Julie and I wanted to do a “mari usque ad mare” style ATV ride on the North Shore. Translation adapted to our situation: from one “end” of trail to the other “end” of trail, i.e. between the Pelchat hotel, in Les Escoumins, and the Moisie river, in Sept-Îles.
We had to postpone this project of ATV ride several times, among other things because of our availability and major problems on certain portions of the trails. For example, the closure of the bridges on the Sault-au-Mouton River as well as the Rivière aux Pins in 2019. It was also no longer possible to cross the old footbridge which crossed the Sault aux Cochons River. Major work on these trails was done in 2020 and 2021.
In addition, the trail is still cut between Baie-Comeau and Godbout. Major investments would be necessary to connect the two cities and this is not for tomorrow. Research work is necessary to find a way to pass onto public lands north of Baie-Comeau. A route is finally found. Unfortunately, it is not possible to do this without having to take part of the public provincial road. The solution is to transport the ATVs over a distance of around 10 km. It’s already better than the 60 km of public road that separates the two cities.
As we are having our child looked after by my father-in-law, he agreed to accompany us. In fact, they will follow us by truck by road, from hotel to hotel. So we have our means of transport.
Day 1: Les Escoumins – Baie-Comeau
It’s the beginning! A beautiful day is ahead. We take off from Les Escoumins to go to Baie-Comeau. It begins with beautiful forest paths which lead us towards the Shamrok outfitter and then towards the ZEC D’Iberville. Beautiful winding trails. The immensity of the landscape makes us realize that we are really in the woods, it’s rustic and far from everything. A feeling of adventure invades us.
We tried to see the Philias Falls, the power station and the Innergex water intake. Unfortunately, everything is blocked except the water intake which is also a canoe landing stage. We take the opportunity to take a break at this place. Then we go to Forestville.
We stock up on lunch and gas. We went to dinner on the Rivière aux Pins bridge, near a lake of the same name. Once satisfied, we get on our quads to cover the 140 km that remain to be done before arriving in Baie-Comeau.
Lots of impressive infrastructure
When we reached the corner of Chutes-aux-Outardes, we had a little difficulty getting through the double gates of the barrier. We wonder how UTVs can pass. After crossing, we noticed a small bypass trail not far away. We’re not sure if it’s federated, but the important thing is that we passed.
Since the start, we have passed through several infrastructures which are all impressive, but there is one which cannot leave us indifferent. This is the famous footbridge that crosses the Manicouagan River in Baie-Comeau. It is 27.4 meters high and 213 meters long. This long structure is an old log flume, a water slide to transport logs to the pulp and paper factory. It was built in 1937 and part of the structure has been preserved to make an ATV and snowmobile trail.
When I passed this structure in 2006, there was a barrier right in the middle of the footbridge. In fact, you had to be a member of the ATV club in the area to have the key in order to pass. Fortunately, this is no longer necessary.
We arrived at the motel in Baie-Comeau around 6 p.m. after traveling more than 268 km. Immediately upon arriving, we load our ATVs on the trailer. In fact, the next morning, you have to drive 10 km of public provincial road to reach the other section of the trail.
Day 2: Baie-Comeau – Baie-Trinité
Another beautiful day is ahead. Around 8:15 a.m., we drive by truck to the other section of the trail to then unload the ATVs. The first kilometers are a forest path and we ride at a good pace. We stop near the falls in Gadou to take a break.
We heard about a section of the trail further north that would be flooded, but the depth of the water was unknown. While driving, we come across a family on the edge of the chalet. We ask her if it works and she tells us that it should work but only by ATV, not by car.
Nature takes back its rights on the trail
The further up the narrow path you go, the wilder it becomes. Near Blanc Lake, the trail is actually flooded by a beaver dam.
I make a first attempt in the middle of the trail and the water quickly rises above the lights. No choice, we must step back. I try again by driving closer to the edge of the path while following the shrubs. It seems to work well. Suddenly, further on, the front of the ATV abruptly stalls up above the rack. There is surely a channel at the bottom of the water. There are 15 feet left before reaching dry land. So close, so far! By still moving forward slowly, the front no longer seems to sink. Confident, I give a good burst of gas and I end up crossing, quickly going back to the dry surface.
We take a quick break and then go up to the Cyprès Lake outfitter. Once there, we stock up our ATVs with gasoline. Plus, we have an interesting chat with the friendly owner of the place, Charles Pinard. He didn’t expect to see us arrive at his house by ATV from Baie-Comeau. To be honest, it flattered our ego, hehe! If we didn’t have the rest of the trip to do, we would have stayed chatting with him.
On the way to Godbout
We leave the outfitter and head south, towards Godbout. On the way, we have to cross the Godbout River by pontoon. There is a pedal boat nearby so you can go to the pontoon on the other side of the river. We take the ATVs on this one and we have to turn the winch to cross.
Once on the other side, we stop on the banks of the river for dinner. Then we go down to Godbout. After crossing the village, we come up against a bridge blocked with concrete blocks. The trail displayed in iQuad cellphone application does not appear to be up to date. Looking for the bypass route on the GPS, there seem to be several. In order to avoid disturbing the village residents and potentially passing onto private land, we call the president of the local club. It tells us where to go to get around this obstacle.
Destination of the day: Baie-Trinité
We are heading towards Baie-Trinité. The first 25 kilometers are real ATV trails, hills, rocks and even tall grass. We love this kind of journey!
We come across a tractor which is driven by the president of the club we called. He informs us that the path further ahead of us is blocked by numerous fallen trees and explains to us where to go around.
Not far from Baie-Trinité, we come across many cars parked on the side of the trail, even small compact ones that we didn’t expect to see there. We come across more than a hundred of them. A couple passes by us on foot and we ask why there are so many vehicles. There is an event called “Rainbow Gathering” on the seaside. Every year, they look for a free place where they will live in a group and independently for a certain period of time.
We arrived in Baie-Trinité around 6 p.m. Total distance: 228 km.
You can read the rest of our journey on another publication of the ATV Trail Rider website!
Text: Eric Leblanc