Exploring Quebec – Gatineau Park

Gatineau Park is in Quebec but only just as it is merely an hour away from where we live in Ottawa. In fact, it wouldn’t be too remiss to place this blog under “Exploring Ontario”; however, in the interests of accuracy and because there will be many more forays into Quebec by my good self, “Exploring Quebec” as a category has been born.

Gatineau Park is a huge place so in this blog entry, I will only be mentioning our limited incursion into its vastness with more to be added in the future, I am sure. On this visit, my husband and my boys did some biking whilst I did some hiking. Like what I did there? Actually, what I did was probably more like brisk walking but in the interests of poetry, hiking is what it will be called.

It was another fresh Fall day; cool but with the promise of warmth as the sun got higher in the sky. I was looking forward to going here as the rest of my family had visited previously two weeks before and proclaimed what a fabulous time they had had. I think this was down to the off road biking that they did rather than the fact that I was absent. Or at least, I hope that is the case.

To reinforce what a wonderful time was had, I had been shamed on Facebook by my darling husband because I had not joined them. I would like to add that it wasn’t a choice not to spend time with them but that a dodgy knee had prevented me from going. I would only have held them back so I decided to gracefully bow out. The spirit of my magnanimous gesture seemed to have been lost on my hubby when he posted a comment along the lines of “Rachel, you should’ve come instead of staying at home knitting because you missed out”. In addition, as if his words weren’t enough, he posted the most amazing pictures of the Fall colours – swathes of treetops with the warmth of reds, yellows, oranges and colours inbetween that all have fancy names like rust and vermilion and ochre. Truly lovely and not really given justice in my description.

For me, there was much anticipation of Gatineau’s beauty but two weeks is a long time in the life of an autumnal tree.

In fact, the trees for this visit, unfortunately, were quite immodest in their appearance in that they had been stripped of their colourful canopy apart from the odd tantalising leaf, which had so far resisted the charms of the wicked wind and was bravely holding on. Many of these last leaves succumbed while I was there, drifting slowly to the floor to be chased by a fresh saucy gust across the road infront of me, scuttling away to rest on the verge. The woods were now stark greys and browns, their denuded branches all that remained, except for some trees that I cannot name which were densely covered with bright yellow leaves and were flaunting their foliage quite airily to their forest companions.

Despite the lack of colour, it was clear to see that this was a lovely place. When we got there, we parked and my boys decided to do a circular route on their bikes and I decided to attempt the same on foot. There were many other people out enjoying the fresh air – people mainly on bikes, dressed in tight lycra, sunglasses and helmets of an aerodynamic shape, all designed to make them whizz through the woods as quickly as possible. There were also many people out on what can only be described as wheely skies – I am sure there is a proper term for these – which were small ski-like things which your shoe clicked into, with two wheels, one at the front and one at the back. You then used your leg strength and your poles to propel yourselves along. I was quite taken with these but again, my lack of athletic prowess may hinder my potential to enjoy this activity without sustaining serious injury. Despite my yearning to try them, it may just be best to keep my feet in shoes on tarmac rather than placing them in a wheeled device to go on said tarmac and come down hills at speed. Finally, there were quite a lot of runners in the lurid colours that make up their high vis. wardrobe of choice. And there was me, the jeans-wearing, nature-loving plodder, heading out to exercise her lungs and her legs.

One thing to note about Gatineau Park is that, at the weekends, some of the roads are closed to vehicular traffic until 12pm so that the people listed above can enjoy their pastimes leisurely without fear of being run off the road, I assume. They are quiet and only small creatures are likely to interrupt your walk and they’re usually in such a rush to get away that barely have you noticed them, than they have scurried off and blended in with the landscape once more.

It was a tranquil and frankly, highly enjoyable walk. I was glad that I had brought my mittens as despite vigorous hand swinging to maintain my breakneck pace, I would’ve had cold fingers if I had not had them.

Having now worked up an appetite, it was time to regroup with the family and receive some refreshment and Mike had suggested that we go to Lake Meech, a short drive further into the park to do this. We knew that there were beaches there and this seemed to offer the perfect place to have a picnic lunch.

The wind was a little brisk and so, we unwrapped our sandwiches in the truck and gazed at the changing room building with the greyness of the lake stretching out either side of it. The beach was not visible at this point, only the sign that told us there was one there, somewhere.

Whilst I was speculatively masticating on my lunch, my window was rapped by a young man with blue bulgy eyes and a beard which sparsely covered his chin and cheeks. If he had spoken with a squeaky voice, I would not have been surprised. He asked if we were likely to move soon. I replied politely through a mouthful of crumbs that we were hoping not to be too long. He wanted to know exactly what the duration of our stay would be and I have to say, I felt like he was being a little pushy in his interrogation. Apparently, it was because there was a shortage of parking spots and they wanted ours, presuming that because we were in our vehicle that we were about to depart. A fair assumption in many ways but erroneous. I think he thought that because he had been so earnest that we would hightail it out of there to facilitate him. But we wanted a walk on the beach post lunch. He was about to be disappointed.

If he could have only waited five minutes, this would have been to his benefit for two reasons:

  • Lots of people left
  • The beach was very small

And I mean very small. I reckon that if I had been wearing shoes that had slightly springier soles, I could have jumped it end to end. Yep, that small. In fact, it was so small that we went walking a little way to see if this beach was in fact the actual beach’s little brother, so to speak but no, that was all there was to see and all there was to walk on. I have to say that I was a little let down but luckily, a biting wind decided to gust and freeze our ruddy cheeks and our collective disappointment disappeared instantly in our willingness to return to the truck.

Blanchet Beach – closed for the season. Do they stretch it out when it’s open?

And that was the end of our visit to the park. We had sampled its delights and made the journey back while it was still light. It seems only fair though to end this blog on a high note and so below, you will find pictures of the park in its glorious technicolour just two weeks prior, showing that Fall foliage is indeed the finest. Until next time, Gatineau Park.

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