James Bay Trip, Radisson Area

Today, my only full day in Radisson, I wake early because I want to get out to the bay and back before lunch.

A surprise as I crawl out of the tent. I’m in a cocoon of heavy fog. It’s quite pretty, the way it diffuses the sunlight, but it’s damp and cold. I put my jacket on over my sweater, and before long I am also wearing my motorcycle gloves to keep my hands warm while I work around the site.

I’m not going to try riding in this — who knows what I’ll run into, or what will run into me. So, I’ll spend longer at breakfast than I had planned, and wait for the sun (which seems to be shining clear above the fog) to burn this off.

Over the next hour or so the fog lifts and then burns away, replaced by clear blue sky and bright sun. Breakfast is freeze-dried omlette and coffee over the microstove. As I eat, a big rabbit wanders through my campsite. Although it avoids me, it is not afraid of me.

It’s still quite cold, but it’s very bright and I remember to put sunscreen on face & neck.

I head out on my bike after breakfast, following the hand-drawn map to the Bay that the park warden gave me yesterday. It looks like a total of about 60 Km from here, and the road leads past the 1st nation village of Chisasibi on the Grande river.

The highway up to and past Chisasibi is paved and good quality. I don’t take the time to go into the village, but can see from the road that it’s quite large, with what looks like a mixture of modern and traditional construction. There’s some kind of a gatehouse on the highway with signs that demand I stop “for inspection”, which I do, but there’s no one there, so I move on.

According to my map, the last 8 Km or so of this road, to James Bay, are gravel. The road turns to gravel all right, but it gets rougher and rougher until I get to a point where I am not comfortable proceeding on the Concours. This is not a trail bike, and I’m riding through deep loose sand. I have been following the mouth of the Grande, and can see James Bay just down the river, so I park my bike, clamber down the bank, and walk the last 500 metres or so to see the bay. Big. And, of course, it’s salt water, which I suppose I knew in theory, but I wasn’t prepared for and found a surprise.

In the distance I can see what I think is Fort-Georges Island which, according to my information sheet, is the former location of the community now at Chisasibi.

It’s taken me longer than I expected to get this far, because of the road conditions and (more) my uncertain navigation, so I don’t linger. Climb back up to the bike and head back into Radisson, to be there for the start of the tour.

The (free!) tour is wonderful, and I highly recommend it. It starts with a slide show in a theatre, then you head out in a bus, with a guide. Around the Robert Bourassa reservoir, over the dam, and inside the dam, including a look inside a running generator, where the wind and noise are amazing. Each generator (they have 17) provides 1% of Quebec’s power.

The most staggering thing to me was to stand on the shore of this huge lake, and realize this is man-made. I couldn’t see the far shore in the long direction.

Here are some of the many photos I took on the tour:

The Robert Bourassa reservoir, an enormous man-made lake that feeds the water pressure for the dam.
Looking down the spillway channel from the top of the dam.
Looking down the spillway from the top.
And looking up from the bottom. Those “steps” are several stories high each.
A running generator inside the dam.

I return to my campsite about 5:00, exhausted and impressed with the scale of this construction project, and with my memories of the nearby village and road to the Bay. Walking back to my campsite from the tour centre, I stop at the grocery store to buy some pop and chips, for a junk-food treat. Freeze dried Thai chicken for dinner, junk food for dessert.

I’m up a little later tonight. At 8:50 PM the sun drops below the tree line, and quite suddenly it gets cold. This would be the perfect time to huddle around a camp fire and watch the sky darken. As a substitute I put a sweater and coat on and sit on the table, watching the stars come out for a while. By the time it’s fully dark the stars are so clear and bright that it’s awesome. I lie on the picnic table, shivering, for another half-hour and just admire the view overhead.

Tomorrow, unfortunately, I need to pack up and head home. The next page is the start of the return trip.

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