Everyone can follow the crowd on the most heavily travelled trails, but as many snowmobile enthusiast know, many of the best conditions, hospitality, natural beauty and enduring experiences are to be found on the trails less travelled.
In this article I share one recent enjoyable discovery. I share it with you and invite you to explore the pleasures of the paths less travelled. Check your gas, make an orange trail part of your next trip and check out something new!
Let me begin with a disclosure. I am not a professional writer and do not know much about the art of writing. I am a snowmobiler. You may pass me on any trial or see me in any Relais across Quebec . I know snowmobiling, its history, its freedom, the passion, the camaraderie, the friendships and the beauty. I am just like you, just invited to tell stories about snowmobile products and experiences.
On my first ride of the 2012 season during the week between Christmas and New Years, my gang rode in the beautiful Monts Valins above the great Saguenay River. This is an area that I have become very familiar with over the years and I am fortunate to have many good friends and memories here.
With the lack of early snow throughout Quebec and a large number of snowmobilers looking for a place to ride, it was a challenge to stay away from the significant deterioration which comes with high traffic. It was a great time to explore trails less travelled. On one of our rides we headed to Valins West and arrived at Relais Onatchiway owned by my friend Daniel Mercier. To many this area is a trail less travelled, but this was just the beginning. We were told about Relais which has been opened for the Winter, located approximately 70 scenic miles to the North. Pourvoirie du Reservoir Pipmuacan is the name. If you look on a map reservoir Pipmuacan is the large mass of water above Onatchiway. I am told that it has a larger mass than Lac St Jean and has over 300 islands. More about this place after I get you there.
It’s an easy route, nothing difficult, nothing to fear. Gas up and start in the parking lot of Relais Onatchiway. You want to take the trail from the parking lot which leads to the dam (Barrage Onatchiway). The trail entrance is located on the opposite side of the lot from where you enter when arriving at Onatchiway from the direction of the Bras Louis or Lac Lamotte. It’s marked, you’ll see it. This trail will come down to the road and the dam will be right in front of you. When you cross the top of the dam you will see that the kilometer signs read around 40 (if my memory is correct). Anyway, you will continue on this wide easily identifiable trail until you pass the km 104 marker, which is about 70 kms or 42 miles from Onatchiway. You will also see visible Pipmuacan signs along the way. Just after the km 104 marker you will take a left off the main trail. When I was here there was also a sign here indicating the turn and that you are now 24 kms (15miles) from your destination. I am told that this entire trail will be groomed on a regular basis and saw more than adequate looking grooming equipment nto get the job done.
The Relais is small but comfortable, offers a lunch special and has gas available. Due to its remote location, “in the bush” pricing for gas is in effect. It was a new personal record for me, but when you think about how they get it there for us to use, it seems like a bargain. I suggest that you only take as much gas as needed for your return to the more affordable gas at Onatchiway.
Pourvoirie Pipmuacan is located in a beautiful setting on the shore of the picturesque reservoir and the birds will fly right into your hand. Pipmuacan also offers 3 basic/small chalets available for overnight stay. The one that I looked at had bunk beds, could sleep up to 5 and had a full bathroom. Heat was supplied by Propane and it also had a small woodstove. I was told that a package including a nights stay including dinner and breakfast was $125. Again it was basic and I’m not sure if I would want this remote location to be my late night final destination.
The staff at Pipmuacan was friendly and welcoming. Yvon appeared to be the manager in charge and a nice guy named Denis handled the gas. The clean open kitchen was controlled by a professional looking cook and we enjoyed a very nice pork lunch special for $18.
So there it is, a story of a path less travelled. It was new, it was fun and the conditions were great. reservoirpipmuacan.com
For those who would like to add an alternate non groomed return ride to this adventure after you leave Pipmuacan, you could turn left after 24 kms when you rejoin the main trail that you came in on. If you follow this non groomed main path, soon the km markers will begin to descend, at km 68 you will bear to the right and may recognize a sign indicating that you are on the upper part of the Bras Louis which l rejoins the groomed main trail 267 at km 28. Depending on your gas range you could follow the Bras Louis all the way down to the Valinouet Ski area or turn left on 267 at km28 and continue towards Auberge 31 and Relais Chapelle.