I do not want to have anything to do with the North… Why?… Because I hate the darn bugs!
For years, when the warm days arrive, I head south, mostly to New York and Vermont, two areas less populated by these bloody little critters. This is also where my passion for gravel biking was born after participating in Rasputitsa for the first time in 2015.
However, with the border closure, I had to review my habits and open my mind to new destinations that are closer to home.
Off to the Laurentians.
My first encounter with Mont-Tremblant Park was last June when Alex concocted a "nice" 250 km gravel ride for us... A loop that started gently on the Petit Train du Nord towards the Cachée reception area, and then took the technical trails and secondary roads of Mont-Tremblant Park.
This vast territory of 1,510 km2 still bears the marks of the forestry industry, which explains, among other things, the hundreds of kilometers of unpaved roads ideal for adventure biking. Knowing that we would be riding in a "hostile" environment and that we would be almost on our own, I planned ahead:
1 bottle of Pi active, an insect repellent that does not contain DEET, perfect for not damaging technical clothing
1 bottle of Wilderness Off, this time with DEET for the most uncooperative
Long sleeves for the stops
Several iodine tablets to treat the water, because one of the advantages of the park is that you can "tank" almost everywhere
Marzipan, because marzipan is good
Chips and coke, in case of hard times
This first adventure in Mont-Tremblant Park was very demanding both physically and mentally. The trails were technical, sandy, and hilly, and the gravel sometimes deserved a second round in the crusher. I also fell prey to the tough northern beetles who did not care for my gear.
There was plenty to see. We came across lakes, rivers, a multitude of forest stands, swamps, marshes, bogs, two turtles and a porcupine. The real postcard Quebec. Since then, Mont-Tremblant Park has become one of my favourite playgrounds in summer and winter alike. The course combinations are "almost" endless. You just need to venture out a bit and plan options to shorten the routes when you are too ambitious – but that never happens to us. There is also a lot of information on Strava about this area. A word of caution... if you follow in our footsteps, you may have to “bushwhack.”
And if you are heading down Lake Macaza Road, say hello to Mr. Claude, who runs a small flea market in his yard. On our last gravel ride, I found the latest addition to the family... a beautiful vintage bike for commuting to Montreal.
Finally, with respect to the bugs, the key is to stay on the move... So, forget picnics in the first few months of summer and seize the opportunity to pedal more.
-Karine Corbeil, Cycling Avenue ambassador