07-29-2012, 01:00 PM
Joined: Jul 2012
Transtaiga Highway/Route du Nord 2012
About 6 months ago my dad approached me about taking a trip to ride the Transtaiga Highway in northern Quebec. To be honest I had never heard of the Transtaiga Highway(832 miles of gravel roundtrip) but it sounded like fun so the planning began. I have only had my R1200GS for a year and a half and had yet to do a legit gravel ride so I could hardly wait and we began planning right away. As the trip approached we decided to add the Route du Nord(254 miles of gravel) to our plan as well. We decided our jumpoff point for the trip would be Fremont, Mi and set the date for 6/24/12.
With that as our rough trip plan we headed north into Ontario via the Sault Ste. Marie border crossing and made it to The shoals provincial campground our first day (479 miles). The weather was great and the bugs weren’t too bad so we set up camp, made a fire and called it a day.
The next morning we packed up camp and headed to Chibougamau, Quebec (595 miles). This is the starting point of the Route du Nord and after a long day of riding we found a motel for the night and got a good nights rest. The following morning we woke up to a light rain and headed out to start our first gravel section of the trip.
The light rain left the gravel in great condition and as we made our way towards the James Bay Highway the weather warmed up as well. We stopped at KM 238 to checkout the Rupert River. What a sight, a truly powerful river. There’s a great boardwalk that leads down to the overlook.
At KM 299 we missed our turn to Nemaska and had our first mishap of the trip. As we were turning around to head into town my dad got into the soft shoulder of the road and laid his bike down. Unfortunately he tweaked his left ankle pretty good, little did we know at the time how severe it was. After picking up the bike and checking it over we headed into town and got a bite to eat and fueled up. This was the first time we had tried poutine and it lived up to the billing, very good. We also met a local Cree indian man at the restaurant and after spending an hour or so chatting with him we were back on our way. At KM 407 the Route du Nord ends at the James Bay Highway, the intersection is KM 274 of the JBH which means it lies 274 KM north of Matagami. We continued north to Radisson and spent the evening planning our next days ride, which would start the Transtaiga Highway section of our trip. We ended up putting on 495 miles this day. The next morning we left Radisson and after backtracking south on the JBH approx. 45 miles we came to the Transtaiga Highway Intersection.
The weather was warm and the condition of the road was good. We hit a few loose sections but overall made very good time and made a few stops along the way to check out the scenery.
We called it a day once we made it to Mirage Outfitters, which would be our home away from home for the next few days. This was our shortest day of riding on the trip at just 275 miles but we wanted to take it easy as the next day we were planning to complete the Transtaiga highway and return back to Mirage that evening.
After a night of planning and relaxation we headed out to tackle the rest of the Transtaiga. The ride to Caniapiscau, KM 666 and the end of the road, went well but we did hit pretty hard rain just outside of Brisay which made the last hour and a half pretty tricky. The weather had been fairly dry here recently and dried the road out very well. Once the rain started coming down the surface got very slippery and the loose sections were much harder to navigate. We no longer could complain about the dust, but the rain brought its own set of issues. Fortunately we had been able to contact the owner of Explo Sylva, a caribou outfitter in Caniapiscau, the week before our trip and confirm that he would be there to supply fuel for us. He had just made it in the week before our trip to start setting up for his season so it worked out well. Having this fuel available allowed us to only carry a few gallons each for safety. After spending a few hours at Explo and getting a bite to eat, some hot coffee and fueling up the bikes we headed back towards Mirage. By this time the conditions of the road had gone from poor to terrible and we had quite a trip back. My dad ended up crashing twice on our return trip, but fortunately in both accidents was not hurt. The bike on the other hand took a beating, but never gave us any trouble. Both vario cases had been ripped off the sides of the bike and we only had enough netting to strap one on to our bikes. So if you see a vario case along the side of the TTH you know where it came from. After making it back to Mirage we were very thankful to have made it without any serious injuries, and couldn’t wait to get a meal and get to bed as we still had to finish the rest of the TTH the next day. Total miles for the day was 385.
We awoke to light rain the next morning and knew we still had some tough riding ahead of us. About 20 miles outside of Mirage we hit a nasty section of marbles and my dad went down again. This time he was hurt and we were still in the middle of nowhere, QC. After clearing the road it was obvious he had separated his shoulder. We didn’t have a lot of options and he insisted he could ride so after hoisting the bike up we got situated and headed west, at a much slower pace. Prior to our trip I had put a set of Heidenau K60’s on my bike and I’m convinced this is the only reason I didn’t wreck myself. My dad was running Metzler Tourances and they just didn’t provide enough traction in the conditions we encountered. It was a very long slow ride the rest of the way to the intersection of the JBH. The rain came and went and the road got better and worse in sections. We just plodded along and didn’t have any more trouble. I have never been so relieved to see pavement in my life.
From there we headed south all the way to Matagami and grabbed a cheap motel for the night (588 miles). My dad was definitely struggling with his shoulder but insisted that he didn’t want to deal with it in Canada and that it could wait till we got home to get checked out. So we continued south and made it home 2 days later after logging 920 miles total. When we finally made it back to Fremont, Mi on 7/01 we got the bikes unpacked and I brought my dad to the ER to get checked out. Turns out that the ankle he tweaked 5 days prior had actually been a broken ankle and his shoulder was separated as we had thought. I will never know how he rode all those miles in that condition without complaining, but I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised as he is a United States Marine. We now joke with each other that it could always be worse. We could be back on the TTH in the pouring rain picking up a muddy and fully loaded GS. Hope you all enjoy our trip report. We had a great ride and it will definitely be one we never forget.
TDK screwed with this post 07-29-2012 at 02:11 PM
Reason: same pic twice