Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Road Trip along Quebec’s North Shore: Montreal to La Tuque

Covered bridge near St-Mathieu, Qc
Photo by Kate Tompkins
We started our trip along the north shore by leaving the St. Lawrence entirely and heading mostly north, to La Tuque. Since we’d done the Montreal to Quebec City stretch before, we figured we’d like to see something different.

The first part of the day wasn’t that exciting, as we were driving on a busy highway through an urban area. I did see one thing I would have liked to have gone back and taken another look at, however. That was an old-fashioned A&W at Joliette—the type you drove to, and got served in your car. No idea if they’re still using car hops. I’ll have to check it out one of these days.

As we got into a more rural area, we started to see signs for covered bridges. We stopped for lunch at one near St-Mathieu, but there were at least two others. The owners of some property nearby have graciously allowed access to a viewing point on the water, with a small picnic shelter, and we took advantage.

Back on the road, we decided on another detour and drove through the Parc National de la Mauricie, in hopes of seeing some wildlife. Did spot chipmunks and a blue jay, but nothing of any size. However, there was a good lookout point (a very short hike in from a parking lot) which almost made it worth the hefty entrance fee to the park. It did look like a great park for camping and canoeing—we could see several canoes from the lookout.

Parc National de la Mauricie
Photo by Kate Tompkins
After that we had to go almost as far back as Shawinigan in order to cross the river and swing north again. From that point on traffic began to pick up, but it was mostly lumber trucks and they were all in a hurry, usually on our tail. Except when we were going uphill, which happened a lot.

Somewhere between Shawinigan and La Tuque we saw a sign that the next gas station would be the last one for quite a while. As far as the highway is concerned, that’s true, but there are several stations in La Tuque itself.

La Tuque struck me as a frontier town. Most of the people staying at our hotel were hydro workers who got up very early in the morning. Not much in the way of restaurants unless you enjoy fast food. On the other hand, it has a really excellent municipal park with an observation tower and several small museums. One is on singer-songwriter Felix Leclerc, who was from there, another on the local fur trade. There was a collection of boat engines in a couple of sheds but they were under lock and key when we were there. The park also has a pond, a waterfall, and a small playground where your kids can let off steam. All free.
Falls at La Tuque
Photo by Thomas Tompkins

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