The neighbourhood of Champlain Park, located just west of Tunney’s Pasture, is home to some of the oldest forest born trees in Ottawa, including a number of magnificent bur oaks that are more than 200 years old. A recently installed interpretive exhibit on the exterior wall of the Champlain Park field house, titled ‘Trees as Witness to History’, displays a section of one Champlain Oak that grew along Northwestern Ave up until 2011. I highly recommend riding by and checking it out.
Here’s a winter ride to get there from Chinatown. Once beyond the Somerset bridge over the O-train tracks, the route weaves it’s way along quiet residential streets.
Clicking on this link takes you to a map showing the location of surviving trees from the bur oak forest in and around Champlain Park.
Here’s a healthy 24 km route almost entirely along bike paths. It begins at Carleton University and loops all the way back to the campus. It’s also a ride down memory lane, as it travels past a number of locations my older sister Cathy still recalls from the time she went to Carleton. Here goes.
Cathy graduated from the carleton University School of Industrial Design, as did I a number of years later. The Industrial Design studios were shared between the Architecture building shown on the left in the photo below, and the Engineering building on the right. This bike ride starts in the passageway between the two buildings.
Head right on through the passageway up to and across Colonel By Drive. Hop on the path along the canal and head left towards Mooney’s Bay.
The path eventually goes under and along Hog’s Back Road over the falls. It then curls under the road once again, popping out in Hog’s Back Park, a favourite spot of Cathy’s where she would go to study. Here’s a view from the look-out over the falls just inside the park.
After taking in the Falls, follow the path as it winds through the park and along the river. When the path gets to Bank Street you’ll notice this white bike commemorating the death of a cyclist who was run over by a cement truck at this busy intersection. UPDATE: May 2016 – The ghost bike has been removed by the city.
UPDATE: Summer 2019 – The bike lane has been modified so that it now dips down under the bridge to avoid this terrible intersection when riding along the river.
The path then continues all the way along the river with great views like this.
The next favorite spot of Cathy’s was the Towne Cinema located just off our route on Beechwood Avenue. The cinema has closed and relocated to Rideau Street and renamed the ByTowne Cinema, but the original art deco glass tower and marquee remain. On one of my visits to see Cathy when she was going to Carleton, she and her roommates decided to take me to a late showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Towne. Because it was restricted, and I was only 15 or 16, they dressed me up in drag, smothered my face in make-up, and wrapped me in a great big ratty old Sally-Ann fur coat. I remember shivering in the entrance, not sure if it was my nerves or the snow penetrating through the thin pumps I was wearing. Anyway, I got in, and it was great!
Continue along the path all the way to Sussex Drive, past the Minto bridge.
Now Sussex is the only significant stretch on this loop that isn’t along a bike path. There is a bike lane, but it ends a bit further on, like so. UPDATE 2017 : Painted bike lanes have been extended all the way to the National Gallery!
Once at the National Gallery, go past Maman the giant spider, cross St Patrick, as shown on the above map. Then turn right onto the bike path lane heading towards the Ottawa River.
There’s a lane off to the left at the northern tip of Major’s Hill Park that immediately heads downhill to where the canal meets the river. Take it. If you find yourself on the path heading over the Alexandra Bridge towards Gatineau you missed the turn off. The lane down to the river ends at the last set of Rideau Canal locks. Push your bike over one of the wooden locks.
Bike up the hill beside the locks. The path goes under Wellington Street at the top of the hill like so. A very cool space to discover.
The path comes out on the NAC drop off lane. Follow it for a short distance where you will notice the bike path re-appear on your left along the edge of the canal.
Another one of sister Cathy’s favorite hang-outs was the Black Cat Café on the east side of the Pretoria Bridge. It has since been replaced by a pub.
She also loved to walk along the canal on her way to Carleton. Except, of course, for that time a creep flashed her. In later years she also cross country skied along the canal in the Canadian Ski Marathon, which used to end at Landsdowne Park. They’ve long since stopped that, I believe because of the complex logistics involved in laying a snow trail from Hull to the canal. Now it ends in Gatineau. I did participate one year with her. I wasn’t able to complete the 2 day, 100 mile trek (she did and has many times over since), but I did attend the closing dinner, and recall the trail blazing Jackrabbit Johannsen chiding the Courieur de Bois skiers (who not only completed the marathon, but had to carry a full pack and sleep out over night), comparing their sissy adventure to what it was like ‘back in his day!’ By this time he was well in to his late 90’s. It was pretty funny. Cathy has earned the Gold Courieur Des Bois a few times since.
Continue on the path along the canal, around Dow’s Lake, and through the arboretum, where you’ll see the Arts Tower (since renamed the Davidson Dunton Tower) looming in the distance. Push your bike over the locks, cross Colonel By one more time and voila – our adventure is complete!
On Friday I happened upon a ceremony at the Ottawa Firefighter Memorial Monument outside city hall, commemorating Ottawa firefighters who have perished in the line of duty. On Sunday another ceremony will take place at the Canadian Firefighter Memorial on the edge of Lebreton Flats in remembrance of fallen firefighters from across the country. I remembered a couple of other installations within the city that commemorate our fire brigades, so this morning I hopped on my bike and toured them all. You can too. Here’s how.
This route starts at the Ottawa Firefighters Memorial just off Laurier in front of city hall. Along with engraved walls and sculpted figures, there are a number of black marble plaques depicting images of firefighters who have perished in the line of duty with accompanying interpretive texts describing their service and how they died, some dating back to the mid 1800’s. They are a touching exposé of the fatal dangers Ottawa firefighters have faced over time.
Follow the path along the canal down to the Ottawa River Pathway behind Parliament Hill. Things get a bit convoluted with the myriad of intersecting paths on the other side of the Wellington Street underpass. Go left at the first fork in the path like so.
Stay left all the way until you see one of Ottawa’s oldest bridges on your right, Pooley’s Bridge beside the Fleet Street Pump Station.
Cross over the bridge, from which you’ll be treated to this view looking north. There’s a kayakers course down there amongst the rapids.
Once on the other side, turn right along the path that takes you between the kayak course on your right and the condo’s on the left. This will take you right up to the Canadian Firefighters Memorial.
Next, follow the Ottawa River Pathway all the way to Westboro, where you’ll discover this mural across the street from Mountain Equipment Co-op.
Next, bike over to Scott Street and follow the bike lane all the way to Holland. At Holland the lane disappears and is replaced with sharrows, which also vanish further on – super dangerous along this busy road. So cross Holland and get on the path that runs along the north side of Scott St, like so.
To complete the loop, head east on Somerset St W all the way to Cambridge St, then north to Laurier and the top of Nanny Goat Hill, then straight down the Laurier bike lane to the Ottawa Firefighter Memorial Monument where the tour began.
Last November I posted a tour of various architectural ruins that have been selectively placed throughout the city. Since then I’ve discovered a few others so I came up with this second route which I tested out this morning.
First stop on the tour is this sculpture titled Enfin le soleil, located in the Gatineau community of Jardins Taché. It is a piece commemorating a legal struggle in the 1970’s pitting the Association des propriétaires des Jardins Taché against the development of a high-rise that was constructed despite not meeting zoning requirements. The Association des propriétaires persevered and the building was demolished. Two sections of reinforced concrete were recuperated from the demolition and incorporated into this piece.
Second stop is a short distance down river just off the Sentier des Voyageurs. They are steel pipes from an EB Eddy facility, recovered in 1977 during construction of a nearby park and arranged within the landscape as reminders of the area’s industrial past.
Third stop is Strathcona’s Folly, a play structure created in 1992 by artist Stephen Brathwaite, located in Strathcona Park along the Rideau River. It incorporates architectural details from a number of heritage buildings throughout Ottawa, as described on a bronze plaque mounted within the piece.
And finally, this Gothic Revivalist detail sits on the grass behind the Confederation Building, just to the west of Parliament Hill. There used to be a few others lying about with gargoyle motifs but I didn’t notice them on this occasion.
So there you have it – a few more strategically placed architectural remains commemorating the past within our ever changing built environments.
On January 2nd I described a tour of various locations and monuments within the National Capital Region that are of particular significance or reference to the First Nations. Since then I have learnt of a few others, including one that eluded me on the first tour – the bronze sculpture of an Anishinabe Scout. Here is the route I followed to visit these additional locations.
First stop, 299 Montreal Road where stands the recently completed Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health, designed by architect Douglas Cardinal who also designed the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau.
Second stop is the sculpture of the Anishinabe Scout at the northern tip of Majors Hill Park, tucked behind the small heritage stone building. The first image also shows the statue of Champlain in the distance up on Nepean Point. The sculpture was originally installed at the base of the plinth upon which Champlain stands but was relocated to its present site in 1996 at the request of Ovide Mercredi, former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. UPDATE: December 2018 – Just discovered a very good mini-doc on the history of this sculpture.
My final stop was along the Ottawa River Pathway, just east of Island Park Drive where this recently installed circular arrangement of stones is located. It is titled the Kitchissippi Medecine Wheel and is the work a fellow named Tim. UPDATE – Summer 2015: The installation is no longer there, but it’s still a great spot to visit, overlooking the Ottawa River.
This description of the piece is mounted to a wooden post just to the right of the wheel.
David Jackson is an amazing multi-faceted local musician and one of the founding members of the Northern Sound Electrical System, ‘an open member project whose purpose is to explore the fringes of drone, electronics, noise and sound through guitars, software, percussion, field recordings, and whatever else anyone wants to bring to the show.’ David posted a great recording of one of their performances at Le Temporaire in Gatineau earlier this year. I had the urge to explore the pathway along the Ruisseau-de-la-brasserie located close to Le Temporaire, while listening to the recorded session, so as the sun came up I set my iPhone SoundCloud app to David C Jackson, North Sound Electrical System Live at Le Temporaire, and headed off. It was incredible. UPDATE Summer 2018: It is now illegal to wear headphones while biking in Québec.
Here’s the route, and some photos taken along the way.
The path dips under a number of major bridges with lots of commuter traffic, the sounds of which lend themselves well to the recording.
The path splits just beyond Autoroute de la Gatineau. Left continues along the Ruisseau de la Brasserie Pathway towards Leamy Lake, but it’s worth continuing along the right hand path for a bit, at least as far as the bridges that connect the two autoroutes. Here’s some of what what you’ll see.
There are two great interpretive exhibits on the shores of Leamy Lake that delve into the history of the area. Conflict of interest warning – Carla designed them.
If the breeze is up you can feel the coolness of the melting ice off the lake, as was the case at this spot along the shore.
As part of North Korea’s escalating rhetoric and bellicose threats to nuke their southern brethren and the U.S., they have set up missile launchers along their east coast. Most pundits believe they are mostly for show. Whether or not the missiles are capable of lift off, their display has certainly captured the world’s attention. Japan has responded by setting up an anti-missile system of their own. All these shows of force had me pondering the many depictions of long barrelled artillery on display throughout our region, so I came up with the following ‘Cannons in the Capital’ bike tour.
By peering through the angled glass wall just off Booth street into the Canadian War Museum you get a good view of this large collection of tanks and armoury.
This tank sits just to the north outside the museum, seemingly waiting for an indoor parking spot to open up amongst its peers.
Booth Street Bridge over to Gatineau is under construction, but you can safely make your way across the river by biking down Victoria Island and up over the Portage Bridge.
These two tanks, parked on display outside the Salaberry Armoury at the corner of Boulevard Alexandre-Taché and Boulevard St Joseph, are dedicated to the resident Régiment de Hull.
‘The Journey of the Nishiyuu‘, meaning ‘The Journey of the People’ in Cree, inspired me to head up the 105 alongside the Gatineau River to meet them on their way to Chelsea from Wakefield on the second to last day of their incredible trek to Parliament Hill. Here are the first members of the group I met who had walked all the way from Whapmagoostui on James Bay.
This bike ride is one I would normally not have attempted until the snow had melted but, inspired by the effort and dedication of these youth, I made it on my hefty winter bike, no problem. Here’s how.
I encountered the walkers along Chemin de la Rivière as they completed a very long climb up from the rivers edge. The confidence in their stride was amazing. Here are a few more shots.
By the time our paths met their pacing had been stretched out as they were well into their day’s journey, so the above images don’t do justice to the number of youth participating in the trek.
They stopped for a well deserved lunch break where the 105 and Chemin de la Rivière meet.
The biking conditions up the 105 are mixed. There are generous shoulders to ride along as far as the Larimac golf course, just watch out for sand left over from the winter.
North beyond the Larimac golf course conditions remain the same as described in this post.
The Nishiyuu will be treated to some great views such as this over the Gatineau River on their way to Ottawa.
But unless they deviat from the 105 they will also encounter views like this coming into Gatineau. Carla calls this scenario The Battle of the Pylons, pylons being the type of tall stand-alone signs popular with car dealerships and gas stations.
Safe journey Nishiyuu walkers, and see you in Ottawa.
When I lived in Montreal I would occasionally walk through Notre-Dame-Des-Neiges Cemetery to get over the mountain. At one point they were blasting close to the older plots. Many of the majestic tombstones were supported with various lengths of lumber and wire, and wrapped in translucent plastic for protection. The light from the setting sun glowed through the plastic, creating a hazy silhouette around the stone monuments. I was struck by how the temporary protective materials seemed to suggest the rich fleetingness of human life, adding to the tombstone’s raison d’être. I wound up adapting the effect for the graveyard scene in a production of Spring Awakening by Frank Wedekind.
Now what has all that got to do with biking in Ottawa/Outaouais? Well, ever since then I’ve been fascinated by the juxtaposition of temporary protective cladding around structures as they are being renovated, and right now there are a few extensive renovations happening in town, so I headed off to check them out. Here’s how.
As I write, Chief Theresa Spence of Attiwapiskat is in her 23rd day of her hunger strike on Victoria Island halfway across the Ottawa River. The following press release re-iterating her cause was sent out on New Years Eve.
The entire National Capital Region is of significance to the First Nations as they were its occupants and guardians for thousands of years before Champlain visited in 1615. On Monday I toured a few sites and locations with specific reference to the First Nations. Here’s how.
First stop was the Odawa Friendship Centreon Stirling AvenueUPDATE – The Odawa Friendship Centre has moved to 250 City Centre Ave, The Centre’s mission is ‘To enhance the quality of life for Aboriginal people in the Capital region. To maintain a tradition of community, an ethic of self-help and development as well as to provide traditional teachings from our elders.’.
Around the side and back of the centre are the following murals.
Next stop, Victoria Island, or Asinabka. In the Algonquin language the word “Asinabka” means “place of glare rock”. It is considered a sacred site, where for thousands of years ceremonies and offerings have been made. Lots more on Asinabka here.
The cedar fence was constructed to house a summer interpretive program called Aboriginal Experiences. The tee-pee is where Chief Theresa Spence is holding her fast.
A bit further down river sits The Canadian Museum of Civilization, designed by architect Douglas Cardinal who is of Metis and Blackfoot heritage. His First Nations background is said to have greatly influenced his indigenous style of architecture, as described in this CBC radio interview.
Back over on the Ottawa side, behind the National Gallery, atop Nepean Point stands this statue of Champlain looking out over the Ottawa River. There used to be a bronze sculpture of a kneeling Anishinabe scout at the base of the plinth on which Champlain stands, but it was removed in 1996 at the request of Ovide Mercredi, former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. I did not know that the sculpture of the scout had been relocated to Majors Hill Park a short distance away.
Near the National Cenotaph is the Valiants Memorial made up of a number of sculptures of key figures from the military history of the country, including that of Thayendanegea or Joseph Brant, a Mohawk who supported the British during the American Revolution. He relocated to the area near the present day City of Brantford in southern Ontario after the revolution.
I then rode up behind Parliament Hill to photo the Ottawa River, the highway used by First Nations for millennia before more modern forms of transport took over, first by rail, and now by road and air. There is Victoria Island in the middle, with the Supreme Court on the cliff to the left.
My final stop was in Confederation Park where stands this monument ‘To Aboriginal War Veterans in Canada and to Those That Have Fallen’.