Empty Highway

Highway 11 distance, Longlac

It’s feels like 399 km from Constance Lake to Longlac

The 200 kilometres between Constance Lake and Longlac is one of the most annoying drives I have faced.

Not because the roads are bad, or the scenery stinks, or it’s a hard drive – not at all.  It’s not even really that long or that boring.  But there are two problems.

One —  there is almost nothing there.  And I really mean almost nothing.  I counted five houses between Hearst and Longlac.  Three of those were associated with wilderness businesses.  There were a few derelict truck stops and out-of-business motels which serve as reminders of past attempts at economic development and the larger retreat of business from northern Ontario.  There was a moose crossing roadsign that someone had defaced by adding an exuberant silhouette of moose genitalia (but there was a truck racing behind me so I couldn’t stop for a photo.)  There is literally nothing for 200 maybe 250 kilometres, and that’s weird when you’re from southern Ontario.  Get gas in either Hearst or Longlac, as may be only one stop on the way, if at all.Abandoned gas station, Highway 11

Two — the drive is a pain because signs keep reminding you every 20 kilometres that, in what seemed like at least an hour, you’ve actually only travelled 20 kilometres.  I don’t need to know that often that the drive is long, I know it already!  How about updating me every 50 kilometres, that’ll feel like progress.

There is however one nice rest station with running water, picnic tables, and washrooms (but no shops or gas.)  It’s at Klotz Lake where, if you really want a break, you can even go swimming.

Klotz Lake rest station, Highway 11

I am super awesome at photography, non?

3 thoughts on “Empty Highway

  1. I am familiar with this stretch of highway. Very long and desolate but also some beautiful spots. There was a funny saying about this stretch that when leaving Hearst heading west to Longlac to make sure you had a ‘full gas tank and an empty bladder!’. There are very long stretches of straight highway much like driving on the Prairies. The scenery is repetitive so it can be a bit disorienting. Case in point: I heard a story of a worker who left his worksite at the end of the day heading east back home to Hearst. There was a snowstorm happening at the time so visibility was bad and driving conditions were poor. He lost control of his vehicle and spun out and ended up in a snowbank. Fortunately he was fine and no damages to the vehicle. He started driving again and after several minutes he ended up back at work! The scenery is so repetitive in some stretches that he lost sight of which way he was heading.

    • I’m from southern Ontario and I had the exact same experience you describe 45 years ago. I was on my way to Longlac from Hearst in a moderate snowstorm with very reasonable visibility and probably reached halfway. I was travelling at 120kmph when I encountered a big rig going in the opposite direction. I was in the whiteout from the trailing snow for 15 seconds longer than I expected to be…so I lightly touched the brakes. I must have spun around 5 times and for about half a km. on the icy patch of snow. Miraculously I was still on the road. When I regained my composure and proceeded home….of course, I ended up back in Hearst.
      Thanks for bringing that cherished memory back to me.

  2. I love the stretch between Temiskaming Shores and Cochrane On. There is the clay belt then seeing the trees.change to more Tamara. I am also from down south but when I’m away too long my heart aches to travel 8t once again!

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