Winter ride to Champlain Park to see the ‘Trees as Witness to History’ outdoor exhibit

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.

Trees as Witness to History display
Trees as Witness to History display

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.

Cathy’s Tour! – A 24km bike loop starting from Carleton University

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.

Starting out
Starting out

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.

Path up to Mooney's Bay
Path up to 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.

View from Hogs Back Falls
View from Hogs Back Falls

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.

Commemorative bike
Commemorative bike

The path then continues all the way along the river with great views like this.

Path along the Rideau River
Path along the Rideau River

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!

It's astounding. Time is fleeting!.... Where the Towne Cinema used to be.
It’s astounding. Time is fleeting!…. Where the Towne Cinema used to be.

Continue along the path all the way to Sussex Drive, past the Minto bridge.

Minto Bridge
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!

Where the lane ends
Where the lane ends

It gets a little tight as you approach the National Gallery, so, depending on the amount of traffic and your comfort level, you may want to consider walking your bike along the sidewalk for a block or two.

Where the road squeezes
Where the road squeezes

Once at the National Gallery, go past Maman the giant spider and cross St Patrick, as shown on the above map. Then turn right onto the bike path 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 towards 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.

The locks to cross
The locks to cross

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.

Under Sappers Bridge
Under Sappers Bridge

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 Cafe, on the east side of the Pretoria Bridge. It has since re-located to Preston Street, having been replaced by a pub, and become a bit more upscale as the Black Cat Bistro. it did however retain it’s very cool skinny cats logo.

Looking across to where Black Cat Cafe used to be
Looking across to where Black Cat Cafe used to be

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.

Canal near Landsdowne
Canal near Landsdowne

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!

Approaching Carleton through the arboretum
Approaching Carleton through the arboretum

Beacon Hill beckoned

Figuring out how a place got its name can lead to interesting discoveries. Like the neighbourhood of Beacon Hill. There once was a lighthouse in the middle of the Ottawa River, located a few kilometers down river from the Chaudière Falls. The warning beacon it sent to boaters was visible from a hill south of the river, thus the name, Beacon Hill. Here’s a 20 km loop that goes along the river’s edge to where you can see the remaining foundation of the lighthouse, then veers inland and up the hill before heading back into town. UPDATE – Summer 2017: As a result of of the catastrophic flooding this Spring the path below Parliament Hill along the water’s edge is closed until next Spring. The orange line on the map is a detour.

If you go early there’s a good chance you’ll catch some rowers out on the river behind Parliament Hill.

Rowers on the Ottawa
Rowers on the Ottawa

To get across the Rideau Canal, push your bike over one of the two lower locks. I prefer crossing over the second as the wooden walkway is slightly wider than the one closest to the river.

The locks to cross over
The locks to cross over

Head up the lane on the other side of the canal, then over to Sussex Drive. Follow Sussex all the way to the roundabout just beyond the entrance to the Governor General’s residence. Get on the bike path on the opposite side of the roundabout and follow it all the way up to where it joins the Rockliffe parkway overlooking the river. I was very pleased to discover they have completed the bike path extension down to where it continues along the waters edge.

New section of bike path along Rockcliffe Parkway
New section of bike path along Rockcliffe Parkway

There are a few path links down to the crushed gravel bike path along the shore. My favorite is the first link just left of the entrance to the rowing club boathouse because it affords you great views of the old boathouse, like this.

Rowing Club
Rowing Club

Follow the packed gravel pathway for a nice long stretch.

Que bella!
Ahhh… Que bella!

To catch a glimpse of what’s left of the lighthouse, continue along the shore for a bit beyond the directional sign that points off to Ogilvie Road, and you’ll see the remaining foundation through the gap between the two islands. You can’t miss it. Near the bottom of this link there’s a photo of what the lighthouse looked like still intact.

Lighthouse foundation
Lighthouse foundation

Retrace your route along the gravel path as far as the Ogilvie road turn off. Cross the Rockcliffe Parkway and follow Ogilvie Road as far as Laverendrye Drive. Turn right onto Laverendrye, which will take you to the base of Ski Hill Park. My sister taught skiing there, so the name is true to form. Now it’s a popular toboggan hill. Follow the paved path up the hill to Naskapi Drive, like so.

Path up Ski Hill Park
Path up Ski Hill Park

There’s quite an eclectic mix of architectural styles to take in as you wind your way down the other side down to Montreal Road, like this hacienda at the intersection of Rothwell Drive and Cedar Road.

Hacienda
Hacienda

Continue weaving your way down to Montreal Road, then follow it as far as the Aviation Parkway. There is a bike lane that starts just east of Burma Road. Once arrived at the Aviation Parkway, get on bike path at the north west corner of the intersection. Follow it as far as Hemlock Road. Turn west onto Hemlock Road, which will take you to St Laurent Boulevard. Head south for a bit along St Laurent to the back entrance of Beechwood Cemetery. Don’t bother trying to navigate a direct route from one end of the cemetery to the other, just wind your way westwardly and you’ll eventually make it to the other side.

Beechwood Cemetery
Beechwood Cemetery

Follow Beechwood to the path that runs along the eastern shore of the Rideau River. The section of Beechwood between MacKay and the river is pretty narrow and can be tight with traffic, so you might want to walk your bike along the sidewalk for this block. Get on the Rideau River Pathway and follow it as far as the Montreal Road bridge which has a bike lane heading west over the bridge. Turn down Charlotte, which curves west and becomes Laurier, which you can follow all the way back downtown.

Visiting some of The Envirocentre Green Homes Showcase by bike!

Next Saturday, September 28th, a number of homes throughout the city that employ green technologies will be welcoming visitors who want to discover how it’s done. It’s all part of the Envirocentre Green Homes Showcase. What a great idea. Here is a recommended bike route along roads, bike paths and alleyways to a few of those houses located west of Centretown.

This tour starts at the top of the Somerset St bridge above the O-Train tracks, easily accessible from the O-Train bike path.

First stop – 69 Fairmont Avenue.

69 Fairmont Ave
69 Fairmont Ave

Second stop – 15 Garland St, an infill house that you can tour mid-way through construction.

15 Garland St
15 Garland St

Third stop – 296 Royal Avenue. Lots on passive solar design going on here.

296 Royal Avenue
296 Royal Avenue

Fourth stop – 10 Firwood Crescent. Geothermal heating and more!

10 Firwood Crescent
10 Firwood Crescent

Fifth stop – 1288 Kingston Ave – isn’t included on the Envirocentre’s map or Showcase, so it won’t be open for tours, but it is a pretty amazing house that’s been turning greener and greener over the last 30 years. Here it is as seen from the bike path that runs between Kingston Avenue and the Experimental Farm. It’s my sister and brother-in-law’s place. The two big solar panels on the left corner are for water heating. The two smaller ones flanking them are for electricity. All the others covering the roof are for electricity too, that feed back into Ottawa Hydro’s grid. The window’s are triple paned fiberglass. Many, many years ago the weeping tiles around the bottom of the foundation were dug up, cleaned and reset. Before re-filling the foundation we added 3 inches of blue foam insulation to about 2-1/2 feet above grade, then parged before re-filling. That was a big job. It helped pay for my big bike tour around Europe.

1288 Kingston Ave
1288 Kingston Ave

Pedalling to and Paddling on the Rideau River

‘Hey Glenn. want to go for a bike ride?’
‘Sure, let me get the canoe ready.’
‘Oh-kay.’

That’s sort of how the conversation went which led to today’s Ottawa Velo Outaouais adventure! You see my old friend Glenn Gobuyan is even more crazy passionate about biking than I am. He rides everywhere and has bike toured all over Canada and the planet. On one particular exploit he strapped a kayak to a bike trailer designed and built in Guelph, as described in this blog he kept during the trip. The trailer also pulls a canoe, which he did this afternoon, all the way to Mooney’s Bay. Here’s how the journey went. Blue line’s how we biked there, red line’s our canoe route, and green line’s how he biked home.

Our adventure started in Westboro, just behind MEC.

And they're off!
And they’re off!

We biked over to Dow’s lake, along the canal, and up to Prince of Wales Drive which we followed to Hog’s Back and Mooney’s Bay, eliciting lots of double-takes and smiles along the way.

Pulling the canoe along Prince of Wales Drive
Pulling the canoe along Prince of Wales Drive

We put the canoe in at the Rideau Canoe Club (thank you very much RCC) and paddled up stream along the Rideau to the train bridge and back.

On the Rideau
On the Rideau

Biking back along Prince of Wales Drive we parted ways at the edge of the Experimental Farm where Glenn continued on home with his canoe in tow. SO, a fine adventure. Glenn has previously managed to carry two bikes and passengers in the canoe, which takes a special attachment to keep the bikes stable. We decided to leave that to a future adventure, so stay tuned!

Biking from Parliament Hill to Ottawa South

Someone recently asked via Twitter if there is a safe way to bike from Parliament Hill to the Ottawa Hospital General Campus that avoids the ‘horrible Smyth Road bridge’. I’ve been meaning to post a route for commuters biking to and from Ottawa South that avoids Main Street as much as possible, at least until they’ve finished the Main Street – Complete Street renewal. So here is a route indicated by the blue line on the map below, starting at Parliament Hill to the Ottawa Hospital General Campus and beyond through the rest of Ottawa South.

The green line on the map is a slightly different section taken on the way back to avoid crazy Lees Avenue, because it doesn’t have a bike lane heading west.

UPDATE – Spring 2016: An important link along this route, the bike path along the transit bridge over the Rideau River, is closed for LRT construction Until January 2018. An alternative route around this construction site is described in this more recent post.

Start
Start

Leave Parliament Hill, cross Wellington and head a short distance down Elgin Street.

Elgin St
Elgin St

Turn down the ramp beside the NAC across for the War Memorial, like so.

Ramp heading down beside the NAC to the canal
Ramp heading down beside the NAC to the canal

Ride all the way down the ramp past the NAC stage door, and get on the bike path that runs along the canal.

Path along the Rideau Canal
Path along the Rideau Canal

Take the pedestrian/bike bridge over the canal across from Ottawa of University, like so.

Bike and pedestrian bridge over the canal
Bike and pedestrian bridge over the canal

Continue south along the other side of the canal. Just before the path goes under the Queensway take the turn off that brings you up along Colonel By Drive to Pretoria Bridge, as indicated by the sign in the middle of the fork in the path. You won’t see the big white directional arrow on the path. I photoshopped it in.

Turn off towards Pretoria Bridge
Turn off towards Pretoria Bridge

That will take you to the intersection of Hawthorne Avenue and Colonel By, on the east side of Pretoria Bridge. Things get a little tricky here. I recommend crossing to the opposite corner and walking your bike for a short distance along the sidewalk south to where it veers left along Echo Drive, like so.

Getting over to Echo Drive, far away in time
Getting over to Echo Drive

Another option when traffic isn’t too bad, is to ride south along Colonel By Drive the short distance from the intersection to the meridian just before Echo Drive where there is a reserved bike exit lane.

Bike turn lane from Colonel By Drive to Echo Drive just south of Pretoria Bridge
Bike turn lane from Colonel By Drive to Echo Drive just south of Pretoria Bridge

Turn down the first street you come to on your left which will be Graham Avenue. It has a bike lane.

Graham Ave
Graham Ave

Graham ends at Main Street. The route jogs a bit to the right before continuing as Lees Avenue across the intersection.

End of east bound bike lane along Graham, looking across Main St to Lees Ave
End of east bound bike lane along Graham, looking across Main St to Lees Ave

There is a bike lane along Lees heading east, but it doesn’t start for a hundred yards or so beyond the lights at Main.

Lees Avenue bike lane
Lees Avenue bike lane

The Lees bike lane abruptly ends at Chestnut Street. Drivers always speed along Lees Avenue so I turned onto Chestnut. This took me to Springhurst Ave.

At the end of Springhurst get on the stone dust path and veer left for a short distance along the edge of the Rideau River.

Path at the end of Springhurst
Path at the end of Springhurst

Take the path along the transitway bridge over the river, like so.

Bridge over the Rideau River
Bridge over the Rideau River

Follow along the path past the big OC Transpo gathering spot.

OC Transpo sea, by the dawns early light.
OC Transpo gathering spot.

Continue straight on towards the Riverside Drive/ Industrial Avenue intersection. Now I won’t deny this is a spooky major vehicule intersection, however don’t let it intimidate you. There are usually many other pedestrians and cyclists crossing at this spot and the path does continue on the other side of Riverside Drive along Industrial Avenue.

Riverside Drive and Industrial Avenue
Riverside Drive and Industrial Avenue

Continue along Industrial Avenue, past the giant metal flowers installed in Cancer Survivors Park.

Big flowers
Big flowers

The first street you will come to is Alta Vista Drive. There is a bike path that starts at the south east corner of Alta Vista and Industrial. Follow it.

Path off the corner of AltaVista and Industrial
Path off the corner of AltaVista and Industrial

It ends a short distance on at Blair Street. Turn right on Blair, then take an immediate left on Station Boulevard. Follow Station Boulevard right to the end where there’s a bike path that takes you through to Ring Road.

Bike path at the end of Station Boulevard
Bike path at the end of Station Boulevard

Turn left on Ring Road, which rings around our first destination – the Ottawa Hospital General Campus!

Riverside Hospital
Ottawa Hospital General Campus

For those interested in continuing on further into Ottawa South, exit the Ring Road at the first left which is a car entrance to the grounds of the hospital. Turn right on Roger Guindon Avenue, and follow it all the way to Smyth Road. Across Smyth you will see the start of another bike path. This one is really great, because it travels right across Ottawa South through mostly green space all the way to Walkley Road, and goes past the very impressive Kilborn allotment gardens. Our journey ends here, however for those that wish to travel even further south there are bike lanes along Conroy Road as far as Hunt Club Road. Have a great commute!

Ottawa South

Et voila!

Conroy Pit

Conroy Pit is a very popular off leash dog park within the south-east part of the Greenbelt, but it is also a great place to explore by bike. Here’s how I did so early Monday morning. Blue line is the route I rode there, red line is the way I biked home.

To get there I followed the route described in this post, which took me all the way to the the corner of Hunt Club Road and the Airport Parkway off ramp. That went very well, however the next section along Hunt Club and Bank Street was hell. Speeding traffic weaving in and out of four and six lane traffic with no shoulders at all, that kind of hell. So I recommend following the much safer red route I took to get home. More on that later.

I accessed the park at the north west entrance where Quail Run Road ends, like so.

Access to Conroy Pit from the end of Quail Run Road
Access to Conroy Pit from the end of Quail Run Road

Once in the park the ground is pretty much packed sand everywhere, with a few loose spots, but nothing too difficult to negotiate on a hybrid bike. It would be a sinch on a mountain bike.

Path through Conroy Pit
Path through Conroy Pit

There is indeed a pit, on one side of which is a hill used for tobogganing in the winter.

Toboggan Hill
Toboggan Hill

There were a number of dogs running free along the path so I proceeded at a very comfy careful pace lest they decide to charge on over to say hi, or dart across the path after each other. I think there is an unwritten rule you don’t take aggressive dogs to an off leash park. All the dog walkers were very friendly as well, and, by all indications, very good at picking up after their pets so don’t worry about that.

Dog
Dog

There are also lots of small paths not plotted on a map that you could spend time discovering without worrying about getting too lost, as the park is pretty contained.

One of many side paths to discover
Small side path

The south eastern part is more wooded.

Path through the woods
Woods

Heading back to town I followed the bike lane along Conroy Road. It’s a busy commuter artery, but the bike lane was great for getting me safely all the way to Walkley Road.

Bike lane along Conroy Road
Bike lane along Conroy Road

At Walkley I hopped onto the bike path that runs along the Killborn Allotment Gardens, and then wove my way home along the route hi-lited in red. Et voila. Being in the pits can be fun!