Mike’s Ride Report – Temiskaming Loop, Mattawa to New Liskeard

Today we completed the first half of the Temiskaming Loop, leaving Mattawa, taking the 533 (also known as the Mattawa Shortcut), then the 63 to Quebec, and then following Highway 101 all the way to New Liskeard. While I’ve personally done this ride no less than once a year, I never fail to find the scenery inspiring and the curves entertaining.

This ride is part of the Ride The North series of routes, created by Northeastern Ontario. Like them on FaceBook to see some of the pics and vids from around the region and find out why this is Ontario’s next great riding destination.

Mattawa to New Liskeard via Quebec– Ride Report

The ride report varies so greatly between the 533 and the rest of the route that I’m separating them here. First the 533:

  • Rideability: Amazing, if you’re on a dual sport. There are lots of patched up potholes and frost heaves, but the roads are incredibly hilly and twisty, which more than makes up for it. Just don’t pretend this is going to be fun on a Goldwing, ST or Harley. But honestly, if you’re on anything with decent ground clearance, long travel suspension and some tires with agressive tread, this will be some incredible fun. This is just the kind of road my F650GS was made for.
  • Road Quality: Good to Poor. As I said before, lots of patches areas, shoulders are soft, frost heaves give the pavement lots of “texture”
  • Scenic Value: OK – It’s pretty thick brush most of the way through, with only a few glimpses of Lakes
  • Services: None

And now the 63 to the 101 to New Liskeard:

  • Rideability: Very High – Lots of long turns, more than a few ups and downs, and even a few straightaways that manage to entertain.
  • Road Quality: Good to Very Good – Aside from one slightly rough stretch just after you leave the Quebec city of Temiscamingue, the rest in in really good shape. All asphalt.
  • Scenic Value: Very High – This is the big sell for this part of the trip. The ride from Highway 63 to Highway 101 is easily one of the most scenic in the province, with the road running directly beside the Ottawa River. Once in to Quebec, it’s a bit of bush before that gives way to rolling farmland surrounded by massive cliffs and mountains, and the boreal forest. It’s a truly stunning combination of landscapes, rarely found together in North America.
  • Services: Very Good. Plenty of gas stops, lots of places to eat (mostly diner style eating, with the notable exception of La Bannik restaurant which is gourmet to a T), a few motels.

Overall: I’d love to stretch this ride out to two days and explore more of the countryside. When you roll over from straight forest to the agricultural areas, the scenery will absolutely captivate you, and make you want to just ride around in these rolling farm hills all day.

As always, if you want more information about riding in Ontario, check out Routes.OntarioRides.ca or plan your road trip at www.GoTourOntario.ca.

View Temiskaming Loop Day 1 in a larger map

Day 8 Video – At Lake Kipawa

We also tried to have some fun with our Lake Kipawa stop. But it didn’t go exactly as planned.

So we tried something else. That didn’t go as planned either…

Quebec and the Agricultural North

I don’t often have time for a written update, but the events of the last 24 hours demand that I set aside some time tonight to describe some of the things we experienced today.

The first part of our drive through Quebec was typical northern scenery – trees, lakes, etc. We drove down to Lake Kipawa the night before, and it was Muskoka-esque, without the mansions. But today we entered the southern part of what’s known as the “little claybelt” – an agriculturally rich area in the North, with a good dose of the things that make the north, the north. Namely, forests, lakes and rocks.

We woke up at the campground at La Bannik in Duhamel-Ouest and walked down the street to Fort Temiskaming, one of Parks Canada’s historical sites. Alexe, Ed and I were all fairly impressed by the pieces they had on display and their “interpretive centre.” This term seems to come up a lot, and all it essentially means is a museum. The “interpretive” aspect is the information they present to make the objects (photos, videos, artifacts) relevant to you.

Fort Temiskaming was a trading post, and seemingly a hotly contested one by both the French and English trading companies of the era. The spot was chosen for the narrowness of the lake, which allowed for easy movement of goods from one side to the other. There was also a cedar forest, where the trees had all bent in strange shapes due to the calcium content in the soil.

We then went to visit the Lourdes Grotto in Ville-Marie that easily has one of the prettiest and highest views in the region. We stopped at the house of Father Moffat, the person generally credited with starting farming in the area.

We then drove out to Ile du College on a little country road. For literally years I’ve looked at this map and wondered what this place was like. Ed was pretty adamant that we visit as well, even though it could only be a few kilometers of road.

We were not disappointed – this little island had rolling farmland, and afforded some pretty spectacular views of the lake. Both the drive in (over this tiny stone causeway) and out were well worth it.

The rest of our drive and day offered similarly spectacular views, yellow canola fields lighting up our eyes, gently rolling hills with massive rocks and forests framing it all.

Ile du College

We parked in Notre-Dame du Nord and ate sandwiches at the side of the road, then continued on into Ontario, where the landscape was largely the same.

We took a chance, deciding to try the road to Belle Vallee Wools, and both RV and motorcycle made it through unscathed, although the last 12km was some pretty serious gravel road. The bee hives surrounded by electric fences to keep bears away was an amusing sight. We arrived at Belle Vallee just as they were starting a tour, and they showed us how they make their wares (wool blankets, scarves, yarn, toques, mittens, etc.)  from start to finish – the only place that controls the entire process. The result is nothing short of incredible.

I’d be the first to admit that we tend to be heavy on the hyperbole here, but this place, and the owner, Dave, control the entire process. They shear their sheep (and buy from other farmers in the area), card and comb all the wool, process it into yard, do the billions of tiny little processes that take to make any one of the object you might purchase, and you can tell. Dave is a great storyteller, and his love of this work comes through, not only in his descriptions of each machine, it’s history and it’s place in the process, but in the things you buy. We touched an unwashed blanket and a washed one, and were all pretty much sold of how the extra washing makes the difference. AND you can wash their goods without any worry of shrinkage! How neat is that.

Tonight we’re at the Sutton Bay Campground and the place is right on the shores of Lake Temiskaming. Our host, Ray Laferriere, has been more than hospitable, and is another fabulous example of how friendly people in the North can be. Our site is also pretty gorgeous.

So what are you waiting for?

I’ve been writing about touring Northern Ontario by motorcycle for the last three years, and this is probably one of the first and most important routes I learned about or worked to help promote. This map also has over 12,000 hits – probably the most popular web thing I’ve ever done!

Temiskaming Loop – We Start This Journey Tomorrow