NosyNeighbour has a friend who wanted to join us on a hike. They decided last week that we would hike on Saturday morning, with said friend arriving at our house at 8:00 a.m. I’m not really sure why they decided on such an early start, and I’m not one for waiting around. So I was quite pleased when he was only 10 minutes late arriving.

We set off across the Ottawa River, driving through Aylmer and heading along Highway 148 towards Luskville. After you leave the suburbs of Aylmer, the road snakes around a few corners, then suddenly a four-lane divided highway appears. At the second intersection, Hotel de ville, you take a right. There’s a small brown NCC sign indicating the Gatineau Park. Follow this until your first left, and then arrive at the parking lot.

NosyNeighbour and I had both brought our collapsible hiking poles. Because it’s quite rocky going up, I opted to wear gloves and just grab onto rocks and trees for the ascent. NosyNeighbour used his poles for the entire hike. Our friend, who I’ll nickname Nannygoat, scampered up ahead of me, barely out of breath.

I took advantage of all the lookouts, pausing to take photos of the fog bank rising from the river. As we climbed, the fog spread like marshmallows to the parking lot at the bottom of the escarpment. I have to admit that it gave me an incentive to keep moving. I did not want to be hiking in the clouds.

When I finally got my heart monitor watch to register, I was at 91% capacity. I’m in relatively good shape so I wasn’t worried. In fact, I figured it meant I could eat everything that we’d packed for an early lunch at the hut.

Nannygoat had never hiked in the Gatineau Park. He’d told NosyNeighbour that he’d hiked the Rockies, but that was a while back. Watching him scamper up the hill seemingly not sweating was frustrating for me. But near the top when we paused to look at the view I could see some sweat on his forehead. I think maybe it was a guy thing not wanting to look out of shape.

We made our way to the fire tower, pausing to take photos of the signpost showing how far we’d come. I’d forgotten to set my watch and NosyNeighbour had forgotten to turn on the bike computer app on his phone. It usually takes us an hour to climb to the tour, then 45 minutes from there to McKinstry Hut.

We only encountered a few cyclists that early in the morning. It was about 9:45 at the start of Ridge Road. One crazy cyclist was on a cyclecross bike doing mach 20. He didn’t call out and almost ran us over. The next two were much more relaxed.

It was a bit disappointing getting to the hut and finding it cold. Firewood was stacked inside, but there was no sign of matches. (Note to self: bring matches on next hike). We decided to eat an early lunch outside.

I’d packed our cheese, hummus and tomato sandwiches in tinfoil, hoping to have a grilled cheese. Instead, we got to eat on a picnic table, drenched with sweat enticing all the bugs to come out. We stayed long enough to refuel, but were quick enough not to seize up.

By the time we made it back to the fire tower, the crowds were out. Not quite leafers, but definitely Tillys. NosyNeighbour coined the term “leafers” when we started seeing people holding paper Tim Hortons cups looking lost along Ridge Road near the Skyline Loop. One chunky guy asked if there was a Tim Hortons around. Sigh …. what can you say to that? Then our neighbour called them Tillys. I’m guessing that a Tilly is one up from a leafer. They are usually identified by their Tilly hat, regardless of the sun not being strong at this time of year. They have all the trappings of a hiker, but not the fitness or knowledge.

On our return trip we had to pass a bunch of Tillys before the path splits for the return loop. After lunch, I had lengthened my poles, which had been attached to the backpack. The backpack was transferred from me to NosyNeighbour and I attacked the descent. It’s a psychological thing for me, almost a bit like skiing moguls. You have to see your path, and once you do, you can go so much smoother and faster.

I took quite a few photos of the guys, who lagged behind me. Nannygoat has a bad knee from too much curling. So the pain going down really slowed him down. I can relate to that after my saddlebags workout a week ago. I thought I was going to die the whole way down Ridge Road to Old Chelsea.

Once we got back to the car, NosyNeighbour showed me some acorns he’d gathered for me. My plan to plant a walnut tree had been kyboshed by hungry neighbourhood squirrels, So I decided I’d try an oak tree next.


On the way home, we took Nannygoat to Le roi d’la biere in Aylmer. It’s always a cultural experience going to a “dep” in Quebec, but this one is famous as the one that sells the most beer in the province. Yes, they do sell chips and smokes too, but the beer starts almost as soon as you enter, and continues into a huge cooler in the back.

Nannygoat wasn’t walking too well at this point. While the guys had laughed at me while I stretched by the car, I think they were both holding back on sharing how sore they were. After we’d picked up our beer, Nannygoat had a bit of a scare when NosyNeighbour yelled, “SNAKE”. OMG, it was hilarious because Nannygoat had tripped on the plastic snake sticking out of the bush. And when he looked down, you could tell for a second he thought it was real.

We’re thinking of doing a two-car one-way hike down the road, maybe going from Luskville to Old Chelsea. But I think that will depend on whether Nannygoat can walk today.