Saturday, June 02, 2007

Ormstown Quebec to Dannemora NY USA (Adirondack Park)

(Map legend at end of article)

Saturday we rode from Canada south into the USA, into Adirondack park in northeast New York State.

Destination was Dannemora/Chazy lake. The distance was a whopping 92 miles/146 km!

Starting in south-west Quebec in Ormstown, we rode south to Franklin Centre and up the hill to the US Customs.

Once we got cleared through customs we entered the US of A.

I thought we had entered heaven.

The road was new and mirror smooth. There were 2-3 feet wide shoulders to ride on. There was almost no trafffic.

It was Heaven!

It is quite enjoyable to ride perfect pavement.

Riding south, we turned left at Churubusco, followed this road a while and when it turned south, so did we. We soon arrived at Ellenburg Depot (services), then continued south on the same road, which was now named Plank Road. We crossed the "Military Turnpike" - built in case invading Canada ever became necessary (maybe they'd suceed the second time!) . This road took us directly sough and almost all the way to our nest destination at Dannemora.

So we arrived at the turn (T-intersection) for the road to Dannemora. (Left for Dannemora, right for shortcut home bypassing the planned ride-south-around-Chazy-Lake Loop). We headed left to Dannemora. This meant we rode uphill to Dannemora.

Previously hills were sort of gradual and steady. We gained altitude in little bits, there were not too many steep hills.

Not too many steep hills?

Here we discovered the big hill of the ride.

It was long and steep, but not killer steep (It wasn't Lanaudiere!).

At the top as I creasted the top of the hill I noticed a parking lot with a water spring.


I stopped to fill my now-empty gatorade bottle and fill my camelbak. This worked great, I had water all the way home.

On the other side of the hill is an inpressive and long downhill, of over a mile. I coasted to 70 km/h!

At the bottom is Dannemora, where I was supposed to turn south to ride around Chazy Lake. I missed the turn because of some map mislabelling - the map has the name of the road from the south end, not the dannemora north end (the correct instructions are to turn south at Emmons street and continue to Picketts corners, then Chazy Lake road back up to the 374). And in the town there was no direction sign here. Aieee!

As a result I went straight out the other end of town, and in a couple of miles I was seriously thinking that this doesn't feel right.

I stopped and checked the map. In other news, I felt rain drops. There was thunder. 70 km from home. Uh-oh.

All evidence pointed to the best course of action was to U-turn. So I did, and rode back through Dannemora, past it's prison walls, and came back to... THE HILL!

Well, actually I knew the hill was coming so I stopped at the Stewart shop for some trail mix and coffee-milk 50:50 mixture. You can't get this at Tim's, but at serve-yourself places like this it is feasible.


Now came the hill.

No! Hill!

It was quite a lot more interesting in this direction. (Read: steep)

After a mile of slimbing I was happy to see the top. -- it's over 2000 ft altitude.

Actually The top of this road is at 2050 feet elevation. The ride starts out at around 200 feet. So it's a pretty good ride for climbing!

Today was the first Hot'N-Humid day of the summer, and being quebecois, we are not yet acclimatized to the severe climactic conditions of summer. On the other hand it also means that June is here, and this emans Summer is here. Woohoo!

Continuing back on this road I came to the turnoff where I had come in from Plank Road. Instead of turning north, I continued straight.

This takes me past the north side of Chazy Lake. I had been keeping a few "shorter options" in case, for some reason, I needed to make it a shorter ride. So heading in this direction was actually my original Plan B. We'll chalk uo the Sannemora side trip to "research."

On this section we rode along the north shore of Chazy lake. This was a scenic highlight of the ride. The lake has a beautiful backdrop of Lyon Mountain and other smaller hills rising steeply up in the distance. The road was the Rt 374, it had great 6-foot-wide shoulders. We took it west all the way to the town of Lyon Mountain.

In the past I had always ridden from Lyon Mountain north (last Chateauguay Lakes - the source of the Chateauguay river in Quebec) to the town ot Chateaugay, New York, and home via the Herdman border crossing. But today I wanted to return by Franklin Centre, so in Lyon Mountain I turned just north of the church (stop and look south at the mountain from the church pond) and headed directly homewards.

There's at least three Ellenburgs, so try to pay attention: This road took me north to Ellenburg Center.

The road wound its way through quiet forest-- was a real jewel - I am very happy I discovered it. The road south I had taken earlier, Plank Road," wasn't very scenic. I have an alternative road south just east of Plank Road that I will try laster this year. Stay tuned!

The forest opened up into farm and forest land, cows abounded. I like seeing cows in forests--it's their native habitat.

I reached Ellenburg corners, and I took the wrong road exiting. Again though, I had a bad feeling, and again, some light rain arrived.

Bad feeling = turn around. That was the lesson earlier, could I trust my intuiton?

I could see I was cycling in the direction of into the sun, meaning I was heading west. So I wasn't lost, but I knew I was heading in the wrong direction.

So it was U-turn city again and I was heading a mile or two back to Ellenburg Center. Here I took what was actually the logical road: straight north, and direction-wise, it was the actual continuation the one I had ridden from Lyon Mountain. There was a convenience store here. The last one before Ormstown, still a good hour away. (I presume water is available at the customs)

I was now homeward bound, and the border was getting closer with every turn of the pedals.

Only good times remained. I hoped.

Suddenly I was confronted with an new challenge.


It's been a while since dogs chased me. But this ride had a couple of chasers, and here was one.

I use my patented dog repellent technique: I shout a very, loud and authoritative "GET BACK!" with a sharply raised hand, and maybe a just a bit of swearing.

It usually works, and did again today.

I was soon approaching the Border. Yes! The road northwards trends downhill. The ride started in Ormstown at 75 metres altitude, and the hill in Dannemora was around 600 metres. I had climbed them earlier, and from Churubusco I was descending. Thank gawd!

By now I had done 70 hilly miles, and I was getting tired. Well, my legs were tired, the rest of me was pretty good. But the legs were definitely all used up.

Passing Canada Customs there a fast descent into Franklin, then gentle downhill to Ormstown on Sharp. It was time to work on getting my average speed up to 24 km/h. And to my surprise, it worked. When I had reached Dannemora my avg speed was around 22.3, so the return leg of the ride was significantly faster. OK, just slightly faster!

I hit the T-intersection at Botreaux side road and headed east then north the couple of klicks on 201 to Ormstown. The Rt 201 highway really, really sucks. Lucky I only had to ride it for only 2-3 km. It needs shoulders. Desperately. Actually it needs paved shoulders all the way from Ormstown to St-Antoine. This highlights one of the major differences between riding in the US vs Canada: the quality of the Highway roads. The Rt 138, 201, and 202 all leave something to be desired - a lot os something. Note: most rides can be done on excellent country sideroads, so it's not universal, but the highways in the Chateauguay Valley need big improvements to be bicycle-friendly, and this means paved shoulders.

Arriving home, my legs were pretty much destroyed. Looking at the stats gives some justification. The bike computer says:
  • trip distance 146.74 km - 92 miles!
  • time total 7 hours
  • time riding 6 hr 5 min (custom-frame bike makes it almost comfy)
  • avg speed 24 km/h ( avg speed is faster because I left the camera at home)
  • "calories" 3063


This was a really great ride.

It encompassed riding from the St-Laurence river lowlands, into the Adirondacks foothills, to Chazy Lake and the foot of the the most northern Adirondack mountain of Lyon Mountain. This is the only Dak peak visible from Montreal (from the Westmount summit lookout). From here we ride back via a different, forested and farmland route (sort of Vermont-like).

For a shorter ride, you could start in St-Antoine, Franklin, or Havelock. For this ride I think you should park in Canada and cross the border on bike. It adds travel adventure to enter the USA with just what you carry on the bike. That being said, parking at an Ellenburg or Churubusco would make a much shorter ride, all of it on the amazingly high quality road surface -- at least 90% of the ride's roads are excellent and new condition.

The map below contains the route I did, in green dots.

I include a couple of options for a longer route- these are A) my original "planned" route (red dots), and B) a ride around the south end of Lyon Mountain, back by Standish(Blue dots). Because of the length of the ride, the map scale isn't as detailed as I'd like.

Also note that Dannemora is located at the green arrow, not where the "name" is printed on the map.

Here's a digression to another close-to-the-border bike ride.

If you are looking for a really easy and flat ride just across the US border, I suggest you try riding around Isle La Motte in Vermont. Here's the wikipedia entry on this little island in Lake Champlain (link).

It's gotgreat views of the Adirondacks, a Fisk Quarry nature preserve (walk your bike it's only a few hundred feet, and watch for fossils on the ground). There is another natural site where oldest known coral reef on Earth is located. The Ste-Anne outdoor shrine is the site of one of the first religious services in french Canada outside the colonial settlement of Montreal. Possibly the first one ever. It was 1609. There is also a great sculpture of Samuel de Champlain here. It was sculpted by F.L. Weber during Expo 67 at the Vermont Pavillion. Note I didn't say ... sculpted FOR Expo 67. Nosiree, It was sculpted inside the Vermont Pavillion during the Expo. It showed off the famous Vermont Granite.

Park at the beach where this shrine is located. Yes: a beach! A great thing for after-ride refreshment. Start the ride heading south, and after you ride around and up the other side, turn at the gas station/convenience store and cross the little island to return to the parking (which is a bit north of this road).

Here is the link to the Cycle Fun Montreal report from our visit last summer. (link) The island is located on the right side of this map.

Labels: , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home