Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Mer Bleue Bog Trail

Mer Bleue Bog Trail

Length: 1.2 km loop
Time: 45-60 minutes
Terrain: Easy

Welcome to the Mer Bleue Conservation Area. Located south-east of downtown Ottawa, Mer Bleue is little piece of north hidden in the south. The area features a number of hiking trails including the Bog Trail Boardwalk. Parking for the boardwalk is located at the end of Ridge Road, which is off Anderson Road.

The hike is a 1.2 km loop and takes about 45 minutes. The terrain is pretty easy, for most of the hike you're on flat wooden plank with only the last few hundred metres being on old fashioned dirt. Dogs are not allowed.

When you arrive at the parking lot head south past the outhouse towards the bog. Along the way there are a number of information panels explaining the history and science of the bog. You'll eventually arrive at a series of four panels at a fork in trail, from here turn right and the boardwalk is right there.

Photos provided by Jamie Limebeer Photography

Mer Bleue is actually an ancient channel of the Ottawa River. During the last ice age this area was under several kilometres of ice, when the glacier receded this new part of the Ottawa River was created. Over time the flow changed and thus the Mer Bleue Bog was born.

As you cross the open water along the boardwalk you'll notice the trees and plants ahead of you are a little different than what you just saw near the parking lot, that's because they are. Mer Bleue is a boreal peat bog, some flora can't grow here where others thrive. As you continue along the trail you'll notice trees such as black spruce and tamarack as well as ground cover or blueberries and cottongrass... these are normally located in more northern climates.

Photos provided by Jamie Limebeer Photography

As mentioned earlier, this trail is a loop so you'll eventually be sent back towards the ridge. But before that happens you'll be treated to a nice close-up of an old beaver lodge. Of all my years of coming to the bog I have never seen a beaver using this lodge but don't be surprised of you see any swimming around. The area is very active with wildlife... it not uncommon to see muskrat, turtles and even the odd moose. If you're a photographer, this is a great area for taking shots of animals.
Photos provided by Jamie Limebeer Photography

As you near the end of the boardwalk it means your hike is almost over. The last few hundred metres are in the woods along the edge of the ridge overlooking the bog. This spot provides a few great views of the marsh as well as few spots to sit down for a picnic.

Photos provided by Jamie Limebeer Photography
Enjoy your hike at the Mer Bleue Bog Trail.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Gatineau Park - The Wilson "Carbide" Mill Trail

The Wilson "Carbide" Mill Trail

Length: 3 km (round trip)
Time: 120 minutes
Terrain: Moderate

Gatineau Park is located in the Gatineau, Quebec just north of the Nation's Capital. For both locals and tourists this is a vey busy spot. In the winter it is full of cross country skiers and snowshoers. In the summer it is loaded with mountain bikers and of course hikers. With over 160 kilometers of trails you'll never run out of something to do. My first trail review of the park will be a short hike to the Wilson "Carbide" Mill.

The trail starts at the O'Brien parking lot located off Meech Lake Road. In the off season it is typically free to park but on a nice summer day expect to pay. Before taking off make sure you take advantage of the washrooms as this is it until you make it to your destination and back.

The trail is actually part of the Trans-Canada Trail system which will eventually reach from coast-to-coast-to-coast. It is a well maintained trail with only a few moderate hills to slow you down. In total, give yourself about 2.5 hours to complete this 3km round trip hike, this includes the time you'll spend taking pictures at your destination.

As you leave the parking lot you'll be treated to your first hill, it is short but a little steep so take your time and enjoy a breather at the first information panel located about 100 metres past the top. Once you continue down the trail you'll see a sign for a steep hill, don't worry this one goes down... But don't forget, you'll eventually have to come back

At the bottom of this hill you'll cross a bridge where you'll be treated to a nice view across Meech Lake. Make sure you read the panels as they are full of info about the regions interesting past. Once you are done, continue down the trail.

After a few minutes of walking a short uphill you'll come to an unmarked trail on your right which leads to the Wilson "Carbide" Mill. You'll know you're at the correct spot when see a signpost at the fork telling you that you're 1km from the parking lot. Turn right and continue down the path.

This trail is quite flat but a little more rugged the the main trail. After a good rainfall or in the spring it can get quite muddy.

After five minutes of hiking you'll spot the old ruins on you're left, the trail will take you right to them. Now that you've made it take lots of time to enjoy the area. There is a beautiful waterfall, an old dam and the shell of what used to be a carbide mill.

The mill was built by Canadian inventor Thomas Wilson in 1911. Originally from Princeton, Ontario, Wilson discovered a process for creating calcium carbide, which is used in the production of acetylene gas.

The only downside of the area is that it is known spot for nude swimmers. If you have small children make sure you always keep an eye on what's around them. The park management is well aware of the problem and have regular patrols to the area as well as signs to discourage those looking to take a dip.

After you're done it's time to turn around and head back down the trail towards the parking lot. Don't forget, the big hill you came down is now a big hill you have to climb up. I like to stop at the bridge and take a drink of water before making the trek up. Once at the top the parking lot is only a few minutes away.

I hope you enjoy taking this hike as much as I do and remember to pack the correct gear and have a good time.