Bucket List: Learning How to Snowshoe in the Gatineau Hills

My sidekick boyfriend Jeff and I are adventure-seekers. Although this is sometimes truer for me (while Jeff puts on a brave face and tags along), we were both looking forward to our first snowshoeing experience together. Conditions were optimal after the massive heap of snow that fell on Ottawa recently.  With our friend Ryan as our guide, our journey began on a trail somewhat off the beaten path, across the highway from the Larrimac Golf Club in Chelsea, Quebec.

Considering that this was only my second time in snowshoes, Ryan offered me a primer, allowing me to adjust to the equipment before we started off. This didn’t take much time, and we were soon tramping along this scenic trail.

After the shock of sudden cardio exercise wore off, I was actually able to enjoy the enchanting scenery – it really was a Winter Wonderland. Besides allowing me to marvel at the beauty surrounding me, snowshoeing was quite simple and fun to learn.

Our route consisted of climbing uphill for 45 minutes until we reached a frozen pond in a frosty clearing. From there, we doubled back and cut cross-country to complete our loop. Along the way, we stopped for some fun – sliding, jumping and playing around in the snow like children. I was a little concerned about trekking through the back country after hearing several stories about hikers getting lost in the area. While hiking with Ryan on another occasion, we ended up in an unfamiliar location, scrambling downhill through the brush. He had us a little lost again this time, albeit briefly, and after a quick check of the GPS we made it back in one piece, and in a timely manner.

After our snowshoeing excursion, we ended the day at the coffee shop in Old Chelsea, reminiscing over hot beverages. As new learning experiences often do, this one had me thinking, especially about my bucket list. One of the items waiting to be checked off is to participate in a snowshoe race. Perhaps fate is knocking at my door as I just recently discovered the “Tuques Bleues Celebration” in Montreal. It is one of the most influential fundraisers for “Les amis de la montagne” – a registered charitable organization that exists to protect and enhance Mount Royal through community involvement and environmental education.

Mount Royal is a geographical oddity, immediately west of downtown Montreal. Often called a mountain, and the site of a park, it was here, in 1840, that the Montreal Snow Shoe Club was founded. Its members, among Montreal’s most prominent businessmen, would gather each week at nightfall on Sherbrooke Street near McGill College to hike through the forest of Mount Royal, guided only by torchlight for an evening of recreation and camaraderie. Around 1870, club members started wearing the blue toque, a symbol of their excellence in competition. The event draws close to 800 people from the Montreal business community for an entertaining evening that features a snowshoe race under moonlight and a gastronomic dinner.

This year, the event takes place on Thursday, February 21. Price of entry is $250 per person. Check out the link for all information regarding participation – http://www.lemontroyal.qc.ca/en/news-and-events/tuques-bleues-celebration/invitation-to-participate-individuals2.sn

I’ve learned a lot about snowshoeing: it’s a great form of exercise, a challenging activity, and it allows intimate submersion in magnificent winter scenery. Perhaps with the upcoming race, my experience with snowshoeing is not quite over.