SWT, The Wakefield Quebec local trails.
The Wakefield Boardwalk is a lovely way for walkers, bicyclists, roller bladers, moms and dads with or without baby carriages to savour the Gatineau River and downtown Wakefield. The boardwalk is not long, but it’s more than wide enough for families to pass each other in comfort. Not quite in the middle of the boardwalk is an alcove that juts out towards the river. The alcove is maybe 6’ by 8’ and is a place of peace. A boardwalker can pull into the alcove, take a breath, and marvel at our beautiful river.
And in that alcove is magic. Some kind and generous Wakefield folk have festooned the alcove and fence beyond in both directions with over 1000 pieces of orange tape commemorating the children lost in the Residential Schools fiasco of the last over 100 years. In the alcove, along with the many pieces of orange tape is a collection of tiny shoes, slippers, boots and flip-flops, even a flourishing potted plant, reminding us of the lives so needlessly lost in a Canadian policy of racism, bigotry and cruelty. The alcove delivers a very powerful yet subtle message, and is a destination La Pêche walkers should put on their list of places to explore.
It’s difficult to make out, but the poster hanging from the wire says “Every Child Matters”.
Photo by Stephen Jones
Fran Cutler’s family has an attachment to the Wakefield area that goes back almost one hundred years. Like many of us, Fran considers Wakefield one of her “favourite villages in the whole world!”.
As a CBC employee for close to 30 years, her cottage on the Gatineau River in the Larrimac area and the surrounding Gatineau Hills always provided a respite from the demands of work.
“…It was always so relaxing and calming to get out on the trails to walk at a leisurely pace, not put too much effort into it … and getting together with friends because it wasn’t just the outdoor recreation and exercise, it was the social aspect that was so important.”
Now retired, she shares the trail experience with her fellow members of the Rideau Trail Club, embracing the opportunity to socialize with like minded people and the energizing effect the outings have for her. Sometimes their excursions have them travelling the trails around Wakefield. Fran has certainly witnessed the transformation that has taken place on the trails around the village….”the ones that have been developed from really old, very difficult to manage paths to very nicely groomed and maintained paths that the locals have worked so hard to create.” The improved accessibility and safety is very important to Fran as she navigates thru an increasingly more challenging vision impairment disability. As her sight deteriorates, it’s the bird songs that might that keep calling her into the forests.
“I love the cardinals because the male sings different songs at different times of the day and chickadees of course, sing a different song at different times of the year. And warblers are really beyond me! I can’t distinguish one from another but it’s a beautiful sound. And then there’s the wonderful what’s called the Canada bird – the white throated sparrow with a note that sounds like “…in Canada…”.
In Canada indeed. Listen to our full interview with Fran here:
Kerry is one of those people who has fabricated a life for herself that has work and play co-existing in a beautiful symbiotic balance. She and her partner have lived in the Wakefield area for a number of years – their home nestled between the Gatineau River and the surrounding hills. Kerry is an instructional designer, and mostly works from home, which works perfectly well for her, as she finds her best thinking is done out in nature – either on the river or on the trails.
“I’m very fortunate…I have access to all the outside life that occurs around me…A lot of my creativity happens when I’m actually out in the forest or on the river.”
Sometimes her adventures include her grandchildren, who often visit. Kerry loves to take them on a hike up, up, up to the place that seems to them to be the top of the world!
“…when you reach the top we all just sit on the bench and look out, down the river and they just can’t believe that this is something they’ve succeeded at.”
Then there are the many other adventures that Kerry has had with lots of wildlife while out cycling the trails in the area. Some of you might find running in to bears a terrifying experience to say the least. Kerry considers it just part of the great experience:
“…its always this great adventure and I always have a great story to tell when I come back from my journeys out on the trails.”
Find out all about the creatures that play a role in her adventures by listening to the podcast!
Not that we’re giving his age away, but Nick remembers the days of his youth when there were no computers, and kids like him mostly spent all of their time outdoors. He still makes a point of getting out into the forest – both on and off the trails. Which might be the reason why he joined the SWT team a few years back. Since then, Nick has been a very valuable contributor to the group. Those beautiful bridges along the pathways? Those were built by Nick. And his involvement has certainly brought him to the belief that we need to do a better job of getting our youth out working on the trails – once they’re out there, they’ll realize just how great it is. And maybe, just for a minute or two, they'll forget all about their devices.
Nick is a great reminder of the incredibly important role volunteers play in keeping the Wakefield trails safe and accessible. It really does take a village to take care of a village. Listen to his words, en francais, on the podcast.
I, for one, can relate to Pip when she explains the security she feels when venturing out into a wilderness that is REALLY close to civilization. “Being from New Zealand and not being used to bears or things that might be out, these are great because they are closer to community."
Perhaps Pip’s biggest observation while out on the trails with her dog is the parallels that can be drawn between our personal growth and evolution and that of the nature around us.
“It’s a combination of things that are new, seedlings, treelings, things that are growing, things that are in their later stages and things that have died and are returning to the earth. You’re actually going thru a whole spectrum of life as you walk thru trails. So you see this eco system, but you also see life as it actually evolves for us as well.”
Listen to the full podcast by clicking the button below.
Colin Bunge has been seeking adventures for quite some time. And he turned that passion into a career – teaching outdoor ed and running outdoor adventure programs for youth in the Western Quebec area.
“A few times a week, we’re out…on the trails and its just incredible to share these experiences, these physical experiences with the youth in the great outdoors where they’re running around, they’re having a great time, they’re not on their phones, they’re not worried about what they look like or who they’re chatting with. They’re just digging in, to climb a hill, to hike up a waterfall, or do all kinds of different activities and they’re just having a great, great time making memories.”
Colin’s family shares his passion for the great outdoors and spending time on trails. They recently returned from an adventure that took them to New Zealand and Africa where they certainly tested their skills on many different types of trails.
Back home, Colin perseveres in instilling an appreciation for everything nature has to offer in the young people he teaches.
“There’s so much to be discovered about life and the cycles of life and the web of life out here and also just about yourself, about how you’re connected to other people and the other things that are living out here. It’s a great opportunity to reflect, to develop your own strength and develop your own sense of self and connection to place.”
A true testament to his success is the fact that both his teenage children are also hoping to pursue careers in outdoor guiding and adventure.
“…they love doing these activities, they’re both pursuing careers in these activities, in guiding in the outdoors and sharing the outdoors with more people, whether its camp counselling or guiding adults or youth. It’s exciting to see that and its exciting to see them pass on the love for the outdoors that they have grown into, to share that with other people…”.
When the passion is so great it clearly passes on from one generation to the next.
Hear all of Colin’s reflections on the importance of trails for our communities and our youth by going to the ‘Our Trails, Our Stories’ podcast.
We know, by the visits we get here and elsewhere, that many of you love trails. Yup, you do! Even if you’re not frequently using the trails, it looks like you simply love the idea of those trails being there, waiting, for when you’re ready to strap on your hiking boots. Which is why we want to make sure the trails are ready for that moment. Which is why we need your support! And because we and our community hold that support in such high regard, we’re able to offer up some pretty special gifts for our June ‘Our Stories, Our Trails’ Fundraising Campaign raffle…
Go to our Donate Page and be part of our Success Story Today!
Bodi Delgrosse would choose a forest over a desk any day so it was a definite yes when his college classmate, Adrian Vaillancourt, asked him, in the spring of 2018, if he wanted a summer job working on the Wakefield trails.
“I first got connected working in Wakefield Trails at a school in Aylmer, a welding school. I met a man named Adrian. He asked me if I wanted a job this summer and I said ‘Ya, sure!’. It was good. I worked with him all summer there…we did a lot of hard work.”
This summer, Bodi’s back at it, but working solo without his friend and workmate to keep him company. In October 2018, on a beautiful fall afternoon, Adrian was headed home, riding the old highway from Gatineau back to Wakefield on his motorcycle and looking forward to the upcoming weekend when he was suddenly and tragically killed in a collision involving two other cars. As Bodi continues as a Wakefield Trail Employee, he reflects on the work he and Adrian did together.
“There’s lots of places…that me and Adrian worked on at the same time…it brings back lots of memories. I can see his work and my work too…sometimes it’d be like ‘I wish I had Adrian here to help me with this’ or something but, you know, he’s not…it just makes it a little harder….”
[Ed Note - I think we all say that]
Despite the sadness that occasionally tinges his time on the trails, Bodi is certainly an individual who fully embraces the great outdoors:
“I’m from the country so I can understand it’s important to keep a good mind about nature…if you live in the city…it’s easy to forget that you live on a green planet…if you’re constantly surrounded by cement all the time and streets and malls…it’s easy to forget what type of planet you’re on…it’s important to get back to it.”
You can hear the podcast version of our interview with Bodi by clicking the button below.
Ken Bouchard heard the call of the wild at the age of 5. His mother would rent a small chalet in the Gatineau Hills every winter and together they would explore the trails on skis. Some 70 years later, trails are still a big part of Ken’s life.
“When I was in high school I became a member of a group affiliated with the Ottawa Ski Club called the Trail Riders, maintaining the trails, building new bridges…being together with other high school kids, the friendships and the working together was what really got me interested, really more working on trails then hiking on trails. I then became quite involved with the Canadian Ski Marathon… I got right on, hand building trails….”
Although his involvement with trails goes back to his high school days, Ken’s adventures into trail building really took off after his retirement – first as co-owner of the Carmen Trail Hostel and then as a new resident of Wakefield. Known for the trail system he developed at Carmen, he was approached by Wakefield residents who were in need of creating a local trail system to stop a parcel of land in the village from being sold to a developer. That was almost 10 years ago.
“We cleaned out this park when the Hendrick family gave it to us and I saw that stream - we’ve got to build some stone stair cases here. I’d never done it. I went to New Hampshire for a course on trail building with the Appalachian Mountain Club. I took a 3-day weekend stone stair-building course and came back here and then we built those [stone stairs]. And all with volunteers.”
Find out what motivates this crazy trail guru on the newest episode of the ‘Our Trails, Our Stories’ podcast, “Ken Bouchard, Old Fart Trail Champion”:
Of note: in 2015 Ken was awarded the Order of Canada Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers for his work on a new section of the Trans Canada Trail in the Wakefield area – certainly a very fitting honour.
If you live in Wakefield, there’s a good chance you know Joan Garnett or at least, you’ve probably heard her name. Joan and her partner Norma, who passed away in 2011, moved to the area in 1967. Back then, trails were what you made when you walked thru the woods with your dog, following the call of the birds. Joan has witnessed the evolution of a community that co-exists with nature and she completely understands the importance of the preservation of that space.
“I’ve lived in Wakefield for over fifty years…You can never keep places the way that they are…It’s going to change, there’s no doubt about it…it absolutely needs the trail building and the emphasis on nature. It can’t be emphasized enough…The trails are a vital part of the whole situation. It’s simply wonderful how they’ve tried to restore and keep what nature there is around here….Wakefield has given me my life. It’s just been an amazing place for me.”
Hear the heart filled interview with Joan on the “Our Trails, Our Stories” podcast: