In Montréal, we like to ignore the transitional period that is springtime. While crocuses symbolize spring in Vancouver, it was the reappearance of Bixi (public bike sharing system) docking stations that made me realize that winter was finally over.
Within a week of the installation of these bike docks, Montréalais emerge from their goose down cocoons wearing shorts, even when it’s only 10 degrees out. Summer’s too short to not wear shorts.
Our refusal to recognize spring means many of us prematurely dive into summertime activities. Last week’s hike in Parc national du Mont-Tremblant was a cold-blooded reminder that in the mountains there’s still snow. Lots of it.
Loads of snow, yet not enough to necessitate snowshoes. There was snow ranging from 1cm and vanishing, to 1 and a half-foot; dry packed dirt; and mud. This includes incognito mud which only reveals itself when your foot shoots through the path’s snowy crust. It was a difficult hike full of inconsistent consistencies. I would have totally worn shorts that day, but I expected insects to be the problem, not the snow.
35km closer to the city than Parc national du Mont-Tremblant lies the village of Val-David. In the seven days that had passed since our hike, we’ve seen real shorts weather in Montréal, so Yann and I were like, “Fuck, yeah! Time to wear our spandex shorts with the built-in suspenders!” Our friend Ruth was all, “Yeah, me too!”
I warned Ruth that Yann and I were planning on doing a century ride and she was all, “Bitch, I’ve done 230km in a single ride.”
Ok, she absolutely did not say that, I’m just so impressed with this feat that I made up a fake quote just so that I could mention it.
There was very little snow on the Le P’tit Train du Nord trail, but the trail was supposed to be in recovery. The three of us started at the 42km marker and rode about 10km before we hit a temporary barricade with a sign that read “Piste Fermée–Accès Interdit”. Yes, this means what you probably think it means: sections of the 232km trail was still closed. The trail had not been maintained since the snow had melted and needed its spring break.
The chain securing the two temporary fences was wide enough to insert our bikes, suggesting that we could pass through at our own risk. The 6ft gates had to be the biggest obstacle, right?
There were sections of soft gravel to skid in, as well as crisscrossing ruts waiting to trap our tires. I barely made it past the closed section before I finally toppled over:
Yann had stopped after clearing the gate and said to me as I was squeezing through the posts, “Ruth fell.” I looked over my left shoulder, unclipped my right foot even though most of my weight was on my left, causing me to clumsily tip over on the side my pannier was clipped onto, crushing Ruth’s crackers in the process.
I was only a bit hurt. That’s about 26 pounds of steel and rubber you see resting on top of my left leg.
The trail re-opened at the 72km marker which was also where the paved path began. From there, it was an easy ride to our next resting spot, St-Jovite, home of the tiny man.
“What tiny man?” (Actual quote from Ruth)
Curé Labelle is more of an endurance buttoner than an endurance cyclist: I counted 26 buttons on his tiny cassock. I didn’t have any oranges to offer to this tiny man of God, and instead offered a cookie dough protein bar the size of his forearm.
Wikipedia tells me that the real Antoine Labelle was 5’11” and 335 pounds which makes me wonder whether whoever created this statue was trying to be ironic. Perhaps the village of St-Jovite simply couldn’t afford the full-sized version.
Our turnaround point was at the 107km marker in a municipality named in his honour, Labelle.
We left Labelle at 5pm, which meant we had to ride 65km before sundown. Neither Yann nor I brought our lights, as we had expected to do the whole ride in about 7 hours, not taking into account the time we’d spend eating, chatting, and doing a photoshoot with the tiny man. Ruth was only slightly better equipped, with a 10 lumen front light which is meant to make yourself visible to others, rather than making things visible. In short, she still couldn’t see the squirrels, but they could see her.
With my lack of inner ear balance, I needed to be able to see my way back in order to not fall over for the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th time. It really didn’t help that I decided against bringing my eyeglasses in favour of my non-prescription sunglasses.
By 8:30pm it was twilight; we were still 10km away from Val-David, and riding on the “closed” section of the trail. At one point I rode over a bunch of craters causing my head to bobble so much that I couldn’t see what was coming up next. I may have hit a chipmunk, or whizzed past a moose, but the tiny hand of Curé Labelle must’ve reached down and safely guided me to the end of our 129km ride.
I hope it’ll be summertime by next weekend because Yann and I have reservations to sleep under the stars.
One thought on “Le P’tit Train by nightfall.”