Saturday, 23 May 2009

Stittsville's Secret Trail System

click on map to enlarge

OK, it may be somewhat presumptuous of me to call it a secret trail system just because I was unaware of it. Actually, I knew there were trails back there as they connected to a trail/pathway that runs along the southwest edge of Stittsville that we ride on our hybrids. I always wondered where they went but I didn't expect them to be as extensive or as interesting.

The first section I checked out was the most southern section of trails. This includes sections that go over open grasslands and are not that interesting but, as anyone who has rode on grass will know, can be hard pedaling.

The most interesting trails went into the forest where some sections were marked with coloured ribbons. Parts of these trails were quite narrow with tree branches going into the trails, somewhat like old abandoned trails, except the ribbons suggest that they are possibly new trails that still need to be completely cleared. I followed the yellow trail till it seemed to disappear, then I noticed red ribbons and thought perhaps they just changed the colour of the ribbon. Later I ran into yellow ribbons again so I think I may just have lost the yellow trail and wandered onto the red trail. However, most of the trails do not have any ribbons or markings.

There are lots of intersecting trails in there. On the map you will notice numbered WayPoints that indicate intersections. If you do not see an intersection on the map it is because I have to go back and ride/map the intersecting trail.

At the northern end of the trail system are a couple of trails that go into areas where there are wooden structures and large 4X8 wood sheets. These look like they may be set up for paintballers to hide behind except that there are no signs of spilled paint, so maybe they are just play forts. It really is great for the neighbourhood kids to live in a small town and be able to go off by themselves and play in the bush. But then, I grew up in what was considered an urban neighbourhood, and we had rocks, and railway tracks, and a creek with quicksand, and even a slag dump to play around unsupervised.

In the middle section is a long trail heading towards Hazeldean Road. Somewhere past WayPoint 13 the trail deteriorates and at one point you realize you are no longer following a trail but are following deer tracks and are in the middle of dense bush struggling with your bike. That is when you do not want your GPS to fail because it is the only thing you have to lead you back to civilization. Luckily it led me to a fence along Hazeldean Road, where fortunately there was enough room under the wire to crawl through and push the bike through.

There really are some interesting features within this system, including a trail that runs along a creek, and a real interesting causeway/bridge over the trail with another alternative narrower more technical/difficult bridge a few feet further along.

There are quite a few sections where I had to walk my bike, not because the trail surface was technical but, to avoid being speared by tree branches growing into the trails. There were also some wet/muddy sections that could do with some trail work, but most of the trail work would consist of cutting back trees and brush along the trails.

This land is outside the urban boundary of Ottawa and from what I can tell from the Ottawa Zoning Map is partly zoned RU (Rural Countryside) and partly EP3 (Environmental Protection). I do not know who owns the land but there is certainly potential for a really fun greenbelt-like trail system here with a little/lot of work.

I hope to publish a complete map of the trail system (ride at your own risk) as it is as soon as I get the opportunity to ride and map all (or most of) the interconnecting trails.

click on map to enlarge

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