Day 1: Ottawa to Maniwaki (150km)

We left Ottawa round 7:45 in hot but overcast conditions. We started on the TCC following the same route as our trial run. Having learned about lesson and knowing that we already had a long day planned, we took the St. Josef Boulevard exit north which becomes the 105 heading towards Wakefield. The highway starts off rough (but is due to be replaced later this same summer) with moderate traffic but quickly improves with an ample and high quality shoulder. After clearing Hull, it is also pretty quiet early on a Thursday morning. We got off the 105 onto Chemin de la Riviere which is a quiet road following the Gatineau River to Wakefield.

We stopped at a bike shop in Wakefiled (Expéditions Wakefield) to get a gear adjustment on Eric’s bike. Also had time for a nice little coffee and snack at Kaffé 1870. We continued on the same road out of Wakefield and picked up highway 105 again. There are TCC trails out of Wakefield that follow grid roads to the start of the Veloroute des Draveurs — but I didn’t take the time to get the directions. This was a mistake because the 105 is a bit of a busy mess after Wakefield that is best avoided. Fortunately, we only had about 15km to get just past Lowe and then found an intersection with the Veloroute des Draveurs and hopped on.

The trail was pretty demoralizing and slow at first — my garmin route had us marked as off course pretty much continuously. Progress was very slow here with lots of turns, wild parsnip along the trail, and loose gravel. It is also telling that there were pretty much no other bikes seen. After about 10km of slow riding, we encountered a long marshy section filled with deer flies; no choice but to bike as fast as possible and try to keep ahead of the flies as they try to bite through the back of my bike shorts.

After the marshes, we hit the intersection with highway 301 which is only 3km from Kazabazua. It was close enough to lunch and not knowing where our next chance to buy food would be, we decided to add an extra 6km to run into Kazabazua to find some food around 12:30. This turned out to be a great decision and we found a very nice local restaurant (Casse-Croute Sue-Ellen) which served club sandwiches, poutine, and great shakes. The owner was super friendly. We were almost ready to get back on the 105 at this point, but a local in the restaurant assured us that the marshes were over and the trail was going to improve if we continued. This was enough reassurance to send us back. The local was right, but it took some time and patience before things really improved.

The trail passes right through Gracefield as well where we had a quick stop for ice cream. There is a Casse Croute there as well so if we could have waited, this would have been a fine place to eat without having to add extra distance. After Gracefield, the trail gets progressively nicer and into solid cottage country passing first Lac du Castor Blanc and then hitting the beautiful Big Blue Sea. By now, the trail is much faster and you start to encounter more cyclists.

Next stop was Messina where there is a great water stop right beside the trail. The water flows continuously and is cold and delicious — highly recommended. Shortly thereafter, the trail abruptly ends. In actuality, the trail does continue, but it is much rougher and is officially not maintained. Rather than risking it, we decided to take the roads from here into Maniwaki passing through Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg territory before finding Maniwaki and the 105. It was super easy to find the Auberge des Draveurs which is very very bike friendly and includes a pool and spa which we didn’t get a chance to use. The offered us a secure bike storage room outside of our room *and* let us take our bikes right into our room which was huge. There are plenty of places to eat in Maniwaki but we didn’t take the time to find anything worth mentioning.