Exploring the P’tit Train du Nord with Maghalie Rochette
Text by Maghalie Rochette and photos by Zacharie Turgeon
The idea of an adventure is often better than the reality, because it often stays just that; an idea.
Going on an adventure always sounds romantic, but when reality kicks in, we realize we often have too many commitments to actually go on this dream adventure. More often than not, we end up just not going, because we aren’t able to make the adventure of our dream happen.
But here’s the thing: You don’t need to quit your job and travel across the globe for three months for an adventure to be worthy. You can explore your region. You can do a weekend trip. You can do something smaller and still discover new places and fulfill your sense of adventure.
That’s what I discovered with this trip.
I live very close to the P’tit train du Nord. The P’tit Train du Nord is a 232-kilometre bike path that goes from Blainville to Mont Laurier, following an old railway. I’ve been training on that path all my life, and probably rode the stretch between St-Jérôme and Ste-Agathe-des-Monts thousands of times. I know every gate, every train station and every curve on that stretch. However, I’ve never really seen what lay past that. This summer, I decided to see for myself and discover it. We packed our bags and headed out for a two-day bikepacking trip, straight out the door of our house.
I realized just how wild our region is once you leave the bigger cities. Past Mont-Tremblant, the scenery is simply mind blowing. The vegetation is dense and there are lakes and rivers everywhere.
As we arrived further north, the scenery got wilder by the kilometre. In Nominingue, we rode over a bridge that was surrounded by a huge, beautiful blue lake. Some people were fishing and we took a minute to stop and enjoy the view, exchanging a few words with them. About half an hour later, the sun was slowly starting to come down as we approached Val-Barrette. All day, we had been carrying a beer in our jersey pocket and with the sun setting over the lake, the view was simply too peaceful not to stop. We decided to open the beer, and enjoy this moment. Knowing we weren’t too far from the end of our riding day, a few sips of beer could only elevate our spirits!
In the last 30 kilometres of the day, in suddenly became very calm and quiet outside; a typical late summer evening. We saw a beaver along the path, and we stopped to admire his work. Somehow, those last few kilometres weren’t passing by very fast. It seemed like we wanted to stop more and more often. By 8 p.m., we started to feel tired and hungry. So, when we rode by a “casse-croûte”, we were quickly seduced by the odour of warm fries. We only realized how close we were to the end the next day!
With the goal of keeping this adventure simple, we weren’t carrying much food. We had CLIF Bars to sustain us during the ride, but we decided we would stop at the store to grab dinner. We filled our pockets with corn, sausages and fruits and pedalled a few extra kilometres to the place where we planned to sleep. A quick dip in the lake was good enough to wash off the sweat while our dinner was cooking over the fire. Eating and telling stories around the campfire was the perfect way to finish this first day!
The next morning, we cooked breakfast, put on our still-humid bike shorts, and headed out on the path to start our 232-kilometre journey in the opposite direction. The experience of seeing the same scenery from a new perspective, at a different time of day, was surprisingly very distinct from the previous day. The morning light brought a very bright energy, and we were moving along at a good pace. We stopped around noon in Rivière-Rouge. From the path, we saw a little bakery that conquered our hungry stomachs. It turns out we discovered what I believe may be the best pizza in the world, hidden in this little corner of the Laurentians.
We hit the road again, seeing baby deer, wild birds, and crossing train stations one after the other. It was cool to see how nice people were in the small villages of the northern Laurentians; everyone seemed genuinely interested about our small adventure.
Later in the afternoon, as the temperature was rising, it wasn’t the aroma of fries, but the sight of an ice cream cone, that enticed us. We stopped there to enjoy a cone while chatting with the owner. That ice cream gave us the energy we needed, and we spent the next 30 kilometres putting each other to the test. The racers in us came out and we challenged each other relentlessly, simply for the fun of it. It reminded me just how much I love competing.
Our goal was to finish our ride in a small brewery near the end of the P’tit Train du Nord in Blainville, but with 45 kilometres to go, we realized the brewery was closing in an hour. We accelerated the pace, exchanging relays between each other, enjoying the effort and embracing the fatigue while the sun was setting. It was such a great moment! We finally made it to the brewery with five minutes to spare – just enough time to enjoy a cold beer and cheer to our friendship!
If I’m honest, I never thought I could discover such cool things so close to our house. But this short adventure truly re-energized me and motivated me for the training that was ahead. It was a great reminder of what I love about cycling. I simply enjoy riding all day. I enjoy the fatigue of a good day on the bike. I love sharing those moments with good friends, and I’m constantly amazed by the way a bike makes you experience places differently.
Mostly, this trip taught me that you don’t need to go far to explore. There is an adventure waiting around every corner!
Watch ‘The One Percent’, a movie produced by Maghalie Rochette and Zacharie Turgeon
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15 December, 2020