Many locals are first introduced to Gatineau Park by taking a Sunday drive along one of the parkways to perhaps Champlain Lookout, the Mackenzie King Estate, or O’Brien beach. From there, signs tempt visitors to hike one of the many well-maintained trails, or ski one of the best networks in North America. The Park draws you in, seduces, and provides those all too important escapes from urban life.
My love affair with the Park has been going on since 1995. Like many others before me, my experiences were formed at first by car, then running shoes & jeans until the last decade when boots, hiking pants, map, compass and GPS guided me to the less visited areas of the Park.
Outings have sometimes been with my family, as a couple, or just plain alone. There is something to be said for the rejuvenative powers of being alone in the woods. Growing up, I used to be afraid of going into the basement by myself. In later years, I could get startled at the sight of my own shadow. Being alone does heighten one’s sense of awareness, but it also forces one to purposefully try to remain calm. Of course, that sense of calm can be quickly broken when startling a grouse, or encountering a black bear!
Living in the big city, we get used to all of the creature comforts of home, including not having to put up with unpleasant critters. I have enjoyed being in the Park during most seasons, except one: summer. Putting up with high humidity levels under a July sun is one thing – a dip in a backcountry lake, or better yet, a series of dips in a string of lakes, is refreshing and will always bring a smile back to your face. Dealing with an aggressive swarm of deer flies, however, is quite another. Yes, you can apply generous amounts of bug spray to discourage them, but your sweat will usually require that the bug spray be applied more frequently than you consider to be safe, and you will invariably be making contact with it with your lips and tongue (yuck!). This short clip will give you a sense of what I am talking about:
The pages on this site will reveal aspects of the Park that can only be seen from deep within the interior. Trail and place names, or the names of prominent features within the Park’s interior are most often not found on official maps – they have been assigned by generations of locals and hikers who use them as key reference points.
Lakes (some named, some not), streams, flowers, mushrooms and animals of all sorts are featured on pages below:
Training and preparation are essential to enjoying your experiences in the backcountry. You can read more on this here.