Gatineau Park Adventure

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  • 17.76 mi Distance
  • 1:10:16 Moving Time
  • 1,501 ft Elevation
  • Avg Speed 15.2 mi/hr
  • Max Speed 40.3 mi/hr

While I was visiting the friends I would be staying with when I did my third triathlon, in addition to scouting that route I also did a ride in Gatineau Park, which is a protected park area just outside of Ottawa, on the Quebec side of the border from Ontario.  I guess it would be something akin to a state or national park here in the USA.  The place is pretty amazing; it’s a huge area that contains 63 lakes and countless miles of trails, including bike lanes, asphalt bike paths and mountain bike trails.  

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I put Strava’s route builder to the test and found myself what appeared to be a nice figure-8 loop through the lower part of the park, passing by a few lakes and other points of interest.  I didn’t have cell service in the wild, so I’d be relying on Strava on my phone entirely to tell me where to go.

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The entrance to the park was about a half hour’s drive away.  I drove for about 25 minutes before I realized I’d forgotten my helmet.  I had to turn back, pick it up, and do it all again.  That was pretty frustrating, but I tried to put it out of my mind and salvage the day.

It wasn’t difficult to do. Gatineau Park is beautiful, and ideally designed for cyclists.  There are wide, groomed shoulders almost everywhere, barricaded bike lanes and they even shut down car traffic on Sundays so that bikers can be completely unhindered.

Things went great for the first half of the ride. The weather was slightly rainy, but it wasn’t too cold – just enough to keep me cool as I pedaled the climbs. It was a great feeling of being out in unexplored territory (for me), on great cycling terrain where I could just go as I pleased.  With my second triathlon coming up on the weekend, I didn’t ride too hard, just got my legs moving and tried to keep things steady.

Eventually, the road I was on started to deteriorate.  Most of the roads had been in great shape so I wasn’t worried; I was coming up on an intersection with a more major thoroughfare soon, so I figured it would improve.  

It did not.

In fact, the road just straight up disappeared.  It stopped entirely, at a wall of trees. There was no intersection, just a dead end.  I peered ahead carefully and saw that there was a trail, and a thinning in the vegetation that implied that maybe it had once before been a road, at least an unimproved one.  I knew I was close to the main road I was headed for, so I decided to walk my bike and check it out.

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The path developed only slightly into a muddy track.  It didn’t look like it was going to get better anytime soon.  Sure enough, before long I found myself just standing in the middle of a swampy forest, getting eaten alive by mosquitoes and wondering what the heck to do.

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I had no cell service so I didn’t know where to go if I were to turn back, except to go exactly the way back that I had come.  I didn’t really want to do that; I wanted to see more of the park. My 23c tires weren’t going to make it through the underbrush though, that much was clear. My phone told me I was really close to the main road, so ultimately I decided to heft my Bianchi onto my shoulder and hoof it the rest of the way.

I saw some frogs, splashed through some puddles and climbed over some fallen trees before finally emerging on the clear roadside.  My feet were muddy and soaked, but I was satisfied to be back on my route.  

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I rode on, stopping at a place called Pink Lake, which was not pink.  It was, in fact, green, and was named Pink after its discoverer, I believe.  There was a cool little elevated platform that you could climb up onto to see the view.

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When I got back to the parking area, I took a closer look at the signboard map and discovered that it did actually show the lack of a road.  I guess Strava just skipped over it because it was so close, it assumed it counted as an intersection.

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It made for a fun diversion, anyway, and a great time discovering a new place to ride.