We arrived in Gatineau Park in Ottawa on Easter weekend, expecting to cross country ski to the yurt we had reserved only to see blacktop as our trail. The Park Ranger gave us a warm welcome and invited us to use the gear schlepping service, a snowmobile in the winter, jeep transport in the off season. We politely declined, electing to go with the economy rate of hauling our own gear the 2 miles to the yurt. So we donned our backpacks, filled with 3 days worth of food, and headed up the paved road, noting that it would have made for a great ski had we arrived a month earlier.
Soon the road turned to dirt, the terrain gently rolling over the geologic formation known as the Canadian Shield, covering over 3 million square miles including the Laurentian Mountains which were in full view during our hike.
Arriving at the yurt near Richard Lake, we first noticed a generous woodpile and an axe – check. Also a complete kitchen set up – check. Skimpy beds – check, but what can you expect for $25/night? And an efficient wood stove – check. We were all alone in the area, so we dumped our packs, took some photos of our dwelling, and headed out to explore the woods.
Right away we got the idea we could easily bushwack through the sparse hardwood forest with the map we had picked up at the Ranger Station, our compasses and our collective knowledge of off trail navigation. We discovered interesting ground covers, oversized trees and a bit of snow at the higher elevations. A highlight of the day was arriving at a lookout with a view of Canada looking west that stretched on for miles.
Another two days of great meals, interesting conversation, bushwacking, exploring an underground cave formation and honing our off trails skills gave us enough activity that we didn’t miss the skiing – although we did make a note to head back up to Gatineau earlier next time.