“Ahoy! This is your Captain. Please gather around”. Those were likely not the exact words, but I am getting into the nautical spirit. Our leader for today’s cycle has called a brief meeting to decide on the best direction to start our 25 km loop from Les Cèdres, Québec to the Anchors Museum in Pointe-des-Cascades. Ultimately, based on wind direction, we elect to follow the river’s shore first and return via the more sheltered recreational trail along the Soulanges Canal.
It has been several years since I’ve cycled in this area, and I am eager to revisit this region and immerse myself in its rich history. We set off on our course by Chemin du Fleuve, a scenic road bordering the St-Lawrence River. We are surprised to meet several clusters of road cyclists in matching lycra outfits practicing drafting techniques and whizzing by us effortlessly. Although, in comparison, we may look like a bunch of old-timers out for a Sunday drive, the nods of acknowledgment and occasional greetings we exchange are perceived as a sign of inclusion and mutual respect for this eco-friendly sport.
We know we have reached our destination when, in the distance, we see the welcoming arch of Pointe-des-Cascades. There are no foghorns blaring as we cross the finish line, but we arrive together as a team. The Anchors Museum tour awaits. We dismount from our bicycles, happy to stretch our legs and delve into bits of maritime facts.
Situated just to the east of the arch, next to Lock Number 3, the museum is outdoors and accessible all year-long. As its name implies, there are a lot of anchors here, about a hundred of them, all found in the rapids before the river was altered and varying in sizes, styles, and weights. Some of them date back as far as the 1700’s. The museum has other naval artifacts providing a porthole’s view into the past of the Soulanges Canal and Saint-Lawrence River, including a lighthouse and a ship’s enormous rudder.
Our rest is over, and it is time to head back, this time on the recreational trail along the old canal. This is familiar territory for me. Although it has been some time since my last visit, I remember where the path’s only hill is situated, and I know that as I round a specific curve the scenery will change briefly to a picturesque swamp of green algae and dying standing trees otherwise known as snags, both of which are an integral part of our ecosystem. I am not surprised to come across fishermen along the way casting their rods into the canal, but I do not expect to see divers in full scuba gear preparing to explore the depth of the canal and the treasures it might hold. Perhaps more anchors? How intriguing!
We have now navigated our way back to our starting point, and although I am sorry to see our cycling tour end, it is time to raise the anchor and set sail for home. Metaphor aside, we load our bicycles on their respective racks and exchange parting words with promises to meet again. I know in my heart that the spirit of a day shared with others will linger for awhile. Aye, mate, it surely will.
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