Spring was in the air this week. The weather was mild, the temperatures were above what is normal for the season, and the snow quickly began to melt. I was cheerfully applauding the end of winter, even though it may be a bit premature to do so.
And as in my head it was already spring, I decided to go for a hike that I had plan to do when winter was over. I headed for Luskville in the Outaouais region for some hiking on the Luskville Falls Trail in Gatineau Park.
The still closed, snow-covered parking should have given me a good indication that winter was not quite over in Luskville. But the weather was mild, there was no one but me on the trail and the snow was giving a little je-ne-sais-quoi to the landscape of Gatineau Park.
The waterfall that gives its name to the trail is located about 250 metres from the parking lot. The waterfall, whose water comes from ponds higher up on the escarpment, becomes particularly impressive in the spring, when the melting snow makes it a rushing torrent. In summer, the fall becomes a thin stream of water flowing on the wall. In winter, it is frozen.
And as spring is, obviously, not yet there, the waterfall was still frozen when I went on my hike there. Although I could clearly hear the stream of water flowing under the ice.
It is after the fall that the hike becomes particularly interesting. The trail climbs the Eardley Escarpment for 300 metres to reach the peaks of this old mountain range. Along the way, two lookouts offer a beautiful view of the surrounding countryside.
The climb to the first lookout, the Lusk Lookout, was not too bad, but gave me a glimpse of what I could expect for the rest of the trail. The steep trail must be quite difficult in the summer; in winter, when the stones are covered with ice and snow, it becomes a bit risky. From the Lusk Lookout, I could see in the distance my little car parked along the road and I regretted to have left my snowshoes with cleats inside it.
I briefly considered the idea of stopping my hike for the day and going back down. But I’m a little stubborn, and as the top of the mountain and the Pontiac Lookout were only 500 metres away, I thought I could at least continue my hike until I got there.
But the more I was progressing on the trail, the more difficult it became. I think that the warmth of the previous week accelerated the melting of the snow which then solidified into a thick layer of ice. I bitterly regretted not having crampons and at places where the trail became impassable, I clung to the stones and tree trunks in order to continue my climb.
I finally arrived at the Pontiac Lookout, so named because it offers a superb view of the Pontiac region. It is also possible to see the Ottawa River in the distance.
The trail then continues for one kilometre to an old fire tower. But after falling pretty hard on an icy part of the trail, I realized that continuing my hike was not only stupid, it was also dangerous.
The climb down was not easy. Imagine going down a steep, ice-covered slope. I finally came back to the trail head by taking my time, but I swore to myself that I will never go hiking again in the winter without bringing my snowshoes or crampons.
I will come back when spring has truly arrived. Or in the fall, when the forest will be wearing its colourful autumn foliage.