This is a bit embarrassing but it’s true. My son and I got lost in Gatineau Park.
After 2 years of having a non-functional bike, I finally got it fixed this spring. I loaded my bike and my son’s on the bike rack on the back of the car and we drove only about 15 minutes to Gatineau Park where they have fun bike paths that wind through the woods and along the beaches. I’d spoken to my friend Bailey the night before. She’s an expert; she bikes these trails all the time. She has gone on major biking excursions and knows the Gatineau Park trails better than I know myself. So she knew exactly where to send me.
“Get a pen and paper and write this down,” she instructed as she began to explain which trails to follow. I did as she suggested and I wrote it all down. I really did listen, but there’s a reason for writing these things down. My 40 year-old brain doesn’t retain detailed information like it used to.
The next day, I loaded the two bikes onto the bike rack and off we went.
We found the parking lot we were to start from. I was really excited about going biking with Aidan – we hadn’t done it in so long and I hoped this would be a great way to begin the summer. After I locked the car up and we were ready to head off on our adventure, I realized I’d forgotten the piece of paper with the directions Bailey had given me. I looked around a the signs and saw “Trail 51″and it definitely rang a bell. “This is it!” I told Aidan. And off we went.
It was a nice trail. Neither of us have true mountain bike tires but they’re also a lot better than city tires, but the trail was bare and manageable…only slightly hilly – nothing we can’t handle.
We biked along, all the while Aidan way up ahead and I just enjoyed living in the moment. The forest around me was so lush and I beamed with contentment. I was, however, wondering when we would find the beach. I was certain it wasn’t far from the parking lot yet there was no sign of it. Eventually, I came upon Aidan who had stopped but was batting away the deer flies who had just come out of hibernation. We had reached a T and a sign. Our choices were to go toward Wakefield or toward Lac Phillippe. It was a no-brainer…we were headed for Lac Philippe all along. But clearly we had gone a long way around to get there. So we hung a left and carried on.
Eventually we saw another sign: 3 km to our parking lot, if we turned left. We paused. The trail was so clearly continuing straight. To the left was nothing but a grassy clearing and it was clear no one had been in there any time recently. I scratched my sweaty head. Upon closer inspection of the space, I saw an opening in the trees beyond the clearing. “This way!” I motioned to Aidan as I took a careful gulp of water. He had chosen not to bring a bottle of water. Note to self/all: Always bring as much water as you can carry when going on a bike ride in the woods. Just sayin’.
We followed the non-trail. It didn’t take me long to realize that this was more likely a cross-country ski trail, as it was certainly not a bike trail. It was bog-like in places and we were forced to walk our bikes for a large part. We expected it would even out and eventually we would come across a true path but instead, we found ourselves in a big, wide open, untouched field. It was beautiful. We were surrounded by the rolling green hills and trees that Gatineau Park is known for. But on the flip side, there was no sign of any trail.
We decided to keep going. We rode through this field and landed in another field. And then another. Our water was now gone and if Aidan sighed and complained anymore, I was going to feed him to the first bear we met. I had to admit it: we were lost. I looked around and even backtracking was going to be difficult, as we’d come through several fields and I was so turned around, I had no idea where to go. For all I knew, we were going in circles. It was spring so grass had barely grown up, so there wasn’t a clear path on which we could backtrack. I tried not to show my son the small waves of panic beginning to grip my insides. I started to have visions of building a shelter out of cedar branches, rubbing sticks together to make fire, and helicopters coming to our rescue.
But then I snapped out of my dramatic daydream, pulled out my iPhone and opened Google Maps. BINGO! A little Google arrow-thingie showed us exactly where we were. When I zoomed out a few times, I could figure out which direction we needed to go in order to find the nearest road.
So we walked our bikes through a couple more fields, climbed over a beaver dam (sorry, Mr. & Mrs. Beaver), waded through a deep, cold creek, climbed over a fence and kissed that lovely hot pavement.
Once we were out of the woods (pun totally intended), I called Bailey and told her that we went on our bike ride but that it turned into an adventure. She couldn’t understand how we’d gotten lost. “What trail did you take?”
“We took 51.”
“Erin, you were supposed to take 50!”
This is why we write things down. And ideally take the notes with us when we go. But it was still a memorable adventure. Now, I look forward to going back and trying Trail 50 sometime.