The Saguenay,
Rivière Éternité & Lac St. Jean
Aug. 2/ Aug. 10, 2006

Michael J. Ferguson

Les Publications INRS-Télécommunications, Montréal

Journal Index


1  Introduction
2  Wednesday Aug. 2, Montreal to Jonquière
3  Thursday Aug. 3, Jonquière to La Baie+
4  Friday Aug. 4, to Baie Éternité
5  Saturday Aug. 5, Baie d'Éternité
6  Sunday Aug. 6, Baie d'Éternité to "Up the hill Camp"
7  Monday Aug. 7, "Up the hill Camp" to Jonquière
8  Tuesday Aug. 8, Jonquière to Lac Vert
9  Wednesday Aug. 9, Lac Vert to Chambord
10  Thursday Aug. 10, Chambord to Montreal
11  Google Earth Map of Trip

1  Introduction

This was to be a short ride much closer to home than normal. The Saguenay/Lac St. Jean area is one that I have always wanted to visit, ever since I started living in Montreal in 1968. One major advantage of this time of year is that it is blueberry season in one of the prime blueberry growing areas in Quebec. I had intended to ride Quebec's bicycle route, "La Route Verte" from Montreal to Jonquiére but it would have been a rather dull 500km (300mi) to Rivière du Loup, a ferry across the St. Lawrence and another 500km to Jonquière. I had only 2 weeks so I decided that this was impossible and took the train.

2  Wednesday Aug. 2, Montreal to Jonquière

Much to my delight the weather forecast was wrong, and I had sunshine instead of rain for the ride to Central Train Station. I folded my bike, packed the trailer and a third bag (Via Rail does not allow bags heavier than 50lbs without extra charge) and after some argument, got them to carry my folded bike without charge. They did insist, though, that I sign a waiver for any damage. Their insurance is not much good for me since it does not instantly fix my bike.
The Saguenay is not a fast train. Under the best of conditions, it takes about 8 hours to go the 450km from Montreal to Jonquière. This train is flag stop run catering to "hunters, fishermen, kayakers, canoeists" and everyone else that needs it. At one of our many unscheduled stops, a man, who obviously had been waiting for our late train, was frantically rowing across his small lake to make sure the train would stop so he could get his package. At one point we had to stop for a half hour because the engineer had been driving for his maximum of 10 continuous hours.
We arrived in Jonquière over 2 hours late, and, although my bike was undamaged, it was just after sunset when I finally got everything assembled. I had decided to stay at the Camping Jonquière which was supposed to be an easy 5km from the station. However, both my road map, and my GPS map showed it located in what was obviously, and possibly new, upscale gated? community. This was most distressing, since it was now very dark. After several answers that were correct only in that they indicated the correct direction, but not distance or side of the road, I found it and they put me up in a nice grassy "common area" instead of one of their semi-permanent RV spots.

3  Thursday Aug. 3, Jonquière to La Baie+

After fixing one of my trailer kick stands, I made it to La Baie in the early afternoon. Much of the way there was on a bicycle path, but it suddenly ended, without warning, about 20km from La Baie. There were a few up hills, and a 19% downhill that I will try to avoid on the way back. La Baie was the first settlement in this area, and is located on the Baie de Ha! Ha!, which is essentially the end of the Saguenay Fiord. In fact, my GPS map keeps insisting that the water here is the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
La Baie has lost most of its heavy industry, and was badly flooded a few years ago so the decided to celebrate, and perhaps improve their tourist appeal, by building the Pyramid de Ha! Ha!.
The children liked the shower pool and playground, but I think I was the only tourist there. I don't think that this is a threat to the Guggenheim in Bilbao.
I left in mid afternoon, along another short bicycle path that went around the bay, until it, too, abruptly halted at the end of a jetty. I started up my first major hill of the day where the Rt. 170 turned inland. I had been moderately exhausted, possibly just overheated, for much of the day, but on this hill my legs totally gave out. The most I could manage, before needing to rest, was about 50m. At that rate, there was no hope in me getting to the campground in St. Felix de Otis. Partway up the hill, which was totally devoid of habitation, I saw a street light. It turned out to be the entrance, with a huge locked gate, and threatening signs to Alcan private property. However, in the opposite direction there was an clover covered meadow nestled behind a ridge. I was completely invisible from any of the roads, so I camped.
It was only 5:00pm, and about 55km, but that was more than enough for the day.

4  Friday Aug. 4, to Baie Éternité

It was still a struggle up the rest of the hill in the morning but I did much better. Again the maps mislead me about the campgrounds. There was supposed to be one before St. Felix de Otis but I never saw it.
I arrived at the entrance to the Baie Éternité section of the Saguenay Park at about 1:30pm, and was able to get a campsite, in their main campground for 3 nights. I had wanted to stay at least one night in the small Delta campground on the Caps Trail but I understood from the receptionist that it was closed. This turned out not to be the case, as I found out later in the day.
The road to the campground is very steep and down for about 4km. I am not looking forward to going back up, given the current weakness of my legs. It may take all morning.
The rain earlier in the day had been replaced by sun, and the occasional thundershower, one of which came through while I was putting up my tent, and promptly quit, so I rode down some more of the hill to hike along the Sentier des Caps (Caps Trail). It starts by the river, and goes up over the ridge, and then down to Delta campsite. On the way, you see some of your first views of Cap Trinité, and the Baie d'Éternité , that make this area the most spectacular of the Saguenay Fiord.
However, not everything of interest is necessarily huge.
The Delta campsite was neither closed, nor was it full.
I am not certain what was meant, but in retrospect, I probably ended up in the best place. Along with the fact that I never did see a good place to store my bike, the main campground had a nearby pavilion with electricity where I was able to plug in my computer, and sit comfortably to write.
I quit soon after Delta because I was running out of time and energy, and rode back to my tent. Today was about 30km.

5  Saturday Aug. 5, Baie d'Éternité

Today started with glorious sunshine, and was that way all day. My first hike was to return to the Sentier des Caps and go all the way up to the Belvedere, the lookout on, almost, Cap Éternité. This time, since I was in no hurry, I stopped on the beach in front of Delta. Delta may not have had any facilities, including water, but it did have nice views of the bay and both caps.
Those who didn't venture down to the beach were not deprived of some good views.
After a climb of about 350m (1200') and another 3.2km beyond Delta, you reached the Belvedere. This is definitely worth the trip, and much to my surprise was only flat rock without any guard rails.
I took about 2.5 hours to get up to the Belvedere and only about 10min less to get back.
My second, and last hike for the day was up Cap Trinité trail. It started at the information centre and was officially called vers la Statue. I wondered, when I was on the Belvedere how the trail would get up the cliff and discovered that it was almost entirely stairs for the first 250m (900') of vertical to the Bellevue and small overhanging lookout.
From the Bellevue, the trail went up some more through the woods and came down a bit to reach the Refuge, a small, but moderately elegant pavilion still high above the water. From here you could see the back of the head of the statue, which was right down on the water, some moderately obscured views of the Sagenay Fiord .
I decided that down and up again in the woods was not all that inspiring so I turned around and went back up and down.
I arrived back at my tent at about 5:30pm. It was a good day.

6  Sunday Aug. 6, Baie d'Éternité to "Up the hill Camp"

Today, according to the forecast before I left, was supposed to be one of rain, but it is now actually brilliant sunshine. Since I have done all I wanted here, I will leave as soon as I am able.
The ride up the 200m climb was not as bad as I expected, but was quite distressing. Yesterday, a man on the Cap Trinité trail asked me about my "funny" bicycle seat.
One thing he said "Was it efficient?". It never occurred to me to ask whether the really distressing aspects of my hill climbing was due to the "efficiency" of my seat. I really thought it was my lack of "efficiency" that made it difficult to climb hills. This seat, which is based on ones sold on the internet, was intended to increase the circulation under my bum and reduce my propensity to get rather painful saddle sores. It did accomplish that, but the downside was rather great.
I spent most of the day analysing the power transfer from me to the pedals and decided that this seat may reduce saddle sores, but it kept me sitting too far back to efficiently transfer the power from the legs to the pedals. In addition, the muscle pain was obvious. I need all the efficiency I can get with my diminishing power source. I will get a new seat at Canadian Tire in La Baie tomorrow.
I stopped at about 3:30pm at the place where I died coming up the hill from La Baie and spent a lazy afternoon basking in the sun. It was only 38km, but I had no reason to go on.

7  Monday Aug. 7, "Up the hill Camp" to Jonquière

At first light, it started to dribble. By the time I was ready to leave, it was light rain, and just after I had finished packing the trailer, it really started to pour. I had to be very careful going down the hill, which the sign finally said was only 6%, and made my way beside the bay to La Baie. I replaced the old seat with a new one from Canadian Tire, and continued towards Chicoutimi, now in nice bright sunshine. The new seat was better, but still did not make hill climbing easy. I spent a long time adjusting it, and think I do understand, a little better, the mechanics. It is still not as good a design as I would like so I will look for a better one when I get home.
In Chicoutimi, I picked up La Route Vert, 8 (LRV8) just as it crossed the Saguenay. It is indeed, very pleasant, taking you ways that you would never be able to go with just a map. It also passed Chicoutimi's main attraction, the Pulperie museum to the paper industry.
I continued along the LRV8, passing along the River Walk, in Jonquière and stopped for the night at the Camping Jonquière where I stayed the first night. Just after I registered, it started to rain, so I put the tent up in the rain - ugh, down and up in the rain in one day! There was a brief respite later so I was able to walk up the hill to have my shower without much more water. Today was 63km.

8  Tuesday Aug. 8, Jonquière to Lac Vert

Much to my delight, the sun is shining, and it stayed that way all day. It was a very good day, but started out with some trauma. As I was riding out, I discovered that the rear tire was flat. I stopped at an adjacent campsite, emptied the trailer to get to the tools, and fixed the tube - sort of. The hole was fixed, and I found a small piece of glass still in the tire, but it would not inflate. The valve had been cut by the short ride, and I had to replace the entire tube with a new one. The tube will have to be replaced as soon as possible. I finally left at about 11:30am and did make it up the hill and out.
It was beautiful all day, but I missed the place I wanted to stop and ended up at the Municipal Campground of Lac Vert. It was about 3:30pm and only 32km but I had no reason to go any further, and I wanted to dry out the tent and my wet clothes.
It appears that almost all commercial campgrounds are really semi-permanent RV parks. In general, there accommodation of tents is limited and dreary. Here the nice lady put me in a small grassy area under a tree right by the water. This was the view out my front door.
It was a good day.

9  Wednesday Aug. 9, Lac Vert to Chambord

Again the sunrise was visible, but the sun disappeared to be replaced by overcast dullness just before noon.
After some very distressing hills - it is not flat getting to Lac St. Jean - I arrived at the Véloroute des Bluets - Blueberry Bicycle Route that circles the lake. My first view of a gray Lac St. Jean was from the bicycle rest stop just after I joined the it.
When I arrived at the rest stop, I was alone. Within a few minutes, there were about 20 others, all day trippers. After my banana refueling, I left, and was slightly disappointed that the paved path became gravel. Sometimes it was paved, sometimes gravel, and sometimes just the shoulder on the main highway. I was a little disappointed. The path ran mostly through fields, on the road, or by houses that blocked your view of the lake. It remained gray all the rest of the day, and the lake from the bicycle path was hardly exciting.
I didn't see a single blueberry on the entire ride, and was sufficiently under whelmed that I decided not to ride around the lake but take the train home from Chambord tomorrow.
This time my map indicated that there was a campground just north of Chambord, and for the first time it was right. I arrived there very early in the afternoon, and was given a small spot amongst all the other RVs. It was not unpleasant, but it was also not very exciting.

10  Thursday Aug. 10, Chambord to Montreal

It poured all night and I was rather dismayed that I would have to take my tent down in the rain. However, it stopped just before dawn, and the tent was soaked, but it was not raining. It was only about 6km back to the station and a quite easy ride.
The train arrived at the Chambord station a half hour late and maintained this alarming lack of promptness for the entire trip, arriving in Montreal about two hours late. I asked one of the conductors if the train was ever on time and she said that in the summer, with all of the track maintenance and restricted speeds over the new track, almost never.
However, it was a beautiful evening in Montreal for the ride home.

11  Google Earth Map of Trip

I had my GPS with me again on this trip, and have been able to create a Google Earth file with the return track from Baie Éternité to Chambord. This is a link to that file : Saguenay Bicycle Track.

File translated from TEX by TTH, version 3.64.
On 17 Oct 2006, 07:08.