fbpx

Forêt de l’Aigle Bikepacking Circuit

ZEC Pontiac and ZEC Bras-Coupé-Désert

Text: Loïc Olivier
Photos: Loïc Olivier and Fred Michaud
***This adventure was not realized in 2020 in the pandemic context

During the May long weekend, my buddy Fred and I decided to venture out into a part of the backcountry that he knows well: forêt de l’Aigle, ZEC Pontiac, ZEC Bras-coupé-Désert.

We had a rough idea of the distance we wanted to cover, (about 100km) but we had no set route, other than the fact that we decided to start in Cayamant. Fred had called the municipal office beforehand and got the OK to park there overnight.

We unloaded the car and geared up. The weather was kinda bleh, grey, windy. Coats went on, and we were on our way.

We quickly reached forêt de l’Aigle.

For about fifteen years, the forest was managed by a corporation who oversaw logging AND outdoor recreation activities. Pretty cool stuff. After the corporation went bankrupt in 2012, a solidarity co-op tried to take it over, but it didn’t work out.

The good news is that Chemin du Black Rollway, the dirt road to the main lodge, is still maintained. This road happens to be one of the main access roads to ZEC Pontiac. It is also a gateway for the local ATV and snowmobile clubs, who manage many trails in the area.

We checked out a few small trails as we made our way towards the Black Rollway. Despite the heavy rain from the previous night, the trails were quite dry. The sandy trails had dried quickly.

We had learned that the main lodge and the cottages around it were ransacked at some point during the previous year. Everything of value was removed – doors, windows, staircases, oven, plates, toilets, heaters…. The metal roof had been stripped off every building. It gave the area a very creepy vibe.

While we checked out the buildings, the sun finally pierced through the clouds. We took advantage of the situation and had lunch in the sun. We found an old picnic table close to the main lodge, right on the shores of the Rivière de l’Aigle. Fred got a thermos out of his framebag. In it were 4 hotdog sausages. Damn, son! Hobo hotdogs for lunch!

We chatted about possible loops to do during the afternoon and decided to go north and follow the river for a while and make a nice loop east of Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg.

We rode for about 50m before we ran into a guy driving in an old american car with his teenage son. They were looking for a nice and quiet spot to camp and fish. They had to drive back from Chemin de l’Aigle as they were getting stuck on the dirt road. Of course, that was of little concern to us. Fatbikes eat that terrain for breakfast. The guy gave us a sweet tip – look for the Canyon campsite, 4 or 5km away. We took note of it.

Chemin de l’Aigle got rough quickly. It’s an ATV trail at best, certainly not the type of trail where I’d drive a car. No wonder the guy had to drive back!

We rode for a half hour before we encountered an old sign on the ground : it’s the old Canyon campsite sign. We veered off and followed the singletrack leading to the river. We were hopeful that the site would be free, but a couple of people beat us to it. They stared at us from a distance as we approached them. Hard to blame them, two guys on fatbikes coming unannounced in the forest can put you on edge. We greeted them, apologized for barging in, took a quick peek at the site and left. Too bad we couldn’t camp there. That was a sweet spot.

We slowly continued north before coming across another sign. We had just entered KZA.

As we went down a hill, Fred noticed the bridge. “NO WAY!!”, he said. “They rebuilt it!!” Fred explained that the bridge had burned down a year or two before.

And so just like that, our plans changed.

We decided to turn left, take the bridge and go west into ZEC bras-coupé-Désert (which translates as “ZEC chopped arm / Desert” – the name of two rivers flowing through the territory). We would then return to forêt de l’Aigle through ZEC Pontiac.

We rode for a while before we encountered a wooden bridge in pretty nasty shape. The bridge had clearly been submerged under water for some time because of a huge beaver dam upstream. The dam had been removed but the consequences of its presence were pretty clear…. The wooden bridge was rotting in several places.

The afternoon was going well. The terrain was getting more technical. Hills were getting longer and steeper, and the trails were getting rockier, full of baby heads. Our fatbikes easily rolled over the rocks. This was not the type of trail where I would have wanted to ride with 700C wheels…

We rode on for about twenty kilometers before we ended up in ZEC Pontiac.

At 5:30 pm, we heard an ATV in the distance. It was the park ranger, a burly guy in his twenties from Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean who spent his entire summer in the ZEC, patrolling hundreds of kilometres of trails on his ATV every week. He gave us water, which we were happy to drink on the spot.

An hour later, our ride ended back in forêt de l’Aigle. That was a big, 85km ride with loaded fatbikes on sandy and rocky backcountry roads. I was exhausted.

We found a gazebo that was still standing not too far from the Black Rollway and we decided to set up camp there. I put up my hammock and Fred put up his tent. We had easy access to the river and so we filtered water while eating dinner. We had a beer, tried to replenish electrolytes and fluids and ended up in bed at dusk. The night was cool, probably around 2 or 3C, I slept with every layer of clothes I brought along with me, including my tuque, balaclava and a pair of camp booties.

We woke up at around 6am. I slowly got out of my hammock to make a cup of coffee. We tried to light a small bonfire but couldn’t find a dry piece of wood nearby. Coffee warmed us up, and we went on to explore some of the nearby camping sites. The main infrastructure around the Black Rollway might be in ruins, but some of the campsites nearby are still A1.

We rode back to the gazebo, packed up our stuff and made our way towards the Nid de l’Aigle (the Eagle’s Nest). Once there, we hid our bikes in the brush and decided to climb all the way to the top of the peak. The hiking trail leading up to the top had pretty much disappeared. Fred hacked away at the brush with his machete.

The view from the top was breathtaking.

We made our way back to the bikes and rode on for a few more kilometres. We were going back towards Cayamant at that point, but took every detour we could find. We let the trails speak to us. We passed through some lunar landscapes. It was hot and sunny. We were having a great time.

Back in Cayamant, we stopped by the general store to buy a few beers. The locals were curiously staring at us. I assume they don’t see many bikepackers up there in Cayamant.

That really has to change. Those trails deserve to be ridden.

  • Distance: 110km
  • Vertical gain: 1500m
  • Nb of nights: 1
  • Terrain types: mainly sandy, doubletrack
  • Bike: Panorama Chic-Choc Fatbike
  • Day/Night clothes
  • Water filtration system
  • GPS + map
  • multi tools
  • camera
  • First Aid kit
  • Food

  • Distance Instructions
Label

Altitude VS Distance

Some of our products

  • panorama taiga 2021
    panorama taiga 2021

    Taïga

    In between a trail bike and a multi-day adventure bike, the Taïga has multi purposes. Take it on your local mountain bike trails, or for a bikepacking outing in the more rugged backcountry paths. The geometry of the Reynolds 725 frame is developed with stability and comfort in mind. A steering angle of 67deg and saddle of 75deg strikes the balance between a modern and progressive geometry, without however falling into a too radical design. Hunt Trail Wide MTB wheels fitted with WTB Trail Boss 29 "x2.6" tires, SRAM NX drivetrain, and a choice of FOX 34 Float or rigid carbon fork complete the package.
    2,899$3,099$ (CAD)
  • thru axle - panorama cycles
    thru axle - panorama cycles

    Thru axle – Front wheel

    Thru axle for the front wheel.  Bolt-on type (no lever), install with 6mm hex key.
    • Chic-Chocs: For 15x150mm hub. 184mm axle length. Thread pitch of 1.5.
    • Torngat: For 15x150mm hub. 184mm axle length. Thread pitch of 1.5.
    • Anticosti: For 12x100mm hub. 120mm axle length. Thread pitch of 1.5.
    • Katahdin: For 12x100mm hub. 120mm axle length. Thread pitch of 1.5.
    40$ (CAD)
  • derailleur hanger katahdin panorama
    derailleur hanger katahdin panorama

    Derailleur hanger – Katahdin

    Always a good idea to have a spare derailleur hanger when venturing a little further than usual...
    30$ (CAD)
  • panorama_taiga_exp
    panorama taiga exp

    Taïga EXP

    The Taïga EXP is the dropbar specific design of our Taïga mountain bike. It is therefore ideal for long distance off-road circuits and bikepacking expeditions on mixed terrain. The Reynolds 725 frame is packed with useful features: adjustable rear sliding dropouts, seat stay opening for use with belt, compatible with 100mm suspension fork, compatible with dropper seat post. The carbon fork has internal cable routing for dynamo hub usage, and all the necessary mounts for your equipment. A true 'mullet' setup with Gevenalle GX shifters controlling a 12-speed SRAM Eagle mountain drivetrain. Hunt XC Wide MTB wheels fitted with WTB Trail Boss 29"x2.25" tires are fast and comfortable. The Ritchey Beacon 52cm wide handlebar gives enough space for a bulky handlebar bag, while providing excellent stability when the terrain is more demanding.
    3,199$ (CAD)
  • panorama katahdin 2021
    Panorama katahdin 2021

    Katahdin

    ****** Reserve your Katahdin with a deposit now. Use Promo code katahdindepot during checkout to confirm the deposit of 25% of the total amount. Start of deliveries scheduled for August 2021. Contact us for any questions. *** The first generation of the Katahdin has proven itself both in races, gravel events and in bikepacking trips. For its second iteration, the Katahdin gets a makeover with progressive gravel geometry, new features to make it even more versatile and a Shimano GRX 2x11 groupset. A relaxed 70deg steering angle, longer reach, 75mm bb drop and 430mm chainstays increase the wheelbase of the bike and place the rider in a stable and comfortable position. The goal is less fatigue, and more speed for long outings and / or races. The internal cables for an adjustable seat post, the fork adapted to the use of a dynamo hub, a threaded bottom bracket shell and all the mounts necessary to install bags and accessories are among the features of the Katahdin. The frame is dressed with the Hunt 4 Season X Wide wheels fitted with WTB Venture tires as well as the complete Shimano GRX 2x11 groupset, which make for a versatile and efficient bike.
    2,699$3,999$ (CAD)
  • Sold out
    backcountry hat panorama
    Panorama backcountry cycling hat

    Backcountry Cycling Hat

    Why stick to the already known paths! #Backcountrycycling has become over time the mojo of Panorama Cycles. Make it yours with this unique cap!
    • 100% Cotton
    • Leather adjustment strap
    39.99$ (CAD)
  • panorama anticosti 2021
    Panorama Anticosti 2021

    Anticosti

    When you venture on the less traveled roads of the backcountry, sometimes, the beautiful road becomes much more bumpy than what was predicted. The asphalt becomes gravel, and the gravel literally becomes an off-road trail. It is for this kind of adventure that the Anticosti was created. The Anticosti bike is built with a bespoke selection of Reynolds 725 steel tubing, thinned where it is needed to reduce weight. A generous clearance allows you to install 27.5x2.1 or 700x50 tires with fenders. You will find all the necessary mounts to carry the equipment for a night in the tent, or for a more ambitious multi-day trip project. Do not let your current bike limit your desire to explore. Take the path you want with the Panorama Anticosti.
    3,099$ (CAD)
  • Panorama Torngat
    torngat 2021 color

    Torngat 27.5

    *** Reserve your Torngat with a deposit now. Use promo code torngatdepot during checkout to confirm the deposit of 25% of the total amount. Delivery is scheduled for November 2021. The components shown in the photo differ from those used this year. Please refer to the components table below. Also, please refer to the picture of the frame illustration for the color available in 2021. If you have any questions, please contact us. *** Isolated in northern Quebec, located in the Arctic Cordillera, the Torngats Mountains are frequented only by those who have the real will to face the elements of nature. We do not get there by chance. It is a mythical place that imposes respect. An highly inspiring destination for the Torngat fatbike! We have included in this bike the features needed to make it completely versatile. Among other things, the frame is belt-drive compatible, it has an access for a dropper seatpost and is equipped with horizontal rear wheel dropouts. The Reynolds 725 high-grade steel tubing frame and the light, stiff carbon fiber fork accommodate the largest 26″ tires available, as well as the 27.5 x 4.5″. All you have to do is leave the house, get on the bike and explore the territory that is still unknown to you!
    2,999$ (CAD)