waterfall.

Along the path are signs with directions (in French, of course). This one is telling pedestrians to walk on the left, while cyclists ride on the right and dodge pedestrians walking on the left.

Back at our starting point in Saint-Jerome we went under the fancy arch. I popped into the "Veille-Gare," literally the old train station and saw a neat exhibit (completely in French) about the town of St. Jerome. My favorite part of that exhibit wer the old cameras, some of which I remember using in high school and college. It has a way of making us feel old.

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