Ben Durham

Exploring Mont Tremblant with Natalia (I popped a tire & we got stuck in the forest in the dark)

Natalia biking on pathway in Mont Tremblant

On Tuesday, September 18, 2018 (the day before Natalia had to head back to London, Ontario to get back to work), we decided to load our bikes into/onto her car
(mine goes inside, sideways and hers goes on the back) and drive up to Mont Tremblant for a day trip.

Natalia's bike on the back of her Nissan Versa hatchback
Natalia’s bike on the back of her Nissan Versa hatchback
A Google map of the route we took to (and from) Mont Tremblant
A Google map of the route we took to (and from) Mont Tremblant

The funny thing is, according to Google Timeline, we didn’t leave Montreal until 1pm… Whooooops! 

We really weren’t in a hurry, or so it seems haha

We had needed to grab food from the market before leaving earlier in the day and got distracted with Montreal’s scenery… so really it’s Montreal’s fault for being so wonderful to bike in? No, it’s totally us and more specifically me who’s really bad at leaving places – though I’m amazing at staying at places once I’m there (foreshadowing our middle-of-the-forest-at-night flat tire incident).

Anyway, Natalia had gone ahead and purchased Mont Tremblant parking passes the night before (without my knowledge haha) and so after taking a few wrong turns and ending up in a residential area which was definitely not the park entrance, we arrived where we were supposed to (at Parking Lot #1). We found out that parking was free and that we had actually wasted $16 ($8 per person) on parking to somewhere we weren’t going (deeper into the park). Gosh darnit. 

I’m only realizing right now that even though we’d come up with the idea of calling up the park and saying we accidentally didn’t use the pass and asking if we could get a refund… we never did.

Update #1, mentioned this to Natalia. 
Update #2, Natalia said "I checked and they won't refund it unless if I had booked a campsite. 😢 I'll never do that again." Gosh darnit. Ooooh wells!

If anyone’s interested in high-quality Mont Tremblant Map photos, here are some (click on them to see the high resolution versions): 

After all of that, we began riding at 4pm. We knew the sun would set around 7pm… but we also love sunsets because they make for the best photos (because of what’s known as the golden hour). We also have our trusty super-bright bike lights from Amazon (click here to watch my full extensive review of those lights) so were weren’t too worried about getting back a little later than intended.

So we checked in with the front desk, got a map, they advised us to get back before dark (this keeps on coming up it seems), I grabbed a quick 5AMP quick charge for my ebike from a wall socket I found (before being told I “can’t be in that area”), and then we quickly made our way back to the car to balance out what we needed in our bags (which wasn’t much), and then finally we hit the bike path!

Animated GIF of Natalia and I biking around a corner of a windy path on Mont Tremblant's bike trails
Animated GIF of Natalia and I biking around a corner of a windy path on Mont Tremblant’s bike trails

Actual video link of the above here:

Natalia, biking down a bike path in Mont Tremblant
Natalia, biking down a bike path in Mont Tremblant

It was smooth, curvy, and just plain fun for our leisurely ride. We made our way to the small retreat village of Mont-Tremblant-Village (10km from the main office), right along the South-East side of Lac Mercier, which was quaint and made for a perfect sunset… though only after we’d past it, rode for 5 minutes, and realized that if we kept on riding we would be going further down into the forest and would miss the sunset completely… so we came back to the beach area.

We found that the direct sunlight was too strong right on the beach, so we retreated to the shade next to the Auberge La Porte Rouge. There weren’t any signs saying “don’t use these seats and tables” so we parked our bikes and whipped out our dinner. It almost felt like camping, and so -as those who camp know- the food tasted amazing as we sat there in the dappled light which was peaking through the two trees in front of us.

In the 20 minutes that it took us to finish eating, the temperature dropped a few degrees and we started to get a bit chilly in the shade. We moved over to the other set of chairs and table and Natalia fell asleep, sideways, her legs laying atop mine. I let her sleep while I watched the scene in front of me and took a few photos.

I tried my hand at napping and failed because my mind was wondering… so we decided to call it a night and headed out!

We’d gotten no more than 5 minutes into our trek back when we both looked over to the right towards a dock that was just sitting in the evening sunlight, its light fading fast. On the fence sat a sign reading “PRIVATE PROPERTY”. We respected that and continued on our way… but as we pedaled a few more meters, we saw that this Private Property was less of a home and more of a rental resort of some sort… so we quickly made the decision to trespass and claim ignorance if someone approached us. The shot was too good to pass up, especially if we weren’t causing any harm to anything or anyone.

We had to go down a huge steep hill on the way to the dock – I whipped down it, got to the beach, and started ripping my gear out of the panniers and setting it up rapidly. Natalia walked down the hill because she’s the more sane one out of us two. I told her to go stand on the end of the dock quickly so I could set exposure, focus, and frame it. I set the 10 second timer and ran to her, not knowing what I was going to do for a pose.

These are the results from 6:41 to 6:54 that we had before our fantastically golden light vanished from our small borrowed piece of Private Property on Lac Moore (you could say we could have used Moore time).

Ben & Natalia on the end of a dock on a small lake in the last remaining golden light of the sun peaking over the hills. Far away shot
“what should we do? I dunno… here *WHOOSH* ‘AH!’ SMILE!”
Ben & Natalia on the end of a dock on a small lake in the last remaining golden light of the sun peaking over the hills, staring into each other's eyes
This was the absolute LAST bit of sunlight we had before it faded away.

I would have been hitting myself if we didn’t at least try to get these photos… especially because I could SEE the shots, right there in my mind’s eye. I’m SOOO glad we took the chance! THANKS NATALIA FOR BEING A REBEL WITH ME!!

So you might think that’s it for the night but NOPE, there’s more.

As we made our way back, it was still fairly light out and we were having a nice ride. We had previously put off going South across a bridge over the Rivière du Diable to another area that had a rougher path. Not “off road” rough, but gravel and dirt instead of paved smoothness. It was getting dark but we wanted to explore a bit so we went that way, planning to only go for 2 minutes.

I saw a fun hill and went up it with Natalia and turned around at the top, ready to head back. I raced down and at that moment something happened to my bike. At first, I thought it was a problem with a spoke. But it had spoken to me wrong – my tube had popped. Not only that, the reason it popped was because the tire actually had a hole in it.

(this bike, with these tires)

It figures, I’d gone 4400km on this specific tire and it chose this one moment in time to wear through and pop. I suppose I helped it along by hitting some pretty large bumps with a hybrid tire that isn’t really meant for rocky conditions.

Anyway, I exclaim that I have a popped tube and that we’re gunna need to change it. Natalia was trying to see if we could just not swap it and instead just roll with it but I thought it was going to be a quick fix.

Ben repairing the bike in the ever-darkening forest.
“Natalia! This important… I need you to take a photo of this” “ARE YOU SERIOUS BEN?!” hahaha #worthit!

Normally tube swaps ARE fast but there were two things that I’d forgotten about:

  1. this was a rear-wheel drive electric bike which means I needed to keep the wheel close to the frame while conducting the tube swap, and
  2. it’s the tightest fricken tire I’ve ever had to take off of a bike. The weird thing is that it’s what came with the wheel.

I ended up bending my metal tire levers in the process of attempting to get the tube out of that tire. Oh. My. Goodness. There may have been a FEW swears throughout this 30 minute process. A lot of it was just me being annoyed by the fact that this normally takes me a few minutes, not half an hour. The other part of it was that we were in the middle of a forest where no one knew where we were, it was getting dark fast, and there could have very well been animals as large as bears or cougars waiting for dark to fall and to get at us while we were trying to get our silly human contraption working again.

After 30 minutes, we got the tube swapped. I decided that it would be best if Natalia rode my bike back because she was lighter and there was still a small hole in the actual tire. We put my heavier panniers on her bike which I rode back with adrenaline pumping through my veins, eager to get back to lights, people, our car, and civilization in general.

We got back and that’s that. We were back and happy that everything ended so well!

I swapped out my tire in the following days.

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ben in red shorts on a yellow ebike in a snow storm with a bright yellow jacket on, laughing

Ben Durham

Professional storyteller

Just an average person on a bike who’s focused on getting more people out of their cars and on to bicycles or electric last-mile micro-mobility solutions!

That, and rooting for active transportation infrastructure upgrades in North America (we need to catch up)!

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