After touring the east coast of the Gaspé Peninsula in early March, and experiencing the very scenic coastline of the Atlantic and stunning view of Perce Rock, we decided to explore the interior of the famous Chic Choc Mountains via the only trail directly through them on trail 595. The Gaspé Peninsula of the Québec Maritime is on many Sledders’ “Bucket list” and if it is not on yours, I would suggest you take a few minutes and check it out www.snowmobilequebecmaritime.ca, because I am willing to bet that you will add it to your list.
The Québec Maritime is a snowmobiler’s Utopia, fro m the shores of the Atlantic to deep into her interior. This white blanket paradise offers something for every rider’s desire; perfectly groomed and well marked trails, to some of the best off trail experiences that every long tracker seeks to explore. The average snowfall in the interior is 9 meters or 27 feet. So.… if you’re looking to get remote and feel like someone has dropped you in the middle of nowhere…..this is for you! With 6,000 kms in the entire Qc Maritime and 2000 kms of trails in the Peninsula, this winter playground offers some of the best possible riding and views that you could possibly imagine.
So we at OSM made our call to Zoé Ross of the Québec Maritime tourism and put our order in for the first week of March. Zoé staked out our route and booked all of our fabulous lodging along the way for our three day tour. With a route of 1,170 kms scheduled for three days of riding, we were checking the weather forecast and things were beginning to shape up.
In 2012, most of North America saw minimal amounts of snowfall, and the average sled would not have seen 500 miles roll on the odometer. But we were thankful that Mother Nature still blessed Gaspé. She didn’t deposit near the average, but still dropped 12+ feet in the mountains. So we were more than thrilled to be trekking east to experience the Chic Chocs.
With the trailer hitched to the truck, our gear packed and sleds fuelled to ride, we took off from the shop for 12.5 hours, heading to our first night’s stay and return destination in Rimouski, at Hôtel Rimouski. www.quebecmaritime.ca/hotelrimouski
We arrived at the Hotel just in time to have some dinner and spill a few cool ones before we loaded our backpacks and the saddlebag on the “Mule” Adventure Switchback and bunked down for the night.
Waking up in the morning to close to six inches of fresh snow and some cooler temps, it was shaping up to be a great start to our ride.
Along on this year’s Tour with me was first timer Dave “Boomer” Holliday, veterans Jamie Colvin and Andrew Steele, and they were ready to get the adventure started.
On our first day’s ride, we had a destination east along the St. Lawrence Seaway on the main Peninsula trail #5, heading towards Cap-Chat and Hotel Village Grande Nature Chic Chocs.
Trial #5 is the main route to travel and explore the exterior of the Gaspé Peninsula, with continual views of the St. Lawrence, the Atlantic Ocean, and on the most southerly side into Chaleur Bay with multiple trails that feed off, to help you ride the beautiful interior. There is no shortage of great lodging and fuel stops along the way to suit anyone’s budget and standards.
As we headed east on six inches of fresh snow, the trails were the reason we travel 12.5 hours for this experience. The riding in the QC Maritimes is like no other; they are wide, well maintained, signed to perfection and never boring along the way. They make you want to slide your butt from one side of the sled to the other, all while pushing your right thumb to its max.
At our first rest stop, the helmets came off and the boys were grinning from ear to ear, with comments like, ‘This is why we drive this far!’
Continuing on and loving everything that this trail had to offer, we found our daylight slowly disappearing, and our lodging destination within a few miles. We topped up with fuel in Cap-Chat and pulled into Hotel Village Grande Nature. This Hotel is 15 miles by trail, south of Cap-Chat and it feels like it’s as remote as it gets. It has a perfect view of the Chic Chocs, and offers fabulous dining and a relaxing lounge to put your feet up and enjoy all the riding stories anyone could handle.
Day two started with the sun shinning and our alarms set for 6:30 am, with a target trail time of 8:00. We were setting out for a big mile day and to ride the interior trail 595 through the Chic Chocs. Having to double back close to 30 miles from our Hotel to the north starting point of 595, we were pumped about climbing and working our way through the Mountains. We only got to see them last year from the cab of a pick-up on our taxi ride back south to New Richmond.
For those who may have missed last year’s OSM trail atlas edition, we were forced to trailer through the Chic Chocs due to trail closures from too much snow. Yes… I did say too much snow! Our Flatlander sleds had nothing for the conditions that were left behind from the largest snowfall the Chic Chocs had seen in fifteen years, over two days; one of the main reasons we just had to come back to ride in 2012!
Finally on 595 heading south, the views and trails were obviously more spectacular than we experienced the year before in the truck. Honestly breathtaking!!… and you can hardly believe that you are actually riding a sled and experiencing what this east coast landscape has to offer. Huge elevation climbs and descents with 2,000-3,000 ft. drops, if you happen to blow a corner. Climbing well past the point of your ears popping from the elevation change, the views are merely stunning, and you realize that this is a “Bucket List” ride.
With no shortage of wildlife tracks and their trials entering and exiting the bush, it was obvious that the moose and deer population was not suffering in these parts. While personally sighting a few wolves and the odd snow owl, it was the most animal tracks I have seen while riding.
After hours of riding through the mountains and beside running rivers and creeks, we could see the waters of Chaleur Bay in our sights, and we were almost at the end of this day’s ride. Now, on the south shore of the Peninsula and passing a sign showing only 50 kms to Carleton, we were now westbound on trail 5 and our next night’s stay at Hotel Manoir Belle Plage. If you are planning a south shore ride, this in an excellent Hotel to stopover for the night. The rooms are perfect with a great view of the Bay, and the dining room has some of the tastiest seafood dishes that I have tried. There is no commercial feel to this establishment whatsoever, and fuel is only steps away, making this a perfect stop for your trip.
Day three, the last one of our tour, had us starting again bright and early with our final stop at our starting point in Rimouski. We were on trail 5 heading Northwest, making great time on some fast and twisty logging roads, which every sledder knows, brings a perma grin to their face.
Although not as mountainous as the Chic Chocs, this region is far from flat, and the four of us were not disappointed.
Boomer put the Rush 800R LE to the test, and laid claim to her seat for most of the ride. If he had a label maker with him, I’m pretty sure he would have put his name on it.
The Adventure Switchback was the perfect buggy with its OEM rack and saddle bags, and it sure lightened our back packs. Steelie loved her couch-like feel and minimal cornering effort. Standing up is not his forte. Jamie stayed nice and warm on his Rush 600 with his new, mid-height windshield, and found it warmer than one of the rooms which mistakenly had the window left open all night. It’s tough getting frostbite while you sleep!
Still riding North on trail 5, we stopped for fuel in Causapscal, looking for trail 591 off of trail 5. With a small 30 km “wrong” way detour on 587S, we could only laugh at our missed trail sign as the riding was as good as it gets, and we hadn’t seen another sled for hours. This was another adrenaline filled ride! Once on 587N for a small section, we turned onto 579 in the home stretch for Rimouski. As every sign went by, the kms to our home destination were declining, and the thoughts of this tour were nearing its end. Catching 578 towards Rimouski took us to the front door of Hotel Rimouski and our final stop.
We finished this perfect adventure with a great meal and some great laughs with our tourism host Zoé at Hotel Rimouski, We are looking forward to returning to Gaspé and we can’t wait to see what she has planned for us in 2013. Because who wouldn’t want to take another adventure off their “Bucket List”?
Have a great 2013 riding season and I will see you on the trails!