Biking to and Skiing Through the Arboretum : Version 2

Ottawa is very fortunate to have a wonderful arboretum quite close to Centretown, located between the Rideau Canal to the east and Prince of Wales Drive to the west. A four kilometre machine groomed cross-country ski trail that runs through it has recently been prepared for the annual Winterlude Triathlon. Normally the breaking in of ski trails is left to intrepid skiers, as described in my first post on Biking to and Skiing Through the Arboretum. This modus operandi will most likely return once the next significant snow fall occurs, however until then it is definitely worth taking advantage of the groomed trail, identified by the purple line on the map below. Accessing the arboretum from the edge of Dows Lake is a fine way to get to the trail. The blue line on the map is a suggested bike route to get there from Centretown. Here’s how it goes.

Our adventure begins near the corner of Somerset and Cambridge. I bundled my skis and poles into a ski bag, strapped them to the side of my hiking backpack, and headed out.

Heading out!
And we’re off!

I rode along quiet streets towards Dow’s Lake, crossing busy Gladstone at the traffic lights at Arthur Street. On the opposite side of Gladstone I continued down Arthur Lane.

View across Gladstone to Arthur Lane
View across Gladstone to Arthur Lane

To get beyond the Queensway I turned on to Booth Street from Arlington. As Booth is one of the few roads that goes under the Queensway it can get busy, particularly during the week. A meridian has recently been added to the middle of the road along Booth just north of the Queensway underpass, narrowing the lane at this pinch point. If traffic is heavy I may choose to take to the sidewalk along Booth between Arlington to Raymond Street. This Sunday it wasn’t so bad. Booth Street widens once again beyond the intersection at Raymond as it heads under the Queensway.

SQUEEZE! - Pinch point, intersection at Booth & Raymond
SQUEEZE! – Pinch point, intersection at Booth & Raymond

At the north end of Booth there are traffic lights to help get across busy Carling Avenue. On the other side of Carling there is a plowed path that cuts through Commissioner’s Park to the Queen Elizabeth Driveway.

Access to path through Commissioner's Park on the other side of Carling
Access to path through Commissioner’s Park on the other side of Carling

There aren’t any traffic signals to help get across the Driveway to the Rideau Canal Western Pathway so watch out as drivers tend to speed along this stretch. It’s a much calmer crossing on Winterlude weekends when they close the Driveway for all vehicles except OC Transpo shuttle buses.
I then rode along the Rideau Canal Western Pathway, which is cleared throughout the winter, to the Dow’s Lake Pavilion.

Rideau Canal Western Pathway towards the Dows Lake Pavilion
Rideau Canal Western Pathway towards the Dows Lake Pavilion

To get to the groomed ski trail I took the well travelled path just to the right of the Dow’s Lake service ramp. If this path proves to be inaccessible by bike, I would lock my bike to a post or canal railing near the pavilion and ski in from this location, however on this occaision I had no difficulty getting through.

Trail to the right of Dow's Lake access ramp......that continues past the canons
Trail to the right of Dow’s Lake access ramp……that continues past the canons

I then locked my bike to this sign post a short distance further along the path, right where the groomed trail passes by. I’ve found this to be a fine spot to access the Arboretum to go skiing, even without a machine groomed trail as most often another skier has already arrived ahead of me, although early one morning after a big snowfall my daughter and I took the lead and broke trail, which can be exciting too.

Trailhead
Trailhead

The trail winds through the arboretum like so.

Trail through Arboretum
Trail

One of the joys of the arboretum in the winter is seeing the varied mix of users, making it a veritable winter playground. On a typical outing one may expect to come across snow shoers, skiers, tobogganers, skaters along the canal, fellow cyclists and dog walkers.

Happy trails!
Happy trails!

UPDATE– February 2nd: It snowed a few centimetres last night, making the trail less groomed but discernible. Someone had ridden a Fat Bike along the packed skate ski portion of the trail which must have been fun. Portions of the trail run along paths popular with dog walkers, but the classic ski tracks are off to the side. I hope to revisit the route throughout the winter. Definitely worth it.

Arboretum trail

The New York Central Fitness Trail

There used to be a railway that ran between Ottawa and New York City. It was in operation from 1898 to 1957. In 1979 the Township of Russell purchased a 7.2 km section of the line between the villages of Embrun and Russell and turned it into the New York Central Fitness Trail.

i found myself in Embrun with a bit of time to kill (my son was playing in a hockey tournament and there was a gap between games) so I went and tried the trail. Here’s what it’s like.

The Embrun Arena Is a convenient place to start. There’s room to park should you choose to drive there, and Blais St has a nice wide shoulder you can follow to get the start of the trail. Or you could park just beside the trailhead.

Old Embrun train station and the start of the trail
Old Embrun train station and the start of the trail

The entire path is paved, rolling past farmland and backyards. At times it runs alongside roads, but never without a good buffer of trees.

The The New York Central Fitness Trail in the Fall
The The New York Central Fitness Trail in the Fall

There were lots of little foot bridges from back yards to the path, which suggests it’s well used by the locals. I did come across a number of friendly dog walkers, bike riders and joggers.

Petits ponts to the path
Petits ponts to the path

Street crossings are well marked and felt safe, including the round-about at the intersection of Notre Dame St and St Guillaume Rd.

Path crossing at the Notre Dame St round-about
Path crossing at the Notre Dame St round-about

The trail ends in the town of Russell when it reaches Forced Road. That’s where the paving stops, however there’s a path that continues west along the old trail line. This link claims there are plans to continue the trail to Ottawa, which would be great!

Old rail line beyond Forced Road
Old rail line beyond Forced Road

At the end of the trail I turned south down Forced Road. It’s a quiet country road.

View down Forced Road
View down Forced Road

I had planned on doing a loop back to Embrun along side roads, even managed to cross the Castor River through Russell, but when I found myself white-knuckle-riding along narrow two lane roads with no shoulders and speeding traffic (not included on the above map) I decided to take the trail back.

I’m glad I did, because near the south end of Forced Road I discovered Sherwood Trail that runs through the J Henry Tweed Conservation Area, that eventually joins up with the New York Central Fitness Trail. Go figure! I’ve marked this section in red on the above map.

Start of the Sherwood Trail on the edge of Forced Road
Start of the Sherwood Trail on the edge of Forced Road

Sherwood Trail is a magical meander through a combination of deciduous and coniferous trees.

Sherwood Path
Sherwood Path along the stream….. and through the trees.

I rejoined the New York Central Fitness Trail and headed back to Embrun.

Et voila!

Russell Mural

Biking to Blue Skies Music Festival from Ottawa – Route #2

The Blue Skies Music Festival near Clarendon, Ontario takes place on the first weekend of August, as it has every year since the early 70’s. It’s a great big gathering where folks come for a day, or camp out over the 3 day long weekend.

This year was the third time I’ve been. Last year I biked to a friend’s cottage close by on Sharbot Lake, then rode up to the site on the following Friday morning. You can read all about that adventure here. This year I did the same, however I chose a different route, identified by the blue line on the map below.

I rode back to Ottawa on the following Monday along the red line shown on the map, similar to the route my friend François rode to get there this year, which you can read about by clicking here.

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Last year’s ride took me much longer than I had anticipated, so this year I tried to streamline my route to shorten the time spent in the saddle. To get out of Ottawa I headed straight down Wellington/Richmond/Robertson Road. Now most cyclists familiar with that stretch of road might not consider it the safest option. Few sections of it are safe most hours of the day, however there is a narrow window of opportunity early in the morning before traffic starts to build. I left the house at 5:30 am. Things went smoothly, until Richmond turned in to Robertson Road, just west of Baseline. That’s where any semblance of a paved shoulder disappears and the surprising number of cars, buses & trucks that early in the day flew by at highway speeds. I was very relieved to get on the Trans-Canada Trail west of Moodie Drive.

Calm & minimal traffic along Richmond....but narrow & speedy traffic along Robertson Rd
Calm & minimal traffic along Richmond….but narrow road & speedy traffic along Robertson Rd

The Trans-Canada Trail between Bells Corners and Carleton Place is an old railway line that has been converted to a packed stone dust path, as described in a bit more detail in the middle of this post. I’ve travelled it a few times now, so in search of a little variety, and to speed things up, I rode along Abbott Street for a short stretch through Stittsville, which runs parallel to the Trans-Canada Trail. Traffic was calm, and there was a generous shoulder for most of it’s length.

Packed stone dust Trans-Can Trail....& paved shoulder along Abbott Street through Stittsville
Packed stone dust Trans-Can Trail….& paved shoulder along Abbott Street through Stittsville

Stittsville went through a growth period in the 1870’s when the railway line connecting Ottawa to Carleton Place was introduced. There are a few surviving examples of buildings from that period near the intersection of Main and Abbott Street where the train station was located, including this fixer upper sandwiched between the Trans-Canada Trail and Abbott St.

Old house in Stittsville
Old house in Stittsville

The rail-to-trail section of the path ends on the edge of Carleton Place. From there I headed south-east along a path that runs parallel to McNeely Ave to where it crosses Highway 7. At the end of McNeely there is a wonderful network of short trails called the Beckwith Trail, that meanders through a varied mix of wooded area and old farmland. I followed the McGregor Branch and the Shady Branch to get to 9th Line road.

Sections of the Beckwith Trail
Sections of the Beckwith Trail

I then headed southwest along 9th Line, a two lane road where I encountered minimal traffic. Saw some beautiful big old brick farm houses. I also road through a thunderstorm. I passed this family of bovines just as the rain let up, staring at me as if to say, ‘What the heck are you doing way out here in this weather?!’

Befuddled bovines
Befuddled bovines

9th Line turned into Tennyson Road which I followed for a bit before turning on to Concession Road 7. It too was a nice quiet paved two laner through farm country. On the other side of the 511 it became a very smooth white stone dust road.

White stone dust surface along Concession Line 7
White stone dust surface along Concession Line 7

Road 7 morphed into McVeigh road, which I followed to where it ended at Doran Road. Now Doran Road was the trickiest stretch along this year’s ride to Blue Skies. It narrowed down to one lane with a loose stone gravel surfacing that went up and down through the woods for quite a ways.

Loose gravel along Doran Road
Loose gravel along Doran Road

The road surface became smoother once it turned on to Fagan Lake Road, and then paved once more on the other side of the Elphin-Maberly Road, along Zealand Road.

I am always amazed by the cedar post fences that weave their way through this whole area. The manner in which they are stacked and arranged in a zig-zag pattern allows for great flexibility in negotiating the rough rocky terrain. Here’s an example, perched up on the edge of a stone cut along Zealand Road.

Cedar post fence
Cedar post fence

For the rest of the ride I followed Bell Line Road and the A&P trail to my friends cottage on Sharbot Lake, and then up to the festival site the following morning, as described at the tail end of last year’s post.

Et voila – ’twas another wonderful Blue Skies festival full of music galore!

Early morning mist rising on a farmers field near Clarendon
Early morning mist rising on a farmers field near Clarendon

Biking over the Strandherd Bridge!

The long awaited opening of the Strandherd Bridge has happened. (Update Nov 2014 – now officially renamed the Vimy Memorial Bridge) Early Saturday morning I took the opportunity to bike over and test it out!

The route I followed to get to the bridge was the same as the one described in this post, as far as Leikin Drive. Mid way along Leikin I turned east and worked my way along paths and residential streets to get to the Chapman Mills Conservation Area which lies just north of the bridge. There’s a pedestrian boardwalk that meanders through the Conservation Area along the edge of the river, with lookouts and interpretive panels that describe the area’s natural environment.

Boardwalk through Conservation Area
Boardwalk through Chapman Mills Conservation Area

I walked my bike along the boardwalk to the southern edge of the Conservation Area where the path opens up onto this impressive side view of the bridge.

Side view
Side view

The path circles under the bridge, which affords some great views of it’s ribbed underbelly and massive footings.

Strandherd underbelly

Crossing under the bridge
It’s all under the bridge

This path leads up to the sidewalk along Strandherd Drive which runs alongside the bike lane over the bridge. I decided to video the momentous occasion, so without further ado, here is the Ottawa Velo Outaouais Peddle Powered Crossing of the new Strandherd Bridge!

Et voila!

Once on the other side of the river I cut through a residential area along paths and roads, rode along Spratt then Limebank to Leitrim Road, then along High Road beside the airport. From here on in I followed the same route described in this post.

n.b. Prince of Wales Drive is a busy street which I don’t recommend biking along at anytime other than early mornings on weekends, as described in this post. Hopefully this will be improved upon as soon as possible, because Manotick could be a great bike tourism draw if there was a safer way to get there from downtown along the west shore of the Rideau River.

Biking along the Sawmill Creek Pathway

The Sawmill Creek Pathway extension is completed and it’s fantastic! It now connects to the Brookfield Path at it’s northern end and runs south as far as Hunt Club Road. I’ve hi-lited the pathway in green. The blue line is the route I followed to get to and from Centretown.

Here’s where the Sawmill Creek Pathway begins along the Overbrook Path, just east of the train tracks.

Northern end of the Sawmill Creek Pathway
Northern end of the Sawmill Creek Pathway

Below are a few images of the pathway.

Fresh pavement and fresh planting!
Fresh pavement and fresh planting!
Alongside Airport Parkway for a short spell.
Alongside Airport Parkway for a short spell.
Under Walkley beside the Transitway Station, where the pathway used to end.
Under Walkley beside the Transitway Station, which was the northern end of the path before the extension.

The path runs through the Sawmill Creek Constructed Wetland, described extensively on this Quadracycling in Ottawa blog page

The path ends at Hunt Club. Unfortunately the transition from here to anywhere else is pretty rough.

On a previous occasion I turned east on Hunt Club to get to South Keys mall. To do so I stayed on the sidewalk for a short distance before cutting left through the parking lot just beyond the train bridge.

UPDATE, Summer 2015 –  The Airport Parkway Bridge opposite South Key Mall opened in 2014. See this post for more. An access to South Keys Mall has been created via a short pedestrian tunnel under the O-Train tracks a bit south of the pedestrian bridge. Signs are confusing but I checked with OC Transpo – bikes are allowed through the tunnel but walked, not ridden.

On this occasion, I chose to head west along Hunt Club. the transition across the transit way and Aviation Parkway off ramps was rough. Once beyond these spots there is a bike lane, however it doesn’t start for a few hundred yards. All very complex, so I prepared this little video to help explain. The video starts where the Sawmill Creek Pathway ends.

So apart from this nasty little section, the extension of the Sawmill Creek Pathway and the bike lane further along Hunt Club allows for a fine link over to Uplands Drive and areas south of the city.

Biking from Gatineau Park to Ottawa

Alexandre wrote, “Just moved into Gattawa from Montreal and biking routes will be a challenge. For one thing, what’s the best way to safely bike from Gatineau Park to Ottawa? Or to Aylmer?”.

Thanks for asking! Here’s a safe route from the park to Ottawa.

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Our adventure begins at the P3 parking lot along the Gatineau Parkway, also referred to as the Gatineau Park Welcome Area. There one can find a big interpretive map panel showing paths that lead into the rest of the park. There is also an interpretive kiosk with helpful information officers. I joined the Gatineau Park Pathway just to the left of these very well designed interpretive panels.

Gatineau Park Pathway heading south
Gatineau Park Pathway heading south

A hundred yards or so further along, the path crosses another path that runs east-west (it used to be Rue Gamelin). I continued south.

Gatineau Park Pathway continuing along Gatineau Park Driveway
Gatineau Park Pathway continuing along Boulevard du Parc de la Gatineau

The path follows the road for a bit before dipping left through a beautiful wooded area.

Woods
Woods

It The path continues alongside the road over Boulevard des Allumetières before heading back through the woods.

Heading over Boulevard des Allumettières
Heading over Boulevard des Allumettières

The path ends at the southernmost tip of the park, at Boulevard Alexandre-Taché. I continued across the intersection down quiet Rue Belleau.

Across Alexandre-Taché down Belleau
Across Alexandre-Taché down Belleau

At the end of Belleau there’s a path that turns off to the left.

Path at the end of Belleau
Path at the end of Belleau

A bit further on there’s a fork in the road. This is the Voyageurs Pathway. By turning right you’d be heading west, which will take you all the way to Aylmer. It’s a great ride, described in more detail in this post.

I turned left and headed towards Ottawa.

Sign a the intersection of the Voyageurs Pathway
Sign a the intersection of the Voyageurs Pathway

The path eventually meets up with Boulevard Alexandre Taché once again, just beyond some train tracks, and turns right alongside Boulevard Alexandre Taché.

Over the tracks, and right
Over the tracks, and right

The only spooky bit along this route is at the corner of Boulevard Alexandre-Taché and Rue Eddy. I keep further back and closer to the wall while waiting for the light to change than these fine cyclists ahead of me because I’ve witnessed cars and trucks clip the corner of the sidewalk in their rush to turn onto Eddy and over into Ottawa. I’ve also seen cyclists turn on to Eddy, which I would never have the guts to do as that bridge is very narrow with afore mentioned impatient car & truck drivers. Instead I cross through the intersection and continue along the path on the opposite side.

Corner of Eddy and Alexandre-Taché
Corner of Eddy and Alexandre-Taché

The path continues east, eventually going under the Portage Bridge before popping out in front of this sculpture by Phyllis Kurtz Fine. Turning left takes you behind the Museum of History and the opportunity to cross over to Ottawa on the Alexandra Bridge. I turned right and made my way along the bike path over the Portage Bridge.

Alexandra Bridge towards the left..... Portage Bridge to the right.
Alexandra Bridge towards the left….. Portage Bridge to the right.

Once on the other side of the bridge there are a myriad of options, depending on your final destination. I went left, just like this guy, and headed west along the Ottawa River Pathway. Et voila!

Ottawa

Bike commute from Primrose Park to Pointe-Gatineau

Beth is seeking safe ways to bike commute from the northern section of Little Italy to the eastern edge of Pointe-Gatineau. I scouted out a route that is almost entirely along bike paths, as identified by the blue line on the map below. Red line is the slight variation I took on the way back. Green line is another route Beth test rode last week that is also almost entirely along bike paths, however the path was flooded in a few areas near the confluence of the Gatineau and Ottawa Rivers forcing her to do a bit of a detour. It’s a great route too, best ridden a little later in the season. UPDATE 2017: (see pink line on following map) There’s a great new bike lane on the east side of the Gatineau that runs between Rue Jacques Cartier and the Ottawa River which joins up with the Route Vert path heading north, then the bike lanes along Montée Paiement. This takes you straight to our final destination. This new section is described in this post.

We begin at the recently renovated Primrose Park, corner of Primrose and Rochester St.

And away we go!
And away we go!

There is a short path at the northwest corner of the park that cuts through to a lane that leads to Preston St.

Path to Preston St
Path to Preston St

I turned north on Preston and rode half a block to the lights at Albert, crossed at the lights and rode east along the bike path.

Looking across the to the bike path heading east along Albert.
Looking across the to the bike path heading east along Albert.

I turned left off the path onto bumpy Commissioner St, which leads to the Ottawa River Pathway which continues under Wellington St.

Down Commissioners st onto bike path.
Down Commissioners st onto bike path.

Once beyond the Wellington St underpass I turned left up along the path over the Portage Bridge. On the other side of the bridge I turned right onto the Voyageurs Pathway and circled under the Portage Bridge and headed east.

Voyageurs pathway access off the Portage Bridge
Voyageurs pathway access off the Portage Bridge

I crossed Boulevard Alexandre-Taché at the lights at the corner of Rue Montcalm and joined the Ruisseau-de-la-brasserie Pathway like so.

Start of the Ruisseau-de-la-brasserie Pathway at the north west corner of Montcalm and Alexandre-Taché
Start of the Ruisseau-de-la-brasserie Pathway at the north west corner of Montcalm and Alexandre-Taché

The path takes a short detour around construction just in front of Théâtre de L’Île. It’s a short detour around the parking and over the canal bridge. Once on the other side of the bridge I turned right onto Rue Taylor which hugs the side of the stream, eventually becoming the Ruisseau-de-la-brasserie Pathway at it’s northern end once again.

Rue Taylor along the western side of the ruisseau
Rue Taylor along the western side of the ruisseau

The path dips down and under Rue Montcalm and meanders along the ruisseau for quite a spell.

Ruisseau-de-la-brasserie Pathway as it dips under Rue Montcalm
Ruisseau-de-la-brasserie Pathway as it dips under Rue Montcalm

The path eventually goes back over the ruisseau and continues downstream on the other side.

Continuing on the Ruisseau-de-la-brasserie Pathway
Continuing on the Ruisseau-de-la-brasserie Pathway

The path continues under Highway 5, however there were these P-gates just before the underpass and a sign warning that it may be flooded.

Ruisseau-de-la-brasserie Path just before going under Boulevard des Allumettières
Ruisseau-de-la-brasserie Path just before going under Boulevard des Allumettières

A cyclist popped out from the other side just as I approached and reassured me that there was only about a couple of inches of water across the path, so I went and took a look, and she was right, so I rode on through.

Ruisseau-de-la-brasserie Pathway heading under the Boulevard des Allumetières
Ruisseau-de-la-brasserie Pathway heading under the Highway 5

I turned left over a small wooden bridge a short distance beyond the underpass. This took me towards Lac Leamy.

Left over bridge just beyond the Highway 5 underpass.
Left over bridge just beyond the Highway 5 underpass.

Before going any further I would like to pause and contemplate this little wooden bridge, which I have come to call The Little Bridge From Hell! You see, the last time I rode over it I crashed, resulting in a meniscal tear in my knee, sidelining me for a good chunk of last Fall. A light drizzle had fallen that morning making the wooden surface very slippery. Heading back over the bridge in the opposite direction, the path suddenly turns to the right. one’s instinct is to start to turn while still on the bridge, as suggested by the tire tracks in the image below. When I did so my tires slipped right out from under me. As I put my right leg out to brace my fall my foot slipped uncontrollably in the opposite direction, bringing all my weight down on my knee. Thus the injury. SO, hard lesson learned, if it’s raining or frosty, go very slowly over this innocent looking little bridge and don’t start to turn until you reach the asphalt on the other side.

The Little Bridge From Hell
The Little Bridge From Hell

OK, on with our tour. The path continues along until it joins the Leamy Lake Pathway. One could normally choose to go either to the left or the right around the lake, however at this time of year the east side of the lake gets very flooded, so I stuck to the left.

Path around Lac Leamy
Path around Lac Leamy

A bit further along the path I encountered another minor wet spot, also very manageable. Shoes didn’t even get wet.

Bit of water on the path
Bit of water on the Lac Leamy Pathway

Around the other side of the lake, just beyond the parking lot, I turned left onto the Gatineau River Pathway.

Left onto the Gatineau River Pathway
Left onto the Gatineau River Pathway

The path forks at the edge of the elevated Rapibus transit way. I followed the path to the right under the transit way.

Path under the Rapibus Transitway.
Path under the Rapibus Transitway.

I then followed the path alongside the transit way, up and over the Gatineau River.

Path up to the bridge over the Gatineau River
Path up to the bridge over the Gatineau River

Everything becomes a bit of a dogs breakfast once the path reaches Boulevard de la Gappe. The path crosses the train tracks, and continues on the opposite corner through the traffic lights. See big white arrow in photo below.

Path continues on the opposite corner of Boulevard de la Gappe
Path continues on the opposite corner of Boulevard de la Gappe

The path weaves it’s way the entire length of Boulevard de la Gappe to our destination, Boulevard de la Cité.

Path along Boulevard de la Gappe
Path along Boulevard de la Gappe

There’s a swimming pool close by with one of the cleverest bike rack/wall mural combos in the region.

Cool bike rack
Excellent bike rack

On the way back I decided to avoid riding along the Gatineau River and around Leamy Lake by continuing alongside the Rapidbus transit way to where it ends at Boulevard Montclair. I crossed Montclair at the lights and rode east.

Left onto Montclair
Left onto Montclair

Montclair can be a pretty busy street with fast moving cars, but there is a bike lane that takes you to the path that accesses the Ruisseau de la Brasserie Pathway.

Bike lane along Montcair at pathway to Ruisseau de la Brasserie
Bike lane along Montcair at pathway to Ruisseau de la Brasserie

Heading towards Pointe Gatineau along this alternate route would require biking on the sidewalk against traffic as far as the lights across from the start of the bike path beside the transit way, however I’ve rarely seen any pedestrians along this sidewalk. If any are encountered there is plenty of opportunity to see them coming to dismount and walk your bike past them with a great big smile! So there you have it – a few fine ways to bike to Pointe Gatineau!