I don’t know how the weather was in your neck of the woods this Labour Day weekend, but here in Ottawa we got the sun and mild temperatures that July forgot. This means that the mile-long to-do list was promptly abandoned in favour of some end-of-summer outdoor family fun. So much fun, in fact, that I’ll need two posts to cram in all the photos!
First, let me tell you about one of Ottawa’s true hidden treasures: Mud Lake. Never heard of it, right? Me neither! I came across it in looking at someone’s list of great locations for photography in Ottawa, and had wanted to check it out all summer. Yesterday morning was clear and the weather was perfect, so we recruited UberGeek and a few of his boys to join us as we went off in search of nature and a bit of exercise.
Mud Lake is here, just a smidge to the east of the Britannia Yacht Club. According to the NCC:
A patch of wilderness in the middle of an urban setting, Mud Lake is an amazing area of forest and wetlands. Located in Ottawaâ€™s west end, Mud Lake is home to hundreds of species of wildlife, with raccoons, frogs, turtles and foxes, to name but a few. This ecologically significant urban natural landscape is also prime birding territory, with thousands of birdwatchers coming each year to observe hundreds of different species. A walk through this easy-to-access urban jungle provides an exciting escape from city life.
We parked on Cassels Street, just down from the Britannia Filtration Plant, and we could see the entrance to the trail from the street. We briefly debated bringing the stroller, knowing neither the quality of the trail nor the length of the hike, but decided against it in the end. If you’ve got a durable stroller with big wheels, you could easily bring it through — or you could, as we did, spend the entire hike caught between the leaping, running, adventuresome five-to-eight year old boys and the toddling, curious, must-stop-to-inspect-this-dirt-even-though-I-just-inspected-that-dirt-two-steps-back-and-oh-look-here’s-a-rock-and-I-must-inspect-this-pinecone-too-and-hey-did-you-see-there’s-some-more-dirt-over-here-and-oh-a-stick-and-no-I-will-NOT-hurry-up-and-you-may-absolutely-NOT-carry-me-thank-you-very-much-oh-look-here’s-some-very-interesting-dirt-I-wonder-what-it-tastes-like 19-month old.
The very first thing we saw as we set out was a turtle sunning himself on a log in the middle of the lake. It was also the first instance of boy getting too close to the water and getting a soaker. Not too far down the trail, we came across this little dock, perfect for inspecting the frogs and fishes below, not to mention giving mothers great photo opportunities.
This is what they were looking at:
It was just about a perfect morning for a hike. It was clear and mild, the day just starting to warm up. For the most part, the trail is clear and obvious, although there are lots of little sub-trails here and there. There were very few mosquitos out, for which I was extremely grateful. I think this guy (girl?) might have been helping out on that front.
(While we were stopped to admire this giant web — easily three or four feet across! — the chickadees started circling. Note to self, bring seed to feed the chickadees next time! I’m not much of a birder, but we came across quite a few people with binoculars, whom I’m sure were delighted with our whooping, crashing, running lot of boys!)
The trail wanders around the edges of Mud Lake, sometimes through the canopy and sometimes right up to the edge of the lake, with lots of opportunities for pretty vistas.
Hard to believe this is smack dab in the middle of the city, isn’t it? Can you spot the goose in the riot of colours and reflections here?
This is my favourite spot on the hike, an old wooden bridge across a tributary of the lake. You can see the hint of fall colours, and there were ducks swimming under the bridge. I stopped so long here to take pictures that the others wandered off without me!
There was only one point where it wasn’t completely obvious which trail to follow, and we ended up having to double back a little bit. The lake is shaped like an inverted V and I think we followed a trail that petered out right in the lee of the V, so to speak. We found our way back to the main trail, though, and finished the hike about 90 minutes after we started out, after circling the entire lake. For our crew, that might have been about 30 minutes longer than ideal, but it was still a wonderful morning out and a great way to celebrate the end of summer.
Stay tuned, and later this week I’ll show you another of Ottawa’s Hidden Treasures, almost right next door to Mud Lake!