As I wrote in my last story, I only hiked five kilometres on my first time on the Rideau Trail, pausing at Champlain Bridge, near the Ottawa River. But it was enough to hook me, and I was looking forward to being back on the trail. This time, I took advantage of a long weekend to add more kilometres to my log.
I started my hike at the same spot where I left it last time, near Champlain Bridge. As was the case for the first kilometres I had hiked the week before, the Rideau Trail was following the bike path along the Ottawa River. Once in a while, the trail leaves the path to follow a quieter pedestrian path, but it always comes back to the river bike path.
The river was never far away. I even thought about diving into it, as the Rideau Trail runs through Westboro Beach. But I stayed on the path, following relentlessly the little orange triangles (I realized I was getting better at spotting them as I advanced on the trail).
The Rideau Trail eventually brought me to Britannia Conservation Area. There, it is possible to follow an alternative trail, which, technically, is not part of the official trail, but offers the possibility to explore more in depth certain surrounding areas of the Rideau Trail. Since I was starting to get bored by the bike path, I decided to follow the alternative loop proposed in Britannia Conservation Area. I now had to follow the blue arrows that would bring me to Mud Lake.
But after a few metres in the wooded area, I started doubting that I had made the right decision. The trail was muddy and flooded in places. It eventually felt like I was in some kind of obstacle course. I asked myself if it wouldn’t be better to turn around and head back to the bike path. But I am stubborn, and I continued. Even if my shoes were eventually soaking wet.
I finally reached the boardwalk overlooking Mud Lake. And there, I was so struck that for a moment I forgot to breath. It was beautiful. I couldn’t believe I was still in Ottawa, I felt like I had stumbled upon a lost natural paradise. Many turtles were enjoying the warm sun, bullfrogs were cheerfully croaking and a couple of ducks were lazily floating on the water. Mud Lake is one of the most important ecological system in Ottawa and it’s easy to understand why. I think I could have stayed there for hours, just watching the fauna and the flora of the lake. I even forgot my wet feet.
But I had to move one. After the tranquility of Mud Lake, getting back to the busy bike path was almost disappointing.
The Rideau Trail passes through Britannia Park (where there is another beach, but I think I had seen enough water for the day) and continues along the Ottawa River for a few more meters. I then had to say goodbye to the river as the Rideau Trail veered south to follow the Watts Creek bike path.
I stopped my hike at this point, and came back the following day to continue it.
The Rideau Trail follows the Watts Creek bike path for a few kilometres. Even if the path was less busy than the one along the Ottawa River, I thought this part of the trail was less interesting. The trail follows Highway 417 and the traffic noise is rather omnipresent. Once again, I found myself facing a part of the trail that was flooded, but I was wiser this time and I retraced my steps to make a small detour).
Fortunately, the Rideau Trail eventually leaves the Watts Creek Trail to dive into the Ottawa Greenbelt (of which I already talked in my story on Mer Bleue Bog). No more bike path, just a little quiet trail in the forest. There were even some interpretive text panels giving some info on the local flora, the trees and the environmental management of the area. The trail goes under the highway and slowly gets away from it, leaving behind the traffic noise. I was now heading directly south, further away from the city.
In total, I have hiked almost 25 kilometres on the trail. A sixth of my goal, which is not too bad!