Cycling around Ottawa, Mont Laurier and Montreal With Mom

by Perette Barella

This travelogue follows a journey around south eastern Ontario and south western Quebec. My mom and I traveled the Prescott-Russell Recreation Trail, Véloroute des Draveurs, P'tit Train Du Nord, various other roadways and véloroute.


1. The Grand Barn Campground, Vankleek, Ontario


Today, mom and I drove to our starting point, The Grand Barn, which is on a little peninsula of Ontario that juts eastward between the St Lawrence and the Ontario rivers. The Grand Barn is a very laid back campground, and the owners agreed to let us leave the car here while we adventure. That makes it a great launch spot.

This is mom's first time at a nudist campground.

Afterthought: The Grand Barn closed for a while since the trip, but seems to have been rekindled as a B&B.

Thousand Islands
A view of the St. Lawrence Thousand Islands region on the way to Canada.
Tenting at The Grand Barn
Tenting at The Grand Barn.
The silos at The Grand Barn
The silos at The Grand Barn.

2. Camping Paradis, Bourget, Ontario


We cycled today to Camping Paradis, which is near Bourget, Ontario. In this region of Ontario, there seems to be strong Francophone influence.

The trail had a few rough spots but was mostly okay. We passed a huge solar farm, and through a peat bog wetlands where they're growing sod. We stopped for lunch at the Plantagenet trail pavilion and tried one of the MREs that mom received recently. Not great, but okay.

The day was rather hot, and there weren't places to get water. We passed a trail maintainer, who was nice enough to provide us some water; I fear we would have run out otherwise. As we neared Bourget, a storm rolled in and we ended up getting soaked, but at least it broke the heat.

The campground put us toward the woods in the back, which is rather buggy. We ran some laundry to dry our stuff, and took a dip in the pool.

Plantagenet Pavilion on the Prescott-Russell trail
Plantagenet Pavilion on the Prescott-Russell trail.
Loaded touring bicycles
Our bikes, loaded for touring, taking a break at Plantagenet Pavilion.
Perette Barella
Perette reading the MRE instructions.
Camping Paradis, Bourget, ON
Perette studying maps at our campsite at Camping Paradis, Bourget, ON.

3. Hotel, Gatineau, Quebec


We made it into Ottawa today. The trail improved the closer we got to the city, then ended abruptly. We traveled a few streets and several bikeways, stopping at a Swiss Chalet for chicken along the way; eventually we got to the the Rideau River which we followed north to the Ottawa River. We stopped there to rest and look at the falls, then crossed the Ottawa and passed through a few parks on our way to Gatineau, where we are staying in a hotel for the night.

Rideau Falls
The Rideau Falls in Ottawa, Ontario.
Perette Barella
Perette studies cue sheets while stopped at Rideau Falls.
The view ahead as we enter Quebec.
The view behind as we leave Ontario.
Perette Barella
Perette studies directions as we cross the Ottawa River and enter Quebec.

4. Low, Quebec


Today was hilly as we left the Ottawa River valley and traversed up the Gatineau on roads. We stopped at a grocery store for a rest, fresh bananas, and snacks.

Nearing Wakefield we encountered construction, so we stopped at a Tim's for lunch before continuing on our way north. We should have turned off at the next opportunity, but the construction had me confused and we ended up going over a bonus hill. We also missed a bicycle-friendly auberge opportunity in Wakefield, which might have been good in retrospect—was tiring out from the hills.

Instead, we pressed on to Low, although the hills were more gentle after Wakefield. In Low we found a dilapidated, closed motel; there's nowhere to stay here. So we begged at the municipal/tourist info building on the north end of the village, and they've let us stay out back. There's a sort of little park here, with a few picnic tables. Not really meant for overnighting, but they allowed it, and we are glad for it.

Our bicycles stopped at freshmart.
Perette Barella with Bananas
They've got bananas, we've got bananas!
Bicycles at a picnic table
Our bikes at the information center in Low, QC.
Bicycle camping
Camping in back of the Low, QC information center.
Walrus tent
Mom's one-person "Walrus" tent.
Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight tent
Perette in her tent
Eating snacks and playing cribbage.

5. Camping Le P'tit Lac, Messines, Quebec


Today we we were back to bike trails, following the Veloroute des Draveurs northward. We went through some flat wetlands, past some replanted forests, several old whistle stops and a covered bridge. We passed several pretty lakes in the afternoon, including Lac du Castor Blanc and Lac Blue Sea.

The campground is small but seems nice. We had pizza for dinner tonight at a little Italian place at the 4-way intersection down the street. It was good, although I'm worried mom hasn't been eating enough given all the calories we've been burning.

Whistle stop on veloroute des draveurs
A little whistle-stop train station.
Les planes de kazabazua
The plains of Kazabazua—a wetlands along the rail-trail.
Picnic table
A picnic area along the rail-trail.
An outhouse on a sand dune along the rail-trail.
Veloroute des draveurs
Mom's bike on the veloroute des draveurs near Kazabazua, QC.
Perette Barella collecting water
Perette collecting and treating water from a river.
River near Kazabazua, QC
A view from one of the few bridges on veloroute des draveurs.
MRE crackers and cheese
MRE crackers and spreadable cheese—yum.
Pont cousineau des Ch du Ruisseau des Cerises, Gracefield, QC
A covered bridge on Chemin du Ruisseau des Cerises, just off the trail near Gracefield, Quebec.
Veloroute des draveurs
A long straightaway on the trail.
A gazebo along the trail trail provides a rest stop at Lac Castor.
Lac Castor
Lac Castor.
Lac Blue Sea
Lac Blue Sea.
Lac Saumure
Lac Saumure, as seen from our campsite at Camping Le P'tit Lac. Our food is hanging, bear-bagged to keep critters out of it for the night.

6. Aumond, Quebec


Mom and I continued up the rail-trail today. When we got to Farley, we should have switched to road; the trail turned into a gravel roadway that was troublesome biking. Some of it we walked. We followed that to its end in Maniwaki, where we had lunch—hamburg and frites, again. I like french fries, and I'm burning lots of calories, but even so I am getting tried of deep-fried crap.

After lunch, we were back on roads. We crossed the river and were on to Aumond (pronounced oh moe), where the municipality allows camping on a little park they have in the middle of town. It's a little buggy near the woods, but not bad if we stay away.

There's also a dam, some old foundations and ruins from the days this was an old mill town. It was probably a big deal back then, but now there isn't much here—a convenience store, post office and an Italian restaurant. But that Italian place, they make the food from scratch. When we stopped in, they were cutting up the pizza dough they'd made earlier and allowed to rise. I had a small lasagna, still filled from deep-fried lunch; mom had the big lasagna. I'm glad to see she's eating more.

Perette Barella on a Haluzak Horizon
Perette on her Haluzak Horizon on Rue Pierette, Maniwaki, Quebec.
Mill ruins in Aumond, QC
The mill ruin in Aumond, Quebec have been transformed into a lovely little park.
Clothes line
Our clothes drying on lines outside the bathroom at Aumond.
Perette Barella
Perette studying maps and cue sheets.

7. Mont Laurier, QC


There was a lot of uphill out of Aumond, but we were on asphalt and the road wasn't too busy. Once we reached QC-117, the Trans-Canada Highway, though, we encountered more up-and-down and a lot more traffic.

We're staying in a hotel here in town. For lunch, we found a restaurant that had chicken—not deep fried—and both mom and I devoured a half-chicken (each) and a bunch of also-not-deep-fried vegetables. Worries that mom hasn't been eating enough are now gone.

We found the start of the P'tit Train du Nord, the trail we'll be on tomorrow. They've fixed it up to look nice for the tourists, but some of the areas we walked through, it looks like this town struggles.

Pat Barella
My mom, Pat, at the top of the hill we just came up. Behind her is a view of Aumond, Quebec.
Bienvenue P'tit Train du Nord
Welcome to the Little Train of the North. The sign's layout resembles the wayside signals that would have graced this route in the days of the railway.

8. Nominingue, Quebec


Today was overcast, and after we got going it actually started raining. There was a little confusion getting onto the trail—there was a detour, I guess a piece of trail was out—but once we got going the trail was okay. It's paved in this region, although there are some bumps from tree roots that have buckled the surface.

Despite being in "Mont" Laurier, we had a lot of gentle uphill for about about half our 55km, but we got downhill after that. In the latter half of the ride I started getting chilled, so when we encountered a "casse-croûte"—a food truck—we stopped for some hot chocolate and some snacks. Afterwards I got chilly again quickly, though mom seemed to do okay—or maybe it's just that she's so tough. Anyhow, we had enough of the rain, so when we got to Nominingue, we stopped. We're staying in the old station inn, now a bicycle-friendly auberge.

This afternoon featured a celebration of Saint Jean Baptiste Day with a little parade reminiscent of Winsted's Pet Parade: heavy on the local feel. Mom really enjoyed a farmer with a tractor dragging a trailer full of antique chairs, tools and farm implements.

Gare Nominingue
Nominingue station on the P'tit Train du Nord rail-trail.
Bienvenue Cyclistes
Bienvenue Cyclistes—Welcome, cyclists—identifies this as a bicyclist-friendly inn.
Auberge de la Vielle Gare, Nominingue, QC
Our bicycles on the deck at Auberge de la Vielle Gare—the Inn at the village station—in Nominingue, Quebec.
Roses in front of the Inn.
Viney flower shoe thing
Shoe-shaped flower pots made from vines decorated the porch of the inn.
Pause Cafe de/in Nominingue, Quebec
Pause Cafe de/in Nominingue, Quebec.
Pat Barella
Mom, waiting for lunch at the cafe.
Perette Barella
Perette, waiting for lunch at the cafe.
A tractor in the St. Jean Baptiste Day parade, doctored up to resemble a moose and equipped with Canadian beer, towing...
...a bunch of antique furniture, spinning wheels and...
...Chainsaws! Because what parade would be complete without chainsaws?

9. Camping Desjardins, Saint Faustin Lac Carré, Quebec


Today was more of the lovely P'tit Train du Nord, but with much better weather. The trail skirted Lac Nominingue, then followed the Riviere Rouge. We stopped in Labelle for lunch, eating at a restaurant in the old station. After lunch we continued south along the river until we neared Mont Tremblant, where we left the river and skirted Lac Mercier. We stopped for some ice cream after town. A little later the paved trail ended and we began a long assent.

We're staying at Camping Dejardins, which with our limited French means "Camping at the Money Machine" or "Camping at the Bank". We have another nice but buggy little campsite that is inexpensive and reserved for bicyclists. In the morning, we resume the assent up this mountain.

Lac Nominingue
Lac Nominingue in the morning, as we head south on the trail.
P'tit Train du Nord
A view of the P'tit Train du Nord featuring an outhouse.
P'tit Train du Nord
Flowers, benches and a table alongside the trail.
Riviere Rouge, Macaza, QC
Riviere Rouge—the Red River—near Macaza, Quebec.
The P'tit Train du Nord over Riviere Rouge
The P'tit Train du Nord over Riviere Rouge.
Gare Labelle
Train station at Labelle, Quebec.
Caboose CP437486 in Labelle, QC
Outside the Labelle station, there's an old caboose, flags, picnic tables and bicycle parking.
Baggage cart
An antique baggage car at the station in Labelle.
Auberge de la Gare Labelle
Labelle station has been turned into a museum and a restaurant.
Lunch at the station.
Riviere du diable
Riviere du diable.
Camping Desjardins
Tenting at Camping Desjardins.
Setting up the stove for dinner.
Camp stove
Camp stove.

10. Lac Lafontaine Camping, Saint-Jérôme, Quebec


We travelled the remainder of the rail trail today, mostly on dirt, stopping in the Montreal suburbs. After a little more climb this morning, we went a ways crossing a sort of plateau. Toward the end of the flat, we stopped at a lovely station in Sainte Agathe des Montes, where we encountered a northbound cyclist towing his two kids on a train-like assembly of bike, tag-along, and rolling cart. His legs muscles were like iron.

From there, we had a lot of gentle downhill. We lunched in one of the little villages along the way, and benefited from the long, gentle downhill.

After getting in, we set up camp and I set up a bear line. When we returned from taking showers, the bear line was missing. I tracked down a security cart that was driving around, thinking he might have seen who did it—in fact, he had taken it down himself. He complained about the way I'd hung it, but gave it back, and I found a different place and manner to hang it.

Afterthought: While stopped for lunch, I had suffered a little bit of "intestinal distress"—fearsome cramping, then foul-smelling diarrhea. It was my first bout that would repeat alternating days for a few weeks before seeing a doctor, eventually being diagnosed with giardia—probably picked up early in the trip.

Gare Sainte Agathe des Montes
The station at Sainte Agathe des Montes.
There's still a train on this rail-trail.
Gare Val-David
Gare Val-David.
Camping Lac Fontaine
Camping Lac Fontaine.

11. Camping L'Escale, Point Calumet, Quebec


We were back on paved bike trails today. The first trail followed a commuter rail line that runs out to Saint Jerome, so we saw a few trains on our way. In the urban areas we were on roads, some of which had a separated bikeway alongside. Toward the end of the day, we were back on rail-trail through forested areas.

The campground we are at is quite nice, and we've taken a swim at the beach since the day is hot.

Our campsite, viewed across the lake from the beach.
The beach at Camping L'Escale
The beach at Camping L'Escale.
A gazebo at Camping L'Escale provided a place to get out of the sun and heat.
A gazebo at Camping L'Escale provided a place to get out of the sun and heat..
Pat Barella
My tough, amazing mother, smiling while we relax in the gazebo.
Perette Barella
Perette, resting back at the campsite later in the day.
Walrus tent
Mom's Walrus tent without the rain-fly.

12. The Grand Barn, Vankleek, Ontario


After striking camp the last time, we pedaled the last little bit of rail-trail and some roadway to get to the Oka ferry across the Ottawa River. We paralleled the river on roads to Rigaud, where we stopped for ice cream. We were early and I think the store wasn't open yet, but the gentleman paused his work to serve us.

Maps show the bike trail running all the way into Rigaud, but when we got there it was ballast stone. We instead took a road along a river, which was a good alternative. After we crossed into Ontario, I thought the trail might improve, but I was wrong and I foolishly lead us to waste a bunch of energy walking bikes up the trail a ways, thinking it would get better soon. We returned to the road when a driveway presented the opportunity.

We stayed on the road the rest of the way in.

Back at The Grand Barn, mom seemed anxious to go but I persuaded her to stay for a while. It was a terribly hot day, and I was sweaty, tired and hungry. We got showers and dipped in the pool—a silo foundation which had been retrofitted with a liner and filled with water—and ate up some of our snacks. Mom even got into the naturist spirit and went skinny dipping. She's incredible!

After packing up the gear and bikes, we headed back to Rochester. It was a good trip. In all, we were biking for 11 days, cycling about 600km total. About 2/3 of the route was bike trails, and about the same proportion was paved.

Hudson-Oka, Quebec ferry
A ferry crosses the Ottawa River between Hudson and Oka, Quebec.
Bikes on the Hudson-Oka, QC ferry
Bikes on the Hudson-Oka, QC ferry.
Ice cream
10:08 AM? It's a perfect time for ice cream.
Rail trail
The Rigaud end of the Prescott-Russell trail is not bicycle worthy.
Packing a car
Back at the Grand Barn, Perette unpacks her bike and loads the car.