After a two-year hiatus due to the dreaded Covid-19 pandemic, the Matapedia ATV Club relaunched the famous Festival Quad Matapédien (FQM) on September 2, 3 and 4. This event, one of the most famous in the quad community, was in its twentieth edition this year. The world has changed dramatically in the last two years and when you put an institution like the FQM back on track, you can be anxious about the response of the fans to the activity. To the great relief of the organizers, the response was positive, as 300 ATV riders came to ride the trails. This is a comparable number of participants that the 19th edition, the 2019 edition, had attracted. Finally, despite the societal upheaval brought on by the pandemic, the province’s ATV riders turned out in force.
There are always two rides offered at the Quad Festival: the red and the green. During the last editions, we could notice real efforts of variations of routes, either for needs of change or by necessity because of the radical transformation of the territory. But this year the changes are radical. First, for the first time in 20 years, the routes are going counterclockwise. Secondly, the two hikes will go east and west of Amqui instead of one full day in the east and the other in the west. Obviously, the attractions visited are not the same. This is a great improvement, because even if you ride the same trails, you will see new panoramas.
The Red Ride (164 km):
The first change as you leave, you cross Lake Matapedia over the covered bridge east of Amqui to get to the first stop, which is at the lookout of the falls in Philomène. This lookout, which benefits the entire local community, is a remarkable citizen initiative of the Club quad de la Matapédia. Afterwards, we cross the Matapedia River by the André-Blouin footbridge west of Amqui to head for the second break at the Mario-Lefrancois rest area, which offers an overhanging view of the village and fields of St-Léon-le-Grand.
Then, still going counterclockwise, the hike will take you to the Spanish Flu Memorial Site which is a memorial erected on the site of a former lumber camp. This site takes on new meaning in these times of pandemic, as it highlights the tragic deaths of lumberjacks in the fall of 1918 from the Spanish Flu. Renovated a few years ago, this site encourages us to introspect and to think about how difficult life was at that time and that, as Covid proves, pandemics are always possible.
Next, the steward leads the group up St. Peter’s Mountain to the observation tower built by the club, which offers a 360-degree view of the entire region. To get there, you will cross the Lake Alfred Wind Farm and its forest of wind turbines that slowly turn their white blades in the sun. This Lake Alfred Wind Farm, which was installed in the area in 2012 and 2013, has 150 wind turbines and covers an area of 16,800 hectares. It is the largest wind farm built in Canada. Each of the turbines required the construction of access roads cleared to 200 feet wide, with constant slope grading to allow for the transportation of oversized convoys of parts or giant cranes.
After lunch served at the village of Redemption, the group leaves by the trail and will stop at the Lake Alfred waterfall where there is a lookout point. They will then go to the Val-d’Irène mountain to visit the observation tower which offers a dominant view of the surroundings and the weather radar which is used to make observations of the sky of Eastern Quebec. Afterwards, it’s back to the club’s garage where the day will end.
The Green Ride (166 km):
The green ride is not outdone in terms of its twists and turns. The route is also counter-clockwise and takes us eastward around Lake Matapedia with stops at the Soucy Depot on the lakefront, Sayabec and the Vallée de la Framboise in Val-Brillant. This producer started in 1994 to produce raspberries, currants and black currants. Over the years, they have developed a line of raspberry and black currant wines, many of which have won awards in North American competitions. We can only rejoice at the success of these people who believed in their dreams, deployed prodigious treasures of tenacity and hard work and are now reaping the benefits.
The group will also have the opportunity to stop at the gazebo in Val-Brillant where the view of Lake Matapedia is superb before heading west of Amqui for dinner in Albertville.
In the afternoon, the group will visit the site of the falls and the current. In recent years, a salmon interpretation component was developed and an exhibit room was built. Unfortunately, the underwater camera that transmitted the image of the salmon swimming in the pit was broken and removed from the pit. However, Michel, one of the custodians of the site, gave us a captivating account of the life cycle of the salmon, from birth to death. A beautiful, interesting, instructive and above all unexpected visit this far into the woods.
The group will finish the hike by driving through a succession of narrow forest trails (just the way I like them), then through fields of forage or ripe grain ready to be harvested. Besides the trails, the hiker will be able to feast his eyes on the spectacle representing well the agricultural and forest character of the region: the mosaic of green or blond fields, wooded lots, the whole rolled out on the undulating sides of the Matapedia valley.
What hasn’t changed in Amqui
The Festival Quad Matapédien remains a large gathering to promote the festive aspect of the quad activity to the inhabitants of the region and to guide the visitors. It is very remarkable that the Festival committee manages to keep the considerable resources of the club’s volunteers mobilized for the success of the festival. In the Festival’s constant search for innovation, the redesign of the rides is a master stroke, as we no longer had that déjà vu feeling. A breath of fresh air for the 20th anniversary of the Festival.
Whatever one may say, the Matapedia Quad Club has planted the seeds of a model of OHV club management that is a textbook example in the world of quad biking, even outside the borders of Quebec. In the field, we can feel the results of this search for excellence and innovation in order to make the quad activity known in a positive way. People talk about the quad as a tourist resource and not as a nuisance. The population has become aware that quads, beyond the reprehensible behavior of a few hotheads, bring a really appreciable windfall to the region.