The joys of exploring Gatineau Park again after recovering from injury and illness

Growing up, I was often told to enjoy my youthful body because one day, I would wake up and it won’t be there anymore. That day for me came in the summer of 2021. I woke up in terrible pain from an inflamed vein after a previous day of hiking for six hours. Like any 21-year-old in shock, I called my mother.

“It is probably just a varicose vein. I had the same thing in my twenties,” she said. “Just call the doctor and they will tell you what to do.”

My mother was right, and at 21, I was diagnosed with varicose veins. The treatment plan was a pair of ugly compression socks that never matched my outfit – and to have painful injections.

When receiving the injections, the doctor prevented me from doing -hard hitting- exercise. That news was devastating. Hiking, swimming, skating, and strenuous workouts were my favourite things.

The injections were supposed to only last about five months but I caught Covid-19 and an old back injury flared up so it took over a year. Finally, after all that time putting my favourite activities on hold, I was given the all-clear.

My first instinct was to immediately jump in and do my all-time favourite Gatineau Park hike, Luskville Falls. The trail is a 4.2 km loop that traverses through “the most spectacular ecosystem in Gatineau Park” according to the National Capital Commission (NCC). With a 290-metre climb up the mountains and unsteady surfaces, it is also arguably one of the most difficult in Gatineau Park.

Therefore, even though every part of me desperately wanted to hike Luskville Falls, I knew that would be one of the stupidest things I could do to my body. So instead, on a chilly November morning, I got dressed to find a new adventure in Gatineau Park. The adventure got off on the wrong foot when I quickly realized that all my usual trailheads were closed for the season. Discouraged, I turned my car around and drove to the visitor centre, determined to walk at least one trail today.

Once out of my car, I heard kids running around and dogs barking. To my right the wooden sucrerie shelter (A sucrerie is a traditional sugar refinerie usually used for maple syrup.) brought back memories from my childhood when my brothers and I hid from the cold after a snowball fight through the Sugarbush trail. Taking that as a sign, I decided the Sugarbush Trail would be my adventure for the day.

The Sucrerie shelter at Gatineau Park.

The Sucrerie shelter at Gatineau Park. Photo credit: Myriam Landreville

The Sucrerie shelter at Gatineau Park.

As I crossed the rusty bridge to the trail, the sounds of the river water dancing filled my ears and the smell of trees mixed with cold air engulfed my lungs. A path surrounded by beautiful tall trees led me through the forest. I took in every breath of fresh air like it might be my last. I didn’t realize how much I missed being out in nature.

The trail itself is quite straightforward. Every so often, I found a narrow path springing out from the trail leading me to streams and a small cave. Even with all the stopping and exploring around the trail, it took me only an hour to finish the loop.

As I crossed the bridge back to my car, my legs were thankful I did an easy trail. Although the trail was not physically demanding, I felt soreness in my legs. As I was driving back to downtown Ottawa, I felt a sense of excitement and accomplishment.

Although this hike was a small step, I finally felt like a part of me was back again. I now felt ready to go on bigger adventures and explore Gatineau Park again for my love for nature.

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