The Way We Were

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the October 12, 2011 issue. Reprinted with permission.

Nature lover 'bewitched' by the Gatineau Hills

foreword by Louise Schwartz

This story appeared in the Evening Citizen of Sept. 19, 1947 and has been edited for length. In 1962, an article on the writer, Ivy Maison, described her as a nature lover, artist and author. Maison, who called herself "Gatineau-bewitched," lived alone for several years in a log cabin in the Gatineau. The same article also noted that Maison was a member of the newlyformed Historical Society of the Gatineau (since renamed). Thanks to Guide Gatineau's Charles Hodgson and the NCC's Laurie Burdon for support and advice.

by Ivy Maison

The Way We Were
Gatineau Park founder Percy Sparks lecturing a school group on conservation. Sparks was a passionate supporter of nature conservation, arguing for the creation of a park in the Gatineau, and eventually co-signing the first Park planning documents. (May 1949) Photo credit to Library and Archives Canada.

It has always been a surprise to me to find so many Ottawans who have never explored their own Gatineau Park. Usually the old resident of the city will heave a nostalgic sigh and recall that "we used to go up to the Gatineau when I was young - must go back again." That is as far as they get. So now that the most gorgeous of all seasons is here, make up your mind to see autumn as it should be seen.

So near the city that a 25-cent bus ride will put you down at the south-eastern corner, so wild that there are trails you could wander along all day without meeting another human being, the Park holds attractions for everyone. It is not for the habitual hiker that I am writing this. The enthusiast, who starts out to do 20 miles a day with a 40-pound haversack strapped to his shoulders, has long ago found the Park. I have in mind the less experienced walker who appreciates going to a lovely spot and there settling down for a picnic. For such as he, there are some wonderful treats.

The Way We Were
Detail from a 1951 map of Gatineau Park. Park aficionado Charles Hodgson speculates that in those days, picnickers would have walked from the parking area (now occupied by Dunlop road) across the former Dunlop road, and down some steps into the Fortune creek gully, which was probably Speaker's Falls, a name no longer in use.

Take for instance the Speaker's Falls picnic spot at Dunlop and Meach Lake Roads. You can drive your car there or take a bus (a new innovation for Meach Lake). In the parking field is a sign which informs you that the "Garden of Eatin" (don't let that pun deter you but go right on) is down the steps. Follow the foot path to the open grates where, with plenty of fuel supplied, you can boil your kettle and cook that steak - if you can get one - that will taste better than anything the Stork Club could produce.

The water supply is a bubbling rush of water coming up from the spring through an oldfashioned wooden post spigot, clear and cold. The roar of water comes from the Speaker's Waterfall, a cascades that comes tumbling down the rocks from about a hundred feet or more above. It is said a Speaker from the House once came out there and expressed a wish that the falls might be called after that office - so you will see the name on the rustic signs.

Now that you have eaten do you feel good for a walk? If so, go and see Fortune Lake. Follow the Dunlop Road, a delightful winding wagon road. It was once the road into a farm of the early settler who belonged to that brave colony of Irish-Scottish immigrants of more than a century ago. You will find the lake behind Camp Fortune. Look for the little creek under the bridge at the opposite side of the Camp buildings and follow it, until you come to the beaver dam. At the far side of the lake, you can see the beaver house where the original pair built when they were put into the lake eight years ago

You will have gone out in search of colour and on the hills around here you will see it - in unbelievable great splashes of gold and green and crimson and orange and purple.

You can watch the colours change as the hours pass, an orgy of brilliance that will do you more good than a whole box of vitamins.

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