Update, as per July 2021, the border between Ontario and quebec is open again.
For the current government of Ontario there is the GTA and there is wasteland. It became very apparent once again last Friday that they really have absolutely no idea how integrated Ottawa-Gatineau region is. Even mayor Watson didn’t hide his frustration on CBC radio and TV anymore. I loved his quote that our police shouldn’t have to act like crossing guards at the inter provincial bridges.
I don’t understand the rationale behind closing parks and borders when we all know by now the virus spreads in enclosed spaces such as production facilities that in fact have never been closed because “open for business” and in close quarters living spaces. So we close parks and bridges. I can only guess how frustrating it must be to deal with Doug Ford and his entourage. It is clear that they become more paralysed every day to a point that the police pretty much is giving our provincial government the middle finger.
Last trip to Gatineau
But it is what it is currently and with the border closure in mind, Karen and I planned a last visit to Quebec before Monday morning. Earlier this year we enjoyed a 50 km ride through Gatineau and Aylmer, mostly on MUPs, and we want to reproduce it somewhat, but shorter.
We also wanted to check out an area around the Deschênes Rapids. Not that we had never been there before, but we listened to a very interesting Zoom presentation by Henry Robertson, organised by the Ottawa Field Naturalists on a plan to rescue part of the green space there before the bulldozers are coming in. We (read: Karen) wanted to check out the ponds.
Located between chemin Fraser and the Deschênes rapids, this roughly 100-acre site features a mix of rare oak forest, rich wetlands, and alvar-like sandstone pavement barrens, all featuring a wealth of biodiversity, with many species considered rare in Québec. Since successfully pressuring the city to halt the sale of much of the forested areas in July 2020, Deschênes Park Alliance has been working to secure official park status for the various publicly owned lands there.
Henry Robertson is an elected member of the Administrative Council for the Deschênes Park Alliance and a member of the Ottawa Field Naturalists Club. He will lead you through a virtual walking tour of the various habitats, highlighting the flora, fauna, fungi and unique geology that make up this remarkable urban ecosystem.Ottawa Field Naturalists website
We cycled via the Farm, the Arboretum and the Trillium pathway to the Chaudière Falls to cross into Quebec and hugged the river for a bit westbound, then took the route into the Gatineau Park. After crossing Allumettières we turned left and underneath the same road again through a wide tunnel I had never been before.
This dropped us into a bit of green space again on a path that leads to St Raymond. Via a MUP and 300 mtr of Blvd Louisa Campagna, passing Biciclettes de Hull, we turned on to the NCC Pionniers Pathway MUP (woodpecker pecking away on a branch on the ground) on NCC land, and again cycled a path I had never been before. We turned left into the Champlain Corridor pathway and via a bit of forest we ended up at the far end of the McConnell MUP.
La Trappe à Fromage & Fidélice
Following McConnell’s MUP we eventually hit Chemin Vanier. About 100 meters north of the intersection is a great stop for cheese at La Trappe à Fromage, and for desserts at Patisserie Fidélice. In that same block, there is also African Soul Food, but we saved that for a next visit. These are the type of stores that really belong in a 17th century cavernous store on some Italian cobble stoned square with antique street lights and baskets of flowers hanging off medieval walls.
But not in Gatineau.
You can find these stores in an ugly suburban building at a large intersection off the 148 where space has been handed over to cars. Of the 100,000 ft2 property with Benny’s and Tim’s, less than 25% is building, the other 75% of the surface is paved for vehicle movement and parking. In Dutch we would call that: “niet gezellig”. Yet, the fromage and the desserts are worth a short detour from McConnell.
Morley Walters MUP
We took our purchases with us (Karen had thought of bringing a cooler bag), backtracked a bit to Morley Walters with its MUP, which is a bit odd there on this quiet street and biked down to Aylmer Rd, crossing into an area that is currently being built up. I didn’t realise until I was writing this article, that those are the former hippodrome grounds. Rue de Jockey and Rue de Sulky give it away.
A partially blocked off road (for car traffic) brings you eventually to Blvd. de Lucerne where you connect to the NCC pathways along the Ottawa River. There is a traffic light to cross. We had lunch near the rapids and biked home across the Champlain bridge, along the river and north on Holland and through the Farm again. That was a 40 km loop which suits us just fine.
Here is a slightly adjusted route (33 km) in Komoot with a more central start at Dow’s Lake because who wants to start from our home in Fisher Heights? You will cycle mostly on MUPs. Read also a hike in Gatineau Park.
We’ll miss Gatineau and its cheese and desserts.