This morning we woke up really early to make sure we could fit everything in! We wanted to cycle the 30-40km to Pleasant Bay to meet Agnes, but also do the skyline trail (which takes 2hrs), and summit two peaks, all before noon! Needless to say, it was a 5am wakeup (and we hit the road by 7am).
We had a few hills to climb before hitting the first big hill. The hills were steep, so we were a bit scared of French mountain, which we have heard many horror stories about! But it was a beautiful, clear morning! It was a touch chilli still, but the sun was rising and it was so pretty! The light hitting the rocks and ocean was gorgeous! It was a great morning for a cycle! Finally, we hit French mountain. There was a sign saying it was 11% over 6km. I don't know if the Gaspe has just made us so fit, or if the sign was over exaggerating, but it really wasn't bad! Neither Michael or I were on our lowest gear, and we had a full conversation the whole way up without being out of breath. It was long for a hill, but it really wasn't bad!
At the top of French we did the Skyline hike. It was a really easy hike (it was pretty much flat), but the views were stunning! The highlands are really cool (it's all really green grass and rock and ocean. What could be better?). We just went out to the first lookout then headed back (ie we didn't do the loop). It was slightly quicker so we could get to Agnes quicker (without missing out on the view!).
The second "summit" wasn't much of a climb. In fact, it wasn't a climb. It was at a lower altitude than French mountain, so it was a slight rolling downhill. The woman at the info center yesterday failed to mention this, and really made it sound like we would have two big climbs to do before Pleasant Bay. Poor show info lady! And now that I'm talking smack anyways, I might as well continue. I don't understand how the people at the info centers can be so wrong with their information. Some people I talked to said they didn't know the grades or lengths of the climbs, and others told me percentages and lengths that were not accurate AT ALL! They also told us distances that didn't make sense (ie they said Pleasant Bay was like 10km further than it actually is). Normally, this would be understandable. But this is the info center! They are supposed to know! Especially since there is only the ONE road, and to top it off, the grades and percentages and distances are all VERY well labeled on said ONE road. It's almost as if the people working at the info center have NEVER driven the road before! And there are a LOT of cyclists that do the cabbot trail, so they must get the same questions A LOT! So, to clarify for everyone in the future who wants to do the cabbot trail in the future (and is cycling in the clockwise direction), French mountain is 11% over 6km, and North mountain (which I'll get to later) is 13% over 3km. We didn't do Smokey today, so I'll get that info out tomorrow.
We had a nice, long, steep downhill into Pleasant Bay (12% for 4km). Not a bad morning ("two" summits and a two hour hike and just under 40km cycle all before noon! Operation success!). We met Agnes at the hostel. We were starving, and luckily, there was food for us there! We were ready to pull out the Sidekicks, but as we pulled up, Agnes offered us food. Another woman at the hostel was giving away her food because she said she couldn't finish it all. So, needless to say, we did our best to help her out! We had eggs and toast with tomatoes and tea. It was wonderful!
After we finished our food and Agnes finished packing, we hit the road (with only one small hitch. Agnes had to fix her brakes which were rubbing). It was just after 2pm when we really got started. North mountain, which was to be the hardest, was just ahead. But it was a great day for cycling! It was great weather, and there was a tail wind! Agnes was fully rested, and super pumped to hit the road! It was a gorgeous cycle until we hit North mountain. It was steep! We took a few breaks on the way up. I was further ahead than Michael and Agnes. Agnes did a very good job up the mountain! I was impressed because it was hard! I didn't' have a low enough gear set to go slow with Agnes, but Michael did, and he's stronger than I am so could more easily control his pace. So, I would keep cycling until they were out of sight, then I would wait for them to catch up. When they caught up, we would rest a bit before continuing onwards. The hill was painfully steep, but still not as bad as Quebec! The steepness was on par with the hills in Quebec, but on the Cabbot trail, the ups were followed by rest. In Quebec, it was relentless! There were no rests!
Alas, we made it to the summit! And, obviously, took a muscle shot at the summit sign!
On the way down the steep hill (13% over 5km), I was faster than Michael and Agnes, so waited at the first lookout point for them to catch up. I had my camera at the ready to take a shot of them coming down. I waited quite a bit, but they never came. I was just about to (unwillingly) cycle back up the 1km I just descended when a car came and stopped at the lookout. I asked if they saw two other cyclists and they said they were just taking pictures. So I waited. After a few different cars came and went, the story went from they were taking pictures, to they were just fixing a spoke to just fixing a flat. They sent a message down with one of the cars saying to wait for them because there wasn't anything I could do up there, and they were just about to hit the road. It took a while, and then I got another message from another car saying they were trying to hitch a ride. I was about to cycle up the hill, but the headwind was BRUTAL and just as I was about to get on my bike, a pickup truck was coming. I flagged them down and asked if they could bring Michael and Agnes down to the lookout point (as they were going in the opposite direction, they wouldn't be able to get us where we needed to go, but at least the three of us would be together, and it would be safer for them to work on their bikes at the lookout instead of at the side of the road (where the shoulder is minimal)). They were really nice and brought the other two down.
The wind was brutal at this lookout, so we put on a bunch of layers while Michael worked on his bike. He fixed his bike (both the spoke and the flat), and just as he was ready to cycle, his tire was flat again. He changed his tire about 4 times with the same result. He checked the tire, the spokes, the inside of the wheel, all of it! We couldn't figure out how he kept getting flats! While we waited, we decided to make some pudding! We had our instant pudding mix, our milk powder, and water. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but it didn't turn out as good as we had hoped. Maybe we mixed in too much pudding powder, or maybe it was just an epic fail, but it was super sweet (but still edible). It was a lot of fun though, and helped pass the time for both Agnes and I! Finally, Michael was ready to hit the road (after spending a good 3hrs trying to fix the tire!). The tire seemed good, and so we cycled about 500m to the next lookout, where we stopped both for the view, and to check on Michael's tire. By the time we got there, the tire was flat again. Since it was getting late, we were a bit stuck. All three of our bikes wouldn't fit into just any car/van/truck, and it's hard enough to get a ride as it is! Agnes and I could still cycle, but we didn't want to leave Michael until we knew he would be safe, and if we waited too long, the two of us wouldn't be able to make it anywhere before dark! Therefore, we called the national parks ranger to see if they could give us a ride somewhere. The number on the Cabbot trail pamphlet was apparently a number for Jasper national park. They called around and sent someone out to help us.
When the ranger arrived, he was very perplexed. He wasn't like Mike in Jasper, but he had good intentions. He didn't want to drive us far, and he took a LONG time to come to any decisions. Finally, he drove us to Neils Harbour. He dropped us off on the lawn of the hospital. He stuck around for a bit but then took off to go back to his post. While Michael was fixing his bike (again), Agnes was in the hospital trying to arrange accommodation for the night (the people at the desk were incredibly helpful, and the hospital was almost empty so they were more than excited to help us out!). Then, two EHS (called emergency health service rather than emergency medical) workers came to talk to us. They were incredibly nice and said they could stay with them the night! So, we stayed in the EHS station, and had a shower and Lyell got us food (from the hospital), which was wicked! Mike said he could drive Michael to Ingonish tomorrow morning, then another EHS worker could drive him all the way to North Sydney (which was his only option for a bike shop). Since Agnes and I could still cycle, we plan on cycling tomorrow and meeting Michael in Sydney. He is obviously really disappointed about missing tomorrow's cycle, but the three of us made a pact to come back out and do the whole trail in full!
We had a great night with Mike and Lyell and loved the novelty of staying at the station (where our tent was draped on doors around the ambulance)!