How I got here
Stories on how people found your way to the Gatineau Hills written by Chelsea writer Phil Jenkins.
The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the January 10, 2018 issue. Reprinted with permission.
Calling all farmers, hippies, hunters...
By Phil Jenkins
The Low Down gives a warm and hearty welcome to our newest columnist, the one-and-only Phil Jenkins, a Chelsea writer and musician.
The magnetic properties of the ancient Gatineau Hills are rooted in their granite, and they seem to have an attractive force on people as well. Their natural beauty - forests, lakes, rivers, and valleys - come together to form an uplifting landscape, which has long attracted independent-minded woodlanders and settlers, escapees and migrators. The stories of how Hills residents came here are each and all worthy of recording. Once a month, this column will report on how one resident found themselves here and made a home - be it in this generation or in generations past.
So, to begin right at home, how did I get here? As a suburban Ottawa kid in the 1950s, my family ventured into the Hills to swim and picnic at Lac Philippe, sometimes stopping at the garage in Wakefield formerly located on the site of the Alpengruss to fill up and ogle the caged bear. Twenty years later, approaching 30 and back in Ottawa after leaving at age ten, I made frequent trips to visit a writing friend who lived on Chemin du Lac-Bernard. My affinity for the Hills as a landscape of creative inspiration was renewed and strengthened. As well as the packs of wolves, I learned on this trip of the various characters that inhabited the Hills - farmers, hippies, hunters donning camouflage (hard to spot them) even as the leaves coloured and fell, artists and artisans of all kinds, refugees.
When it came time to write my first book, an account of a cross-country trip visiting family farms, I was determined to do it with the Hills just outside my window, so I rented an unwinterized ramshackle summer cottage on Rockhurst Road overlooking Wakefield and the river. Over the winter of 1989, occasionally leaning into the well with twin hair dryers to thaw the pipes, I finished the book. When you read the biographies of successful writers, many of them have a home to sleep and eat and a place to write. I found the latter, a straw bale cottage near the river in Tulip Valley, and two more books were written there. Then, a few years back, I rolled the home and the writing place into one, and became a full citizen of the Hills, where I write on.
The Low Down is looking for stories about how you, or your people, or your friends, or your relatives got here. To pass them on please contact Phil Jenkins at firstname.lastname@example.org
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