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This article first appeared in the February 9, 2011 issue of the The Low Down to Hull and Back News.External Link Reprinted with permission. Search complete list of Low Down Articles.

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Historic snowshoe trek by trail less travelled

By Lucy Scholey

Somewhere at the top of a steep incline near Brown Lake, a group of 20 snow-shoers stop to catch their collective breath.

They've trekked to a historical spot, one rarely visited compared with other tourist destinations in Gatineau Park.

Snowshoe Trail
Victor Santos-Pedro snowshoes up a hill Jan. 30. Schoely photo.

It's the "Four Corners," named for the point where the former townships of Masham, Wakefield, Hull and Eardley intersected in the early 1800s.

Not many people see this perspective, Ken Bouchard explains. "You can't make it up here in the summer," he says. "It's too overgrown."

Bouchard is acting as the guide on a Jan. 30 snowshoe trek to Brown Lake. As a member of the heritage committee with the Friends of Gatineau Park, he has offered the tour as something different from his usual spring and fall tours of the area.

With the help of Fairbairn House Solidarity Co-operative President Michael Cooper, who helped co-ordinate the event, and aerial photographer Duncan Marshall, who supplied photos of Gatineau Park for a post-snowshoe slide show presentation at Brown Lake Cabin, Bouchard gives a historical overview of Brown Lake from the early 1800s.

Bouchard points out nine parcels of land clustered by the lake. One by one, the National Capital Commission (NCC) expropriated these lots. The last cottage standing belonged to Wilfred Harris, known as the Ski Vorlage founder, and it was expropriated in 1960.

On this lot, Bouchard points to an old tree branch.

"I remember that branch. There was a swing on it," he recalls 65-year-old Molly Harris, daughter of Wilfred, telling him two months ago.

"I remember that branch. There was a swing on it," he recalls 65-year-old Molly Harris, daughter of Wilfred, telling him two months ago.

Bouchard, who co-managed the Carman Trails Hostel on Carman Road, used to give guided tours of the area.

"I hated going on trails that are too compact, so I started finding my own trails," he says.

Earlier that clear day, the group trekked down Brown Lake Road past trees marked with tape for cutting to clear the way for the Hwy 5 expansion. Instead of following the sign that reads "Brown Lake 400m," Bouchard led the group down a less-traveled road and a longer route, weaving in and out of Trail 72 and pointing out areas that were once farmland and now overgrown with trees the NCC has planted.

About seven metres in, the group stopped near a low stone wall that's mostly covered with snow and overgrowth. It was originally an icehouse from the 1940s, now in shambles.

"I never would have known that was an icehouse," offers Lesley Sibthorpe at the end of the day's trip. "It's all part of the history, the heritage."