Riding the back country in northern NB and Gaspe, QC – Part II, Day one

Prologue:

For years I’ve been exploring the huge network of gravel roads throughout New Brunswick.  Many of those are in the Northern parts of the province and are often quite remote.  I’ve also heard great things about terrific gravel roads in the interior of the Gaspe Peninsula in Quebec and wanted to ride them.

Using my own research and other routes provided by friends I put together a multi-day ride that would cover some familiar territory as well as lots of places I’ve never been.  Due to time constraints, weather and other commitments I had to do the trip in three stages, with a total of 10 days of riding in June and August, 2018.

Over the three trips, with some backtracking to and from my home base, I covered a total of 4,131 km of NB and QC with an estimated 30% or better of it on gravel. Here’s what the whole thing looks like:

If you’d like to view high-res versions of the photos in this post, use this link to head on over to the associated Smugmug gallery (all images copyright Doug Smalley):

https://dougsmalleyphotography.smugmug.com/Motorcycles/2018/Aug-4-to-6-NB-and-QC-Gravel-Ride

Aug 04, 2018 Day one

Today’s route, 322 km total, 99+/- of it on gravel.

For this leg of the journey I planned to retrace my June, 2018 route north but to push on further to Moose Valley, then take gravel back country trails to Amqui, QC. From Amqui I had more gravel routes for the interior of the Gaspe Peninsula, the Chic Choc Mountains and I planned to visit the Parc Nationale de Gaspesie.   I had a week to spend on this, and the weather forecast for the Gaspe region was largely positive for the week ahead with only occasional light showers or rain on a couple of days.  Morning rain was forecast for my first day but that was due to end in the early afternoon.  Though I considered delaying one day and leaving Sunday to avoid rain on the first day it didn’t sound all that bad and I decided to push on through the weather.

The rain started at Rogersville, about an hour into the trip.  It was coming down pretty hard so I decided to just stay on the pavement through Miramichi and over to the Little Southwest Road.  By the time I turned onto the gravel at McGraw Brook the rain was intermittent.  It would rain hard for a few km then stop for several km more – I’d say for the next 100km or so it only rained 25% of the time.

An monument to the nearby Christmas Mountains? As seen on the side of the Little Southwest Rd.

I’d left fairly late and had planned only to go as far as Serpentine Lake and camp there.  As I was getting close it started raining again and it was really coming down. So much for the forecast of light rain in the morning and dry after noon!  I didn’t want to take the same ATV trail I’d taken last time and I didn’t like the idea of a lengthy detour around the aforementioned closed bridges at tail end of this route so I decided to stay on Little South West Road and see just how bad the bridges were.  Historically there was also a persistent family of beavers set up near the bridges and most times there was a big beaver headpond across this trail.  Alyre had told me he’d destroyed the dam and the beavers & their pond were gone but I didn’t know for sure.  Here are some pics of this beaver pond in past years:

serpentine sep 2013 Splash
On a different trip, Sep 2013.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
This is how it looked June 10, 2015

As the trail narrowed the rain was bucketing down all around me.  I didn’t like to get my camera out in this kind of weather but the scene really deserved a picture.

lots of water left in those clouds

Regardless of what the forecast had been, this didn’t look like something that was going to clear off any time soon.  It’s now about 5:30 and I’m getting pretty sick of rain.  I’m really hoping I can get past those three bad bridges, if not I’ll need to backtrack about 20km then take a 40 or 50km detour.

I got to the first bridge and it looked pretty sketchy.

Not sure I should be riding over that.
Don’t look down…

I tried it on foot and it felt pretty good. I decided to go for it but really slowly and to use what was left of the right-hand side of the deck.  It was tough getting the bike up onto the bridge and I had to be really careful not to put my foot through the spaces between the ties but I gradually made it across.

One down, two more to go – hope I don’t have to backtrack over this thing.
Zoomed in you can sort of see how hard it’s raining.

One sketchy bridge behind me and two more to go.  The beaver pond was, in fact, gone and the second bridge was not as bad as the first.

The third bridge had a different sort of problem and it was easy to see why it had been closed.  The deck was in pretty good shape but something under the bridge had broken or settled leaving the bridge deck tilted at a steep angle to the side.  The right side was about 2 feet lower than the left and in all this rain it was pretty intimidating.  In my experience there aren’t many things more slippery than a wooden bridge deck in the rain.  I had to be really careful not to spin the rear tire or I’d likely end up sliding off the bridge to the right.  I crawled along the extreme left side to give me whatever margin I could and made it safely across.  I was feeling equal parts relieved, soaked and frazzled but it should be pretty good riding from here. 

Serpentine Lodge was just another few km ahead now and it was likely I could get a dry bed there, but I decided to check out the lakeside wild-camping spot first.  When I got there nobody else was around and the rain had let up a bit so I decided to camp.

Hanging out with my Hennessey Expedition hammock.

I’d brought my hammock as well as tent on this trip and in the shelter of the thick trees was able to get it set up.  I rigged a second tarp overhead in the trees and was able to get out of the rain and even hang my gear up, though, the humidity was so high even out of the rain nothing was going to dry.  Around 8:00 the rain stopped and the clouds began to break up.  There was even a bit of a sunset as I set my chair up beside the lake.  The day had been stressful at times, miserable at others but overall I was very happy to be where I was.  I enjoyed a cigar and the millionaire’s view I had paid nothing for, it was so peaceful I sat there for over an hour as the dark settled around me and I listened to all that silence.

Eventually I got sleepy so I crawled into the hammock and had a pretty good night’s sleep.

If you’d like to view high-res versions of the photos in this post, use this link to head on over to the associated Smugmug gallery (all images copyright Doug Smalley):

https://dougsmalleyphotography.smugmug.com/Motorcycles/2018/Aug-4-to-6-NB-and-QC-Gravel-Ride

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