Monday, October 08, 2007

Northern "Eastern Townships"

Geese leaving for the south, at Danville's Migratory Bird Festival

Most of us know the Eastern Townships as the Bromont-Sherbrooke corridor, but there is a big chunk of townships north of here. The area is a bit of a grey zone. What's there? No one really knows. This area is called the Val-St-Francois, and it's today's destination.

Instead of heading down the ET autoroute, we went east on the 20, and headed south at Drummondville on the 55, the autoroute Joseph-Armand Bombardier.

A brief intro to the area: it's north of Sherbrooke and Mt Orford. It was settled by the English, the Irish, and the Scots. The place names are remarkably anglo, but the language today is french. One thing remains: it's hilly, scenic and beautiful, with some good roads and even a major rail-to-trail bike path between Richmond, through Danville, to Victoriaville. This is part of the Route Verte network from Sherbrooke to Quebec City. Velo paradise

Our starting point was the Moulin de Laine d'Ulverton. It is at the start of the 400+ km long tourism driving circuit called Le Chemin de Cantons.

The Covered bridge and waterfall at the moulin de laine d'Ulverton

This woolen mill was built in the 1850s, and was restored in the 1980s. It was fully restored in 1982 and looks great today. It was full of wool-processing equipment of various functions, sizes and ages. This equipment was the heart of the industrial revolution. One spinning machine replaced 150 spinning wheels.

This mill contains equipment that actually operates.

A freshly-sheared lamb, note the special sheep-shearing shoes

The day we visited was the Festival de Moulin de Laine d'Ulverton. There were demonstrations
of sheep shearing (the shearing costs $2.50 and produces 20 cents of wool). There were horse wagon rides for kids of all ages, There was a movie, guided tours of the mill, a waterfall, a covered bridge, a restaurant with "Brunch champĂȘtre le dimanche" and for the festival there was a big tent with sheep and wool products, both edible, wearable. There was traditional music.

There are 5 km of forest/river side trails to enjoy. This includes riverside to the Ulverton river,
and fun suspension bridges. There was an outdoor deck along the river and also outdoor picnic areas . There was a sheep pen where you could get closer to our friends the sheep (Ovis aries).

Next we headed south. We turned at Richmond and went to Danville. It was the Festival du Oiseaux Migratoire at the pond called Etang Burbank.

Birdwatching shelter on Etang Burbank Pond.

This pond attracts thousands of geese and ducks. (see the photo at top of blog) There are paths around the lake, leading to several 2-story bird-watching towers. We were here right near sunset and the birds were taking off right above our heads as we walked along the path. It was quite amazing. We love to ride bikes, they let us be incredibly mobile using "self-power." Birds however, get to fly under their own power. An entire dimension of motion all to themselves, and the geographic instincts to use it too. I'd love to be a bird!

Last stop was to ride the extra 5 km from Danville to Asbestos, to see the worlds largest open-pit asbestos mine in the world: the Jeffry Mine. It is 350 metres deep, and 2 km-across at the top. It is genuinely colossal! We stopped at the little lookout park on boul-St-Luc at Panneton. There were mining artifacts, big rocks of the various minerals to be found in the mine, and of course, the great view of the mine itself.

The extremely-gigantic Jeffry mine at Asbestos, Quebec.

This region is very scenic with good hills. The autumn colours were spectacular. The bike paths were plentiful. There were regional festivals and lots of other sights and attractions. What more could you want for a day in the country? Really, we had a perfect day here!


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