Last winter, I decided I wanted to try hiking as many kilometres as possible on the Rideau Trail. If you have been following my blog, you know that I really like hiking. I have been secretly dreaming for years of hiking the Appalachian Trail (or, at least, sections of it). So why not start by hiking a trail closer to home?
The Rideau Trail is a nearly 400-km trail system between Ottawa and Kingston following the Rideau Canal and its tributaries. And for Canada 150th anniversary, the association managing the trail is inviting people to hike at least 150 km on the trail in 2017.
So last winter, I decided this would be my hiking challenge for the year. I was looking forward to spring, to when snow would melt so I would be able to start my challenge. But things didn’t exactly went as I planned. When spring came, the Ottawa area faced some of its worst floods in decades, forcing the closure of certain portions of the trail. And when the nice weather finally came back, I broke my hand, ended up having surgery and was stuck home for several days.
My hand was not completely healed but as soon as I was able to get out, I headed to the trail head in Ottawa, located at the foot of the Rideau Canal locks near the Parliament.
But apparently, this is not my lucky year. Once I arrived at the trail, I found myself facing a fence. The spring floods have pretty much damaged the first kilometre of the trail (the part that follows the Ottawa River behind the Parliament Hill). And this part is closed until… next year!
But it will take more than this to stop me. I decided to start my hike at the Royal Canadian Navy Monument a kilometre away, monument which was in fact the official start (or the end, if you hike the trail from Kingston) of the Rideau Trail for its first 40 years (ironically, the monument is also under construction and out of reach). From that point, I headed west to hike my first kilometres on the trail.
These first kilometres are along the Ottawa River rather than along the Rideau Canal. The trail passes near the Canadian War Museum and runs along the LeBreton Flatts. It passes near the bridges leading to Gatineau on the other side of the river. Surprisingly, I felt like I was miles away from the city, even if I was still close to the downtown area. I saw a cormorant and a Canada goose walking casually along the trail with its numerous chicks.
The Rideau Trail is marked with little orange triangles that indicate the path to follow. They are rather inconspicuous, and at some point, I had to look at the trail online map to make sure I was still going in the right direction, but the trail was still pretty easy to follow. It might be a different story once I’m out of the city.
On this first day, I only hiked 5 kilometres. I stopped at Champlain Bridge, and headed back downtown, back to my car. But these 5 kilometres were enough to hooked me for the next ones… 150 km, here I come! (and maybe I’ll hike the trail all the way up to Kingston, who knows?).