Sunday, January 8, 2017

Skiing the SJAM Winter Trail and Gatineau Park

We recently made a trip to Ottawa so that we could enjoy a bit of winter with family. Our first stop in the city (second if you include the rest stop) was to the new Sir John A. MacDonald (SJAM) Winter Trail. I'd read a lot about this trail and couldn't believe that a multi-use pathway that was groomed regularly by volunteers existed right in the city (map). How amazing would it be to live in Ottawa and be able to take advantage of the the trail? Wouldn't it be cool if you could ski to work? We had to check it. 
Excited to be Trying Out the SJAM Trail

We parked at Island Park Drive. The map doesn't show a parking lot, but there was one that was plowed. Although it was cold, with a bitter wind the day we visited we still had a great time. The trail was well groomed and there were a ton of people out. Lots of parents were there introducing their children to skiing. The trail was a flurry of activity. There were beginner skiers, expert skiers (both classic and skate), snowshoers, fat bikers  fat-bikers fat bikes and even some walkers. All of this is available free of charge but you can make a donation here (it's worth it). It was incredible. What a great way to get people active in the winter.

Cruising Along the SJAM Trail

Heading Under the Parkway
 We spent about an hour on the trail before our toes started getting cold. I find it amazing to see how much the kids are improving each time we go out. Their technique is getting better, they can go further and best of all...they're just happy being outside.

We packed up our things and went to visit some family. During the visit we planned what the next day would look like. We all wanted to go skiing in Gatineau Park. The park is an amazing collection of cross-country ski trails (over 200 km). To say it's a cross-country skier's paradise would be an understatement.

We thought it would be a ton of fun to park at P10, ski the Fortune Lake Parkway to Keogan Cabin, have lunch then ski back. Round trip would be about 7 km. We weren't sure how the younger members of our group would fare and the forecast was for cold temperatures again. Rather than trying to push it we decided to do an easier route. We started with a stop at the visitor centre to purchase our tickets. It was here that we discovered that kids under the age of 13 are FREE. What a great deal!

So Much Snow
 We headed to P8 and skied the northern section of the Gatineau Parkway. Everyone had a great time and when we got tired it was easy to turn around and head back to the parking lot.

We're Off

Time for Some Assistance

Beautiful Scenery

Having a Great Time

Camp Fortune in the Distance
 We headed back to visitor centre for lunch. They have a great lunch room with a bunch of picnic style tables for visitors. We had lunch then the kids went off to explore the exhibits while a few of the adults decided to try a more challenging trail. We parked at P7 and began the long climb up trail 30. It probably took up close to 20 minutes to do the climb up to trail 1, a distance of only 1 km. It was a great workout and the view from the lookout was great. We skied along trail 1 all the way to Keogan Cabin. It was a neat cabin with lots of tables and a wood stove. It would make a great lunch stop. Perhaps next year we'll have to bring the kids (taking a different route of course). We didn't stay long so that we could get back to the parking lot before the sun set. The return trip seemed a lot faster as a result of the huge downhill section at the end. The trip was a good workout full of beautiful scenery.

Going Up

View from the Lookout
Getting Late in the Day
 We were hoping to take the kids for a quick ski along the SJAM trail the following day but the morning temperature was -20°C. Despite the cold I ducked out early-ish for a quick trip along the trail. It was cold but once I was moving I didn't really notice. The views were breathtaking and I didn't see another person on the trail until I had reached the halfway point of my trip. What a great way to start the day.

Early Morning on the SJAM Trail

Looking Out Over the River
We had such a great visit to the nation's capital. We're so grateful for both of these natural spaces located so close to the city and the volunteers and staff who make them possible.

We're already planning our next winter outing. Where will your winter adventures take you?

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