This was the biggest planned day, so we started early — alarm was set for 5:30 AM. Fortunately, the restaurant at the Auberge de Draveur opens at 5:45 AM so we took full advantage. It is a decent greasy spoon breakfast served quickly and for a reasonable price.
The day started mostly cloudy and almost no sun and a brisk north window. It was base layers and long sleeves. We anticipated that the cloud would burn off and the heat would build, but this was never really the case. The north wind was an annoying touch because we still had about 30km of north traveling on highway 105.
We opted not to take the TCC since it was just going to join up with highway 117 in 30km anyway. I think this was a mistake and we wish we had tried the trail, at least so we could report on the trail quality. We thought that highway 105 would be quiet and peaceful since we started around 6:30 AM on a friday morning. This was partly true, but there were still an alarming number of very large trucks hauling large logs — they are terrifying when they pass by. OTOH, there is a decent shoulder so you can get pretty far away from the traffic. There are continuous rolling hills and with the north wind, progress was pretty slow.
We intersected highway 117 at Grand Remous. This is the only place to stop on the way to Mont Laurier, and the pickings are pretty slim. There was a casse croute open so we had a chance to take a coffee as a pick-me-up before continuing on our way. Highway 117 is the trans canadian highway, the route verte, and the TCC so we had a lovely large shoulder that we could comfortably bike two-by-two on with plenty of room to spare to the white line. There is still about 30 km to go to Mont Laurier. The highway is generally trending towards higher elevation, but has pretty continuous ups and downs.
In the end, we got to Mont Laurier much later than expected around 10:45. Since we had eaten over 4 hours ago, we decided to go for a bit early lunch. We were not super happy with the progress so far and the temperatures will still hovering around 18 or 19 degrees with plenty of cloud. We found a great restaurant and pigged out. Much happier with full stomachs, we were off on our way with 100+ km to go.
Shortly thereafter we found the Petit Train de Nord trailhead — and its paved! Unfortunately, there is also a lot of frost heave damage but that is a small complaint. The worst holes and bumps are marked with orange paint. We were happy to be cruising along and off the highways, engulfed in nature. We were also finally seeing other bikers after not seeing anything else on two wheels for the first half of the day. Most of the bikes we were seeing were roadies. After around 10-15 km, we got into true wildnerness with plenty of trees. There is also a pretty long slow (typical rail trail) climb to around 330m of elevation. The descent is equally long and slow, so you have plenty of time to enjoy the beautiful scenery.
There are not a lot of places to stop or get water/food during this portion of the trail. We were glad to be well fed and have plenty of liquid. The trail crosses the main street of Nominingue which has plenty of little shops. We found a small but perfectly adequate grocery store and bought everything we needed for dinner that night. There was also an art festival going on, but we didn’t have time to stop and enjoy it. We still had a way to go, but we didn’t know if there were more opportunities for supply stops before our AirBnB.
We continued slowly past La Micaza and finally to La Belle which is where the paved half of the trail meets the unpaved half. There is a very cute and seemingly popular train car restaurant along the trail at La Belle which we probably would have stopped at if we didn’t have an AirBnB waiting for us. We got off the trail at this point and followed my garmin onto a grid road that became intensely hilly and punishing. We were tired and some of the hills were so steep with loose gravel that we had to push our bikes slowly up the hills.
The trial was worth it! We arrived at the spectacular chalet on Lac Mitchell and officially back in La Micaza. It was an extra stretch of 7km at the end of the day. We went for a dip in the lake which was refreshing and excellent for the legs. We prepared and ate dinner with our awesome hosts and talked until dark overlooking the beautiful lake. We fell asleep under the stars as this architectural masterpiece was all windows facing the lake and night sky.