– Baie-Comeau, Quebec to Wabush, Labrador –
Today was a long, cool day. We also drove past a lot of dams. If you look at a map of Canada, you’ll notice that this area is covered in water: rivers, lakes, and streams. It seems like there are two major reasons people live up here: hydroelectric power stations and mines. That’s what most of the little towns are built around, and what most of the people in them do. In Montreal, no one had a truck. Up here, everyone does.
We started our day with a run that started along the road, then dipped back away from it into the trees. We didn’t know it went away from the road at all, so we were very pleased to find that out as we ran along. The trail is basically Baie-Comeau’s bike trail, but it is person-and-dog-friendly, too. Mark, Ripley, and I didn’t have any trouble with bugs, and the trail was lined with huge purple/blue flowers. It was a nice run overall, though quite chilly. We had to wear our sweaters for the first time. I even wore my gloves.
Post-run, we showered and had our hotel breakfast. It’s hit or miss up here whether our hotel has breakfast for us or not. It’s nice when they do, and especially nice when they have warm breakfast. This hotel had potatoes, breakfast meats, and eggs, which is something for everyone in the family. Success. After breakfast, we hit the road. We filled the gas tank as full as it would go, since we weren’t sure of the gas prospects between our starting and ending points, and we knew that a full tank was enough to get us from one to the other. Labrador City, which is basically a mile away from Wabush, is the largest town in Labrador.
Our biggest problem for the day arose from the total lack of bathrooms along the road. We drove from Baie-Comeau to Manic 5 (one of the big dams) without stopping. The drive took more than 3 hours. I’m sure that’s not much for some, but it was unpleasant for me. There’s just nothing out here.
In any event, Manic 5 is so named because it is the fifth dam in a row on the Manicouagan River. Manic 1 was just before Baie-Comeau, and the other three were on the way up to Manic 5, which is also called the Daniel-Johnson Dam. The dam is 702 feet tall and 4,311 feet wide. It is holding back an enormous amount of water.
Believe it or not, this huge dam was actually one of our planned stops for today, and not just because it had bathrooms. We first stopped at the little gas station that came just before the dam. The gas station was also the local store, motel, gift shop, and restaurant. I wonder how many people work at the dam, and how many people that little settlement must serve.
We next stopped by the visitor center. They do tours of the dam, but we didn’t really have time to wait for it. We were there not long after noon, and the next tour was over an hour away, and we had a lot of driving to do. Unfortunately the signs didn’t have English translations, so we couldn’t do too much reading about the dam, either, but we took a good look around. The tour guides in the visitor center also told us the best place to take a photo was back about a kilometer the way we had come, so we headed back that way for a few photos.
While taking our dam photos, we met a couple riding on/off-road motorcycles who’d driven up from Quebec. We’ve actually seen quite a few people on motorcycles on the ride up to Labrador City, and I’ve heard that the route is very popular for that sort of thing. I guess the dirt roads are part of the fun? Regardless, they looked cold, and the man said they were freezing. It’s been right around 50 degrees and rainy in this area, so not exactly pleasant. We took a photo with the dam for them and waved goodbye.
Once we finished with the Daniel-Johnson dam, we continued down the road. The road turned to dirt for the first time right after the dam. It’s not in bad shape at all, even with the rain. It had a few washboards and some potholes, and the speed limit was very slow but it was otherwise totally fine. The rain just served to tamp down the dust.
We stopped again at the Manicouagan Reservoir, which is a circular lake created by an impact crater from a meteor: the fifth largest confirmed meteor crater in the world. It really is an almost-perfect circle, with an island of the same shape in the center. You can’t tell that when you stop beside it, of course, you can only tell from the air, but it is pretty cool anyway.
Near the lake, we also stopped in Relais-Gabriel, which is another tiny gas station/restaurant/hotel/town. Outside, we ran into a couple that lived up in Labrador, and they gave us a few insights about what we would see on our way up to Happy Valley-Goose Bay, and asked the requisite question about what people from Texas were doing up here in Quebec. It’s hilarious all of the stares we get for our license plates.
Today was filled with construction stops, as well. It seems like they are working pretty hard on the roads up here. There was an area where we were stopping every five minutes and at each stop, workers were replacing the culvert beneath the road. I wonder what was wrong with the old ones?
The rain hadn’t really stopped, and the weather was still quite cool, but we took photos when we could. The one below was literally one I took while we were waiting for our light to change at a construction stop. This area is gorgeous, even in the rain. We are mostly seeing lakes, evergreens, and mountains. I honestly thought it would be a little quieter up here, but we are always hearing something, from trucks on the road, to running water, to buzzing bugs. Have I mentioned the bugs? There are thousands of biting flies up here. It is not my favorite part, for sure.
As we got closer to our destination for the night, we stopped by a couple of red lakes, which look that way from the iron ore. These are near mines, of course. It is hard to capture in pictures, but the water is almost blood red, even when it is cloudy.
Somewhere along the way, we had lunch from the cooler. So far we seem to be doing pretty well on that front. I love the miniature hummus and guacamole cups Mark and I brought along. I hope we can find more of them when we run out. They came from Walmart, so I guess my chances are good.
Late in the day, near our final destination, we stopped in Fermont, which is a mining town. At the town’s entrance, they have a giant Caterpillar dump truck, out of commission, for visitors to take photos with. We all stomped around it in the now sunny skies for a few minutes. Those things are huge!
Fermont was our last stop in Quebec, and not long after that we crossed into Labrador. We stopped at the sign for a family photo. None of us have ever been to the province of Newfoundland/Labrador, though of course I would say we’ve only been to Labrador, but it’s a little confusing since these two areas belong to a single joint province.
We stopped for dinner at another pizza place, because it wall all we could find that everyone could eat. Mom and Dad managed to have non-pizza menu items, but Mark and I could only find pizza and a horrible-looking salad bar for vegetarian options, so we were forced to have pizza again. I am not eating pizza again tomorrow night. I mean it. Also, the food wasn’t great, but it was still the most popular place in town. Beggars can’t be choosers.
While we were there, we realized the time had changed and the Suburban hadn’t been able to connect with a satellite to update the time. We had thought we were doing well, and it was only 7:30 when we went in to get dinner, but it was actually 8:30, and we didn’t make it into our hotel until after 9pm, thanks to the change. Ugh.
Tomorrow is a shorter day through the middle of Labrador. I don’t think there’s going to be anywhere for us to run, and when we get up at 5am, it’s going to feel really early. I’m definitely not looking forward to it. Tomorrow also brings: no hotel breakfast, no planned stops at cool stuff, but it is entirely paved, and it doesn’t look like it is going to rain as much. It will also be warmer in our destination, Happy Valley-Goose Bay. That should be nice, at least.
– Trip Total : 2,717 miles –