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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by John F, Sep 17, 2018.
Day 6 continued
The spillway at Opinaca dam.
Typical scenery near Opinaca Dam
Day 7 Clearcut on North Road to Lac de la Loutre on Route 167, 114 miles pavement 229 miles gravel
I got up, made coffee, packed up, and hit the road. A few hours later I rode into Chibougamau, where I hit a grocery store for more food and beer, then I headed over to Timmie’s to get a donut, coffee, and make some phone calls. Sadly, the dining room was closed and it was drive-thru only. I went over to McDonalds instead and had lunch.
After lunch I gassed up, filling my extra gas cans. About 100 miles south on 167 I was planning on turning west and cutting 300 miles across the “big empty” and camping at Casey airstrip (https://goo.gl/maps/6SPK4bKorRQ2) about halfway across. This is an 8000 foot paved runway in the middle of nowhere. It is left over from the cold war, and is the site where a where a Convair 540 smuggling drugs was once forced down by F-18s. It is also where a Lockheed Constellation spraying pesticides in the area crashed. It is now the site of a yearly gathering of general aviation pilots who fly their planes out there the first weekend each September, and set up camp for the weekend. I really wanted to camp there on my way up to the TransTaiga to be able to see all the planes and camp with the pilots, but figured if I got delayed at all I might not get to ride the TransTaiga. So I decided to camp there on my way home.
About 84 miles south of the junction of 113 and 167 I turned west onto gravel (https://goo.gl/maps/wWduDgrTS8N2). This starts out as a pretty smooth main route to Obedjiwan, but after a couple miles I bore left and the road got narrower and rougher. I crossed numerous washouts a foot or so deep and a foot or so across, thankful for my spoked wheels. I squeezed around some downed trees. At one point crossing a small bridge, as I left the bridge and dropped into the soft sand on the approach on the far side I lost it. Just like in the mud on the TransTaiga, I went way low on the right side, overcorrected and went way low on the left, then the bike righted itself. Again, the stubborn beast refused to go down no matter how hard I tried to wrestle it to the ground.
A while later I came to an intersection I recognized from all my obsessing over the maps https://goo.gl/maps/DkYcBAGHqqj and got off the bike to take some pictures. A sign on the road I just came down said “route abandoned, use at your own risk”, which might explain the washouts and downed trees…
I headed south toward the Barrage Gouin Water Aerodrome, which was one of my waypoints 23 miles away. 47 miles beyond that was Casey airstrip. The road was wide and smooth, but the surface looked it hadn’t been driven on recently. After a few miles I figured out why when I came to a washout maybe 20-30 feet wide and 15-20 feet deep. There was evidence of people managing to get four-wheel ATVs down to the water, across, and up the other side. But there was no way I was going to wrestle a 573 pound ADV bike, plus load, alone.
I looked at the maps on my phone and on the Nav V, and looked for an alternate route. Backtracking about 20 miles I could pick up a route to Wemotaci, and then at Wemotaci turn northwest and get to the Casey airstrip. However, this would add a couple hours and I was already pushing sunset with the original route. I figured I could camp somewhere short of Casey, and then tomorrow ride by Casey and check it out, and continue on to Parent and finally pavement at Mont Laurier.
So I backtracked to where the alternate route was (back up the abandoned route…). The alternate route was barely discernable in the trees as once having been a road. Another alternate route a couple more miles back looked better, and I turned down that with my Nav V showing 94 miles to Wemotaci. After a few miles it tightened up significantly, and the surface got very rough – almost like a rocky streambed. I could see reasonably recent four-wheel tire tracks, so I kept going. But after a few more minutes of very slow progress I saw my GPS showed 90 miles to Wemotaci. Who knows? The road could have opened up to a nice wide smooth gravel right around the next curve, or it could have continued like this for 90 miles. I stopped, shut off the bike, and contemplated what to do. I had already burned about four gallons, and figured if I found another impassable obstacle somewhere down the road I might not have enough gas left to backtrack to pavement. So that’s when I decided I was done with gravel for the trip. I backtracked the rest of the way to where I originally left route 167 and headed south on the pavement.
Ten miles down 167 I found logging road and turned off to look for a place to camp. About a tenth of a mile off 167 I spotted a narrow two-track going off into the woods with a sign “Lac de La Loutre”. I stopped to turn the bike around. And that’s when it happened. Partway around, in the soft fluffy dirt surface the front tire shifts a little to the left and I find that all my weight is on my right foot a little too close to the bike and couldn’t shift it. I stop, holding the bike up for a few seconds but knowing it’s a lost cause and I’m going down. I held it for maybe 10 seconds before falling over. Boom. I roll off the bike and then get up and quickly hit the kill switch.
The GSA is quite a joy to ride both on the road and in the dirt, and it’s surprisingly nimble. However, laying on its side in the middle of the road it’s little more than an inert bloated whale carcass, 573 pounds on its best day. The bike is too heavy for me to pick up fully loaded (but I can easily pick it up completely unloaded and with a full tank of gas), so I unstrapped my duffels, and popped off the left pannier, top box, and one of the two-gallon cans of gas and hauled everything to the side of the road. I was then easily able to pick up the bike and get it to the side of the road.
Partly unpacked, I decided to walk in the two-track and check out the site. Perfect. The road headed down to a little place to park and access the lake, and it looked like nobody had been in there for a long time. I carried everything in, then hopped on the bike and rode it in and set up camp. There was lots of firewood around so I built a fire and heated up some soup, which I ate along with a baguette and some cheese, and washed it all down with some beer. While I was sitting there enjoying the campfire a train came by on the nearby tracks. Three locomotives pulling countless cars stacked with lumber from up north.
The seventh night's camp:
The south/east end of the North Road
Along the road in the big empty on the way to Casey airstrip
Oh come on! You couldn't get through that little washout?
Actually, there was evidence of four-wheel ATVs making it across. Somebody had mashed down a ramp on either side of the washout, and the water crossing was only maybe 10 feet of six-inch deep water. I stood there for a while looking at it and decided there was a non-zero chance I could make it across, but only very slightly non-zero. I figured I'd rather spend an extra hour or two riding than wrestle with a beached whale with a very high likelihood of failure.
When I was camped with Jeff, Richard, and Greg up on the TransTaiga they told me of a ride they did around the Gouin Reservoir last year with 5 0r 6 people on DRs & KLRs, and they came across a washout and were able to work as a team to get each bike across. I sent him that picture and he confirmed it as the same washout. After we had camped together and they did the TransTaiga they went back down the JBR to Matagami, route 1055 over to Lebel sur Quevillion, and then down to Senneterre. From Senneterre they rode to Parent, the Casey Airstrip, Wemotaci, then to La Tuque where they had trailered their bikes two weeks earlier. (i.e. they rode the entire width of the "big empty" from west to east). At Casey they said the road in from the west to the airstrip was quite doable, but the road out to the northeast was quite difficult going out, and doubted they would have been able to make it in that way. Had I not run into that washout, this is the way I would have been approaching Casey airstrip. If some guys on DRs & KLRs working as a team had their doubts, I would have had no chance.
Great RR! Have done a couple of trips into the Big Empty and a couple trips to the Trans Taiga, and each has had a twist that changed the trip from a ride on dirt roads to an adventure.
I came around that same washout north of reservoir gouin and I found a nice way around, just check my gps file: https://advrider.com/f/threads/james-baie-via-quebec-loggin-road.1335913/
On my W250R I may have considered something like that off to the left... But solo I don't think I would have done it. On the big BMW... no way! Smart choice. Too much to go wrong too far from civilization.
I'm not even familiar with the term big empty. Looks like I've got some googling to do, and future trip ideas now.
How do you plot a gpx file? Could you possibly post a pic of the detour around the washout?
You can spend days looking at that area in Google Maps. And really, it’s only one long day away from home. Lots of adventures to be had there.
John, you can use google maps or you could also import it into Basecamp.
Want kind of gps do you have? My garmin montana log about every turn I make in a day.
About that car wreck near Eastmain.... look like someone stole their wheels....
I've got the BMW Navigator V (a Garmin product), and it logs everything I do as well. But I don't know how to look at a GPX file sitting at my computer here.
I was just wondering. When I hit that washout the best alternate route I saw was 20 miles back and an hour longer from that point. And the route I finally decided to try turned into a goat path. If there's a better way to get past that washout, I'd love to see it. (And I'll figure out how to view your GPX file on a computer where I've got administrator rights and can install what I need.) That blockage on the route on the east side of the reservoir complicates trip planning in the area.
You can open it with google earth or garmin basecamp.
The bypass was a few miles west of the main route.
You can see an X on the map, thats the washout, the blue line west of that, is the bypass.
BTW, Ville de la Tuque made a really nice map of that area,, you can buy it here: http://www.ville.latuque.qc.ca/fr/villegiature/chemins-forestiers/ ( sorry everything work in french here)
Great trip report John, Some awesome pictures and it is very Remote ! Smart decision to bail at the washout !
Awesome! Thanks. That route wasn’t obvious on the maps I had with me, but I’ll compare it to the ones I had left at home. I noticed that a lot of the roads up there are quite different from how they look on the maps or satellite views.
Awesome ride! I was also in the area trying to visiting Casey during the Fly-in, participating in the Parent Rally (roadbook navigation rally, Dakar style) and trying to connect 4 bridges dispersed in the Québec wilderness as a challenge given to us buy a friend.
A couple of buddies passed the washout on a 1290 and 950. Going South, (the way you were traveling) is the more feasible way as you have to negotiate the downhill only.
It's in french, but you get the picture...
They build new ones every years in that area, it's a real maze sometime.
I am in awe at the video at that link. That is exactly how I pictured I would look going down that hill, then bouncing across the water and up the other side. But that image was quickly replaced by a more realistic one of me and the bike sliding down the hill sideways and grinding to a stop at the bottom with me trapped underneath.
Your detour around the washout doesn't show up an any of the paper maps I have (the ones I left at home during my ride). Nor does it show up on Google maps (but some parts show up on map view, other parts show up on satellite view), nor does it show up on the maps stored in my Nav V (or even the Canadian topo map chip I have plugged into it). But it looks like most of it does show up on the paper map from La Tuque. Did you improvise the parts that aren't on that map, or did you have other resources?Thanks for the tip. I'll definitely be buying that before I head up there next time.
What was your experience with the "updatedness" of that paper map? I was somewhat amused by how different things on the ground looked compared to the map resources I had along. Obviously, the most current maps provide you with the best options when you're planning your route -- especially when you're replanning on the fly. Maybe someday we'll have broadband access out in the boonies and Google maps satellite view will be live...