Lusk Falls Trail Gatineau Park

Lusk Falls Trail Gatineau Park April 30, 2015  Ottawa is in the valley of the Ottawa river and we chose this trail as it is the closest we can come to a climb in the Ottawa area! And it is a nice work out.   The Lusk Falls Trail climbs up the Eardley Escarpment with a change in elevation of about 300 metres. The escarpment is part of an ancient mountain range composed of Precambrian rock, which has been eroded by water, wind and glaciers. The Escarpment forms the dividing line between the rock of the Canadian Shield and the St. Lawrence Lowlands. The trail is named after Joseph Lusk, an Irish pioneer who came to Canada in 1820, and became a prosperous farmer in the Pontiac region of Western Quebec. A lake, a cave (see the Lac Phillippe blog!) and a cabin in Gatineau Park also bear his name. His descendents founded the Luskville area in the municipality of Pontiac. The parking lot was still closed but we parked with about a dozen other cars on the gravel road. The escarpment faces south and the trail starts out in a stand of sugar maples. The soil is rich and the ground was already covered with the small spotted leaves of what would soon be dog toothed violets and the blood root were in bloom. It was a perfect spring day – a clear blue sky.   The trees and the undergrowth were leafless and allowed us to truly appreciate the spring flowers, the silvery color of the trunks of the maple trees, and the water in the many streams rushing over the rocks. Spring is a great time to do this walk because the lower part of the falls is almost vertical and becomes a rushing torrent, with water from the snow melt. The trail takes you, right away, close to the falls where the water has worn the rock smooth, the water drops down along various walls and then tumbles into a pool that then forms a stream. The trail here is marked with white arrows on the stones because it is literally like a long flight of steep stairs,   where you are climbing almost straight up. We were not in a hurry this beautiful day and there are a number of large exposed rock faces where you can stop, catch your breath and enjoy the views of the valley below. There is an information panel that explains that as you reach the top of the escarpment the micro climate changes and becomes one that normally would be found 200 km to the north of here. At this point the forest changes from deciduous oaks and aspens to the jack pines of the northern boreal forest. The rock outcroppings are covered with a grey green lichen. We enjoy the fresh resin scent as the trail takes us through the jack pine forest until we reach the fire tower. The fire tower is located at the northern end of the trail (about 2.3 km from the start of the trail). An information panel tells us that until the mid 1940’ s, forest rangers used it to monitor for signs of forest fires. Now there is a small cabin at the foot of the fire tower with “technology” that monitors for forest fires. We stopped at the fire tower to eat our lunch and enjoy the peace and quiet. We had only met two people on the way up – trail runners.   Then all of a sudden a group of four young boys emerged panting heavily from the trail ahead of us. They were all geared up with pack backs and climbing shoes. Then another group of three emerged to the cheers of the first group. And for the next five minutes or so they kept coming including some young girls. Finally an adult emerged and I asked him about the group. They were 26 students from a Gatineau school. The first part of the day was learning about orienteering using maps etc and after lunch they did a 2.5 km run along a trail that leads to the Mckinstry shelter. He also told me that next week they were going white water rafting. How great is that for a school curriculum! The trail is laid out in a loop and the descent is also a nice work out. It is crisscrossed with streams which this spring were full of water. The sound of the water bouncing over the stones was so soothing but it was also fun to cross the streams hopping across on the round stones! We enjoyed the walk so much that we decided to go back on Sunday and to continue the walk along the trail to the Mckinstry shelter.

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