My route: The where and the why - A great blue heron, a bear, and a butterfly: - CycleBlaze

My route: The where and the why

The idea was to take advantage of my double-vaccination status and the reopening of nearby parks and campgrounds.  I would make a mini-tour of the extended neighbourhood -- the hills of Eastern Ontario and West Québec on both sides of the Ottawa River, north-west and due north of Ottawa.  This would be a Petite Tournée de trois rivières:  the Ottawa and two of its major tributaries, the Madawaska on the Ontario side and the Gatineau on the Québec side.

The route would be a big zag-zag, taking me west and north from Ottawa to Denbigh in the hills of the Madawaska watershed, and the 19th-century farmstead of friends of many years; then due east to West Québec, crossing the Ottawa near Shawville, continuing north and east across the Gatineau and heading north to Maniwaki; and from there, returning southwards to Ottawa.  About 600 kms, perhaps 7 days’ riding through hills and river valleys, largely on secondary and tertiary roads, with some gravel.  The Québec portion of the route would be new cycling terrain for me, although I knew some of the countryside from paddling trips in past years.

Here’s a map of such a route:

But “the idea” never quite made it to “plan” status.  Checking some of my usual campsites east of my friends’ farmhouse towards the Ottawa River, I learned that COVID restrictions imposed by the county health authorities forbade camping unless the camper(s) had a self-contained toilet and waste disposal apparatus.  My Raven-mit-Rohloff is well-equipped, but doesn’t have such a thing; and my trusty trowel-for-the-woods wouldn’t suffice.

Back to the paper and electronic maps, then, to sketch out a shorter route with workable camping options.  My main reason for the mini-tour was to visit my friends near Denbigh.  They had suffered a terrible family bereavement in the spring of the year, and we had been unable to visit them in person, to mourn and comfort one another.  So, I reworked my route to take me to their farmhouse near Denbigh; and then to retrace my route to Ottawa via the small town of Perth, near the Rideau Canal; and continue home along the canal and the Rideau River, via Kilmarnock Lock, then Merrickville, and Manotick, villages beside the canal.

This would give me about two days’ riding in the hills, and about three on gentler terrain, with most of the last two days spent in the lowlands of the Rideau River and Canal.

The outbound leg, 177 kms, is here:

And the return journey, about 229 kms, is shown here: 

The actual mileage was about 415 kms, the difference due to my lazy navigational error that took me through rather than around the small town of Smiths Falls.

As it turned out, the weather played a major part in the story.  (This is Canada, after all.)  In early/mid-August, we had a spell of serious heat and humidity, with daytime highs in the low-to-mid 30s, and the humidex often reaching the low 40s.  Accordingly, I pushed my departure back to Sunday/22nd.  Then, I felt relieved and pleased with myself to learn that—voilà!— the forecast called for the weather to break that day: cloudy, chance of showers, temps in the high 20s.  As it turned out, Sunday was probably the peak of August’s heat’n’humidity, and only as I got into the hills on the following day did both ease a bit.  By the time I returned to the lowlands along the river and canal on my fourth day, the temps were manageable, in the high 20s.

Three of the dreaded four aitches were very much in my face, then: heat, hills, and humidity.  But happily, no headwinds.

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