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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

First tracks (kinda, mostly)!

     I was surprised when I woke up to snow yesterday. Maybe I am a bit thick, but to me, the forecast suggested more flurries than any sort of accumulation. It took about 30 seconds to go from surprise to excitement: I had the day off, and a new fatbike that needed a long ride shakedown! Since an earlier-made commitment meant I could not join Beardo and Thombelina's excursion into north Gatineau Park (see pics here), I thought I'd do something local. I decided to do a shoreline ride from Westboro Beach to Mud Lake. I had more fun than I expected to, since I've ridden that stretch of parkway for years

     The shoreline along that length of the river is not ideal for beach cruising. When the Ottawa River Parkway was built, it followed a route that dated back to the Greber plan of the 1940's, which intended to create a scenic drive that would highlight the beauty of Ottawa, and in turn the beauty of the nation that Ottawa is suppose to be a symbol of. Unfortunately, back when the parkway was built, there wasn't the level of environmental consideration as there is now, so planners built as close to the river as possible, leaving steep, man-built embankments, and not a lot of space for a natural shoreline.

     Most of the time the narrow beaches would not be a problem if the river is running at normal levels or a bit below, which it has done all summer. Alas, it has been a month since I was down by the river, and even longer since I took note of water levels. Right now, the river is high, quite high. When I got to Westboro Beach, I knew I'd be taking some detours away from the river...

     The beach itself was a good test for the 9zero7 frame: snow on top of sand! I wasn't sure how it would behave on such soft terrain. I needn't have worried; it rode like it was on pavement. Whee! It continued to impress as I got going. The shore was a mix of rock, logs, sand, snow and ice. The fat bike took it all in it's stride. When the shore disappeared and I had to go back up to the parkway, the bike plowed through the snowy tall grass and rough terrain like a champ.

Snow, sand, surf and fatness.
      Hopping back onto the the path above the river reminded me how much places can change with the time, be it the time of day, or the time of year. Spring, summer and fall this bike path is full of people using it for recreation and commuting to and from work. One small snowfall later, and it is practically deserted. I saw a few foot prints and fewer still mountain bike tracks. I saw one person walking a dog, but I felt like me and my fatbike were all alone.

      That was until I saw this track pop up around the New Orchard underpass: Well, there goes that illusion. Considering how many fatbikes have been sold around here, I best get used to not having first tracks all the time. Now I am waiting to actually run into a fatbiker I don't know!

Surly. Endormorph. Must be an old-timer.
     Casting aside disappointment, I continued hugging the shore as best I could until Mud Lake.  Again, I was reminded how Ottawa's greenspace was conceptualized to be used; as green-space: turn it white, and suddenly it is mostly abandoned, and open for all sorts of un-intended uses. Mud Lake is a prime example of this idea of seasonal re-appropriation. Normally, I would never bike in this area. It's too flat, not all that technical, and full of walkers and (shudder)birders.

Mud Lake trail,  just add snow to make it fun. 

     That said, if you add some snow to these trails, and a fat bike, it is an all-right way to waste 40 minutes. You can carve at speed, hop logs, and take one of the many dead-end trails the park has. You can do it with only a few encounters with people, who, rather that give you the stink eye, just stare at your tires. I am now used to that, but it still makes me smile when you pass someone and they exclaim aloud something to the effect of "getta load of those tires!"

     Indeed.  I am also getting an appreciation of how fatbikes are making these familiar old trails, parks and paths of this town new and challenging again. It's as refreshing as the breeze that was blowing off the river yesterday that would've chilled me, if I wasn't having such a good time.



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