The Green Side of Montreal (Quebec)

Montreal is a large city (Great Montreal is 4 million people) but it offers quite a bit of green space in its core, including Mont Royal, Old Port of Montreal, Île Sainte-Hélène and Île Notre-Dame.  We had the opportunity to go there this April for the day and I was hoping to share sunny, first of spring like photos but we we didn't have much luck.  It was a warm day, good for walking around but with the grey skies it didn't make for a great photo experience.  But it reminded me that we had a great visit in 2017 so I thought I'd share some of those photos.  And our recent trip has just made us more motivated to return to Montreal soon to see the city in a much more colourful state - stay tuned!

If you are going to Montreal and would like to enjoy some of the city's greener areas - here are some of our recommendations:

Cemeteries on Mount Royal  

The whole of Mont Royal is beautiful - lots of paths: paved, gravel & dirt and beautiful scenery including a lookout showcasing downtown and Lac aux Castors to enjoy - whether resting in the grass, walking around the water feature or enjoying food at the restaurant overlooking this blue gem.

Included in this "green lung" of the city are two cemeteries (Cimetière Mont-Royal and Cimetière Notre-Dame-des-Neiges) that offer accessible quiet streets where visitors can wander around enjoying the beauty of these two well landscaped areas.  These spaces are a truly wonderful urban ecological experience in this built-up city as they provide greenspace for a variety of wildlife including owls and other birds and foxes, groundhogs and many other mammals and also include many heritage trees.  (Stay tuned for a special blog post about the Trilliums we found hidden in a wood stand within one of the cemeteries!)  We access the beautifully landscaped memorial space from Voie Camillien-Houde and Remembrance Road but there are a few entrances for both of these cemeteries.

Many small Downtown Parks

I love stumbling across small squares and unique city parks when I'm a tourist in a new location - they are so much fun to find and delight in!  One park I always enjoy visiting in Montreal is Square Saint-Louis.  We discovered a few new ones on our 2017 visit, including the one pictured above (an unnamed park across from the inter-city Bus Station), Parc Paul Dozois and Victoria Square!  I'd also recommend exploring church courtyards - make a mental note of their locations so that you can wander by a few as you go to specific destinations that are part of your city tour.

- Lovely sculpture in Parc Paul Dozois -

- Beautiful shaded space in Parc Paul Dozois -

- Domtar's landscaped front entrance (as of 2019 - no longer a park) -

- Small Park with Sculptures near Quartier des Spectacles -

- Beautiful Church Courtyard -

- Victoria Square (close to a favourite gelato spot of ours!) -

Old Port of Montreal

As mentioned in my other blog post about Montreal (2017) - it's such a lovely walkable and bikeable city and a wide multi-use pathway lines the port area and links to other areas of the city including the Lachine Canal (which we visited this April).  There are lots of big beautiful trees, lots of places to stop and rest, and a pond (bassin) to enjoy a stroll around.  We even spotted a Spa on the water (Bota Bota) and there were many sunning themselves on the deck!  What a great way to relax outdoors! 

- Red-winged Blackbirds in the heart of the city! - 

- Beautiful Treed Port of Old Montreal - 

What have been some of your favourite green finds when you visit other cities?

Check out our other "urban green" city tours here:

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Birds are Returning - the City Soundtrack is Back and Bountiful!

It's spring and the warm weather is making everyone smile a bit more and feel lighter on their feet.  I'm enjoying the sights and sounds of our local birds returning and even take pleasure in the short visits of some that are just migrating through!

Ahh... the signs of spring from our feathered friends: first it's the Gulls returning to wet fields, then the Red-Winged Blackbirds and then the Cardinals start their mating calls (whether they were here all winter or not).  I heard my first Killdeer call a week or so ago and have indeed noticed some Robins on suburban lawns and ohh that dawn chorus is about to increase in decibels and fervour soon!  It's enjoyable the first few times but can get a bit maddening, especially on the weekends when you want to sleep in!  But it doesn't last all summer, just the months that birds are mating - it should die down here by mid-June.  (Here's a link to a podcast about the dawn chorus by the BBC - scroll down to the comments section!)
dawn chorus (dän ˈkôrəs): intense birdsong at daybreak - lasting up to 40 minutes or longer (link)

I've even spotted a few Juncos popping around some leafy back corners and soon enough will be those first "Oh Sweet Canada" trills from the White-Throated Sparrows and that sweet faint whistle-chatter of the Chimney Swifts overhead.  I'm adding to my phenology list and noting what else I have noticed in early spring: sometimes a last flock of Bohemian Waxwings, Wood Frogs crowding ponds, Bloodroot flowering and the budding of Maple tree flowers!  It's also interesting to start noting patterns and deviations as to when these natural phenomenon occur.
phenology (fəˈnäləjē): study of the dates of recurrent natural events (such as flowering of a plant or last appearance of a migrant bird) in relation to seasonal climatic changes - combining ecology with meteorology (link)

Spring is a great time to view birds before leafs have filled in the trees and obscure many birds from view.  Have you read our other posts about urban birds - including up close viewing via nest cams, the various structures that offer them habitat and some bird calls you may already know?  Check them out here:

Enjoy your early spring Urban Birding!

Title photo by Viliam Glazduri (Instagram, Flickr, 500 px) Contributing Creative to Wild. Here.
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Getting out Into Nature for Introverts and Extroverts

In the past few years I've learned a lot about my introverted needs and also how to connect with both introverts and extroverts.  Communication and interaction styles are different and when forging friendships and building communities, it really helps to consider different personalities and what types of activities work better for each individual (and for yourself!).

I find that I enjoy nature both on my own and with others.  It's fun to share this nature appreciation with my spouse and friends - it's great to have that in common.  I'm fortunate to already have friends who like outdoor activities and nature-oriented outings, but what if you are new to a city or your friends don't enjoy Nearby Nature as much as you do?  How can you find others who share this passion and interest?


High Energy Group Activities

You can find these through local gyms and even some "outdoor" stores.  In Ottawa two examples are Bushtuka which offers many events either on their own or in collaboration with other businesses and Epic Fitness which offers free community events that (get this!) even include New Moon Hikes and Forest Bathing.  And some of these are even in the city - so thrilled to see this!

** I just love these event opportunities but for introverts, it might be overwhelming to go on these social outings not knowing anyone.  (One option could be to bring a friend).

Outdoor Clubs/Meet-Up Groups

Meet-up is great in terms of finding clubs or groups that are focused on outdoor activities along with Facebook - just search for specific terms.  I found this local Woman's Outdoor club by searching on "Ottawa" + "Nature".  I also found a Women's social group where you can post your location in the city and share what types of outings you like. 

** For introverts there might be the opportunity to meet with some members one-on-one before a big outing especially if it's organized on Facebook where you can converse with members and make some connections.


Lower Paced Learning Activities

I love the idea of taking a class or going out on a specific learning event/activity.  When "learning" is involved, it gives the introvert something to focus on rather than having to be immersed in a full social experience.  The leader/expert will be doing more of the talking and introverts can focus on this, rather than feel the need to keep up lively social conversations.  What are some outdoor activities that you would like to learn?  Does your municipality or a group or club offer something local?  Here are some lower paced activities that appeal to me to help you with brainstorming:

  • Field Naturalist Walks
  • Birding Walks
  • Outdoor Photography Classes

Outdoor Volunteer Activities

Certain volunteer jobs should appeal to introverts - especially those ones where there is something to "do" - introverts can focus on this but still enjoy being out with others.  Gardening, cleaning up parks, helping with wildlife care and other similar jobs don't require carrying a constant conversation with new people.  Volunteering in nature is great as it really gives us that nature boost and gets us outdoors for some activity unless you are volunteering at a booth for a festival or something - that type of job would be better suited for an extrovert!

If you like this idea - here is the Wild. Here. Ottawa Outdoor - Nature Volunteering page - those in Ottawa can find local activities and those who don't live in Ottawa may find this helpful for brainstorming possible volunteer opportunities that you could do in your own city!

What do you think?  Are there activities that you find are more suited to your own personality?

Are there other activities that you would recommend?

You can also check out this "Urban Exploring" post to get some other ideas of how to meet up with local nature lovers and find friends that enjoy similar outdoor - nature activities!

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Urban Wild Exploring: Searches and Sightings of Fauna

Oh man, you have no idea how much I love exploring natural areas in the city.  (Well maybe you do now that you are reading these entries!)  To me it just seems so contradictory - nature in an urban space and I celebrate every twist and turn, every nook and cranny and every surprising discovery.

Every year, I review the city map and am surprised that there are still more places to check out & explore!  Last winter, we visited a new greenspace that I had learned about by reading about an urban stream monitoring program.  It offered beautiful scenery, some varied terrain, quiet out of the way trails to feel immersed in nature and access to water views (to scope out winter birds in the city).  When we got there, we had to find the best way to access this natural area, as it wasn't an official park but with it being winter, the access points were easy to spot due to the dog walking tracks (oh those dog walkers - thank you so much!)

And yes again these dog walking paths didn't fail us, carving out a path down to the water and along the riverbank.  I found a favourite shrub of mine (Beaked Hazel that has very unique seeds and fruit) and we ran into a gentleman that was another nature-lover and shared with us some of his top nature spots - including a local wood lot that is covered with Trilliums in the spring and he confirmed that the trail we were exploring did connect under a rail bridge and over to the urban stream that we were searching for!

Winter is actually the perfect time to be out to discover what local fauna lives in the vicinity.  You may not always SEE wildlife (that fuzzy or feathered charismatic "megafauna", of which we all enjoy seeing photos) but you CAN find evidence such as tracks, middens and browse and start piecing together the stories of your local wildlife.  And any information like this, can bring you closer to actual wildlife sighting opportunities, as you start to understand the way they act and use a space.

When I took a tracking class at school it was a winter course* (brrrr!) and every week, my classmates and I spent at least an hour outdoors with our observation sheets searching for this type of evidence around our campus.  For each weekly outing, we had to report at least five "sightings" (evidence of animal activity).  It might seem impossible during the quiet and stillness of this season but it's not as hard as you think!

So first of all - what ARE tracks, middens, browse and other wildlife signs?
TRACKS - imprint left behind in soil, snow, mud, or other ground surfaces that an animal walks across (Free Dictionary
MIDDENS - remnants of leftover food consumed by a species. Pieces of pine cone, shellfish fragments or torn bark are all examples of feeding evidence. (Care 2
BROWSE - evidence of animal tooth marks (or cuts) on preferred food supply (bark, saplings, grass, etc) 
SCAT - an animal dropping (otherwise known as excrement) (Dictionary)

Basically any piece of evidence that has been left behind by an animal is a sign that humans can use to learn about local wildlife and recent animals' habits.  Animal signs also includes fur, quills, feathers and other such material that helps to confirm that an animal was in the area.  These signs (as shown in the above list) give hints to the various activities of the local wildlife - whether while eating, stockpiling food, grooming, defecating or moving through an area.

To be able to notice this type of evidence, it is recommended that you slow down your pace as you move through greenspaces and work at reading the landscape.  Enjoy exploring your local wild spaces and find out more about who shares this local habitat with you.  Winter and early spring are great times to locate nests before the leaves are on trees and if you make a note, you can revisit to see if they are being used by happy bird parents as the weather warms up.  Spring is also a great time to look for animal tracks in muddy areas and lots more signs as mammals and other wildlife become more active.

Here are some other things to keep in mind:

Everything Counts!

Sure you can say that some of it is luck and definitely much of it is due to patience.  But there also is some need to consider timing and location if you seriously want to enjoy more wildlife encounters.  There are times of the day and season when wildlife is moving and easier to find.  Also by finding quieter spots and more dense greenspaces you will likely discover a larger and more diverse wildlife population.

Go Out with Others

While seeking wildlife with others has its challenges, there are benefits to having more eyes to scan the landscape.  To ensure that you don't end up walking too fast or engaging in distracting and loud conversations encourage your group to slow down and make a point of stopping every so often and tuning into all your senses.  Enjoying nature at different speeds is great but disturbances from noise, movement and various scents can push animals into hiding.  Up-level your skill by agreeing on some signs to communicate so that you don't even have to talk!  Being with others of varying experience is also good as you can learn or share your knowledge.

Keep a Keen Eye 

Many animals have impressive camouflage and some even adapt their camouflage to different times of year.  Winter can be an especially difficult to spot wildlife - especially with the winter shadows and grey surroundings.  Many times, it ends up being a movement or a sign (think owl whitewash) that betrays their location rather than a sighting of them against the backdrop of tree trunks, shrubbery, etc.  So train your eye to scan for movement, investigate things that seem out of place and learn about the other type of signs mentioned above which will alert you to the presence of wildlife.

Get Curious about Wildlife 

As mentioned in another post ("How to Enjoy More Mammal Sightings"), the more you know about typical habits and preferred habitats and other key details, the more easily you will be able to spot things out in natural areas.  You'll know if a specific type of wildlife is likely to be found in "forested areas" vs "open meadows".  This goes for birds also.  You can find various books about the habits of various fauna and make sure to ask your city library about resources that can help identify local wildlife seen in your area.  For example: some owls return to the same roost each year and beavers can be found both in rivers and ponds.

Other great resources for learning: local nature blogs and/or your local field naturalist club.

Celebrate all your Finds

You may have heard of the belief that whatever you focus on grows.  I'm a big believer in that.  Sending out gratitude is a great way to not only let nature uplift you but also to rev up those karmic juices.  And if you would like to practice this - remember to celebrate everything you find - no matter how small!  For me being outdoors is already a "win" and anything extra is a gift: the sun coming out of the clouds, small tracks in the snow, a warm "micro-climate" or even a bird riding a light breeze above.  It can be animate or inanimate finds - both can be exciting if you get curious and understand how everything relates.

Seeing the connection between everything links us closer to those ever elusive wildlife sightings.  Trust that they will come, allow things to unfold as they want and try not to be too attached to the outcome.

I myself have had an encounter with an owl on my wish list for a few years now.  We finally spotted one on a snowshoe last winter although it was a distant sighting.  I'm focusing on being in the owl's presence and being able to witness it, even if for a brief time.  Gratitude!  Each time I go out I remind myself of what I've seen before including an exciting quick blur of a long-tailed weasel in winter white and also a few backyard visits by a raptor - that was cool - spotting the large bird as I came down for an afternoon coffee!

So let us know what type of fauna is on your wish list and whether you've been successful or not!

Happy urban wild adventures!

(*Another great thing to do in the winter is learn some tree identification. Yes this is actually the PERFECT time of year to identify this woody flora!  Learn more here: "The ABC's of Tree Identification")

Other Posts on Urban Wild Exploring:

Intro to Urban Wild Exploring (Wild. Here. May 2016)

Urban Wild Exploring: Finding New Places - Part One (Wild. Here. June 2016)

Urban Wild Exploring: Finding New Places - Part Two (Wild. Here. August 2016)

Urban Wild Exploring: Finding New Places - Part Three (Wild. Here. October 2016)

Urban Wild Exploring: Searches and Sightings of Fauna - Part Two (coming this spring!)

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Love Nature but HATE Winter - Stop Doing This One Thing....

Vitamin "N" and Green Benefits are being touted all over the place!  But what if your outdoor environment isn't green?  What happens if for over FOUR months you find yourself in the deep white and grey of the winter season and your location is muted and dark and you feel like you will never see that vibrant green again?

I know for many Canadians that winter is hard - toughing it out for week after week through a season you HATE would make anyone miserable.

Winter is hard and relentless I know.

But if you DO find yourself wishing for GREEN & WARMTH through the whole winter and curse the outdoors for every single one of these months, consider this one adjustment:

Stop Hating Winter.

This all-encompassing judgement of the season, can truly make a difficult experience even worse.  Hate is a strong emotion and seeing winter as just this one awful thing can really make a hard situation even worse.

Most things are not all black or white.

Generalizations narrow down our view.

Hate can overtake us and cloud us from seeing anything else.

So if you are open to exploring this opportunity to see Winter in a different way start asking yourself to clarify what it is you don't like about the season.
Do you really hate everything about winter?   
Are there specific things that you find hard to tolerate?   
Is it the cold?   
Is it the dark evenings?  
Is it your commute?  
What is it that makes winter so hard for you?   

By clearly defining what it is you don't like, you can start seeing this season in a different way.  You open up the possibility that there may be things that you DO like about winter.

Then get curious about the specifics. Break it down even more:
How cold is too cold?  
Is it at -10 degrees Celsius?  
Is it at -15 degrees Celsius? 
Is it that your feet get too cold? 
Or that you feel the wind on your face?

By exploring in more detail what you don't like about winter, you can determine if there are things that you can do to improve your experience.  How can you change your experience with cold?  Is there something you can do to make this experience better?  Buy new boots?  Ensure that you get outdoors when the weather is mild on your free days so as to increase your positive experiences with winter?

Keep asking yourself questions and see what parts of the season, are tolerable.  Keep peeling away at the questions to really understand what your tolerance levels are and where you can make adjustments or help yourself out.

When you become that much more specific you can identify that what you really hate is winter commuting in storms and this can help you be open to the fact that winter storms are not as frequent as you had originally thought.  That these storms only happen a few times a month and that for the rest of the month commuting is tolerable.

Or maybe you'll start noticing that there are days that feel "warm" and where you can turn your face to the sun and enjoy the light and that these days make winter almost pleasurable.  Almost!

This one change in attitude and the way you see winter, can be the first step in helping you ease into a better acceptance of the season.  By letting go of the "HATE" you may find that there are some positive moments that you can capture and enjoy and that some aspects are not as intolerable as you may have once thought.

What are other changes that you can consider, to help make winter more tolerable?  

Sign up for my "Easing into Winter" 10 day mini-course with five easy lessons to explore other ways to change your relationship to this season starting on March 6th, 2019.

I've created this new online mini-course to support you in this cold and unwelcoming season that doesn't seem to want to end.  This new course will also be an opportunity for us to gather our nearby nature-loving community.  For this first year (the BETA version), we will have a small community of 10 to 20 students.  Read more about it here and sign up below.

***  PLEASE NOTE - This mini-course is not meant to replace the help of a trained therapist if you have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or have been diagnosed with clinical depression.  If you are unsure of the severity of your mental health, please seek professional help for a diagnosis and treatment.

Yes! I want to join the "Easing into Winter" mini-course.

* indicates required

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What Nature Has Done for Me Lately

As I spend more times outdoors and prioritize this incredibly beneficial activity, I've been noticing a change in attitude, values and desires.  They may have been there before but they have been increasing in importance and have really started to shape the way I live my life.  Even as an entrepreneur speaking about the benefits of nature, being out in nature is not always second-nature to me.  I grew up in the era of "television as a babysitter"!  So I like many others need to identify the best ways to motivate myself so that nature connection is a priority.   Knowing how much nature does enrich various aspects of my life is a great reminder to keep scheduling my Vitamin N regularly in my week.

Here are some of my current "findings" about what nature has done for me lately:
- Encourages me to slow down and become more present  (I'm even experimenting with expanding time!) 
- Provides me with that feeling of connectedness and being part of something bigger 
- Allows me to feel satisfied with what is and happy about what I have (Really, I don't need more stuff to provide me with happiness!) 
- Gives me so much joy and simple pleasure and helps me connect with the truth of 
- Is a constant reliable companion - always available, always welcoming, always the same (in its cycles, rhythms and moods even as they differ throughout the year) 
- Accepts me as I am - I feel welcomed and nurtured as an introvert by nature - no small talk needed!

After being outdoors in nature, I have more clarity about my life - things seem simpler and I remember why it is so important to be sustainable (but also forgiving in how much I can do).  Getting outside resonates with my current desires to have a simple life, enjoy the pleasure of good food, keep a tidy house, seek less distractions and find better connections.

P.S. You May Also Like:

Treat Yourself the Wild Way (2016 two-part series)

Tuning into Your Personal Connection with Nature (December 2016)

Mindful Modalities to Connect to Nature (October 2017)

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How Nature Does Such a Fabulous Job of Supporting Introverts

Are you an introvert?  Do you feel yourself drawn to natural spaces?  Does being in nature provide comfort and a feeling of retreat - a place to ponder?  Does creativity, your introverted personality and nature connection all go hand in hand for you?  I've been thinking about this lately!

What is it about nature that compliments my introverted tendencies so well?

How is it that I feel so supported, strengthened and welcomed by nature?  Why does nature feel like a return to my true inner self - a place where I can be quiet, contemplative and really hear the messages that my body and mind need to receive?  What makes nature and introverts fit so well together?

Nature offers us a quiet, calm setting.  The natural "tendency" of this environment (and the flora and fauna of which it consists) is quiet and focused - plants growing, animals searching for sustenance, water meandering through a landscape, the occupants (our sun, other stars, clouds, etc) of the sky drifting on their course. Absolutely, there are upsurges in terms of storms and predators and water falls but the return to a stasis of calm seems to be where balance comes back to all.  Nature is a great touchstone to connect us with that calm balance.

Nature helps us resynch and reset.   While we may crave calm and quiet, some places may be TOO still and silent, unnervingly so in some ways.  Being at home without any contact with the outside world can become almost too much for even the most introverted.  And moving pictures on a screen are no substitute.  Nature offers us its own steady and natural rhythm and this movement and energy can help us rebalance our own nervous systems.  Movement means life and our bodies recognize this and nature can offer this type of interaction with the world in a way that doesn't feel intimidating.

Nature provides us with space.  A visit to a green space can provide a quiet place and room to breathe, where introverts won't feel hemmed in or crowded by others.  They can be alone even if there are others on the trail.  Interaction is not required, everyone usually gives other people their own space, so it's easy to sit on a bench or out in a park and enjoy the outdoors on your own.  Nature provides enough space for all.  Being offered some spaciousness to be able to hear ourselves think, connect inwards and allow for unhurried observations is so key to introverts.  We feel welcomed by nature because it seems to understand our needs.  It's like having a friend who validates our feelings and doesn't question too much or want to interject their opinions at the wrong time.

If you are an introvert, what do you like about nature?  How does it support your need to process things internally, to take your time to review options before speaking, to slowly reveal who you are over time once trust has been built up?

Nature has always appreciated introverts - it's great to see society is starting to appreciate our valuable contemplative traits as well.

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"Worth the Trip" for Snowshoeing (Winter in Ottawa)

Wow - that's a whole bunch of snow we got this week - time to take advantage of it!

As a follow up to my 2018 post about stellar urban locations to go snowshoeing here are a few of my favourite "Worth the Drive or Bus Ride" snowshoe spots!  I've listed them from East To West so going from Orleans to Mud Lake (Britannia).  Let me know if there are any favourite hidden spots in the Kanata area that I should explore on my snowshoes!

1. Orleans Trail to see Waterfall

Princess Louise - Fallingbrook Falls - This is one of those popular dog spots so you will find that there is a winter walking trail here but it can be lots of fun on your snowshoes especially after a big snowfall!

You can take a bus (the Transitway will get you to Trim or Place d'Orleans and you can take a local bus from there).   Access to the trails are from above on Princess Louise Drive or Old 10th Line Road and then you can have a bit of an adventure exploring this narrow yet beautiful greenspace and identifying the best route to appreciate the falls from either above or below.  It's fantastic to see the creek (upstream from the waterfall) first and then descend along the ridge to the bottom (along St. Joseph Boulevard) to take in the grandeur from below.  There are some options for a more gradual descent or a more steep quick angle down - so choose what feels best for you.  To help you situate where the falls are - they are marked in this online Waterfalls of Ontario - Google Map.

You can extend your snowshoe outing further into Fallingbrook Park (south of Princess Louise Drive) if you want and follow the creek upstream to Charlemagne Boulevard.  Plus we saw wild turkeys along the parkway on our drive back home - you never know what you might see!

2. Green's Creek Trails

This area of the Greenbelt offers some great spots for exploring as Green's Creek winds through and makes some lovely crests and valleys on its way to the Ottawa River.

It's not the easiest spot to access by bus but you can take a local bus from Blair Station to Blackburn Hamlet and it stops right in front of the "Hornet's Nest" - the white dome off of Bearbrook Road.  There are also two parking lots (P 26 - closer to the toboggan hill and P25 - where the dome is).  If you view the N.C.C. Greenbelt All Season Trail map online (click on "Launch the Interactive Map") you will see three trails: 60, 61, 63.  I would recommend all three as some are more out in the open and some in more shrubby, forested areas.  The graffiti pillars (closer to P26) are worth checking out (as seen in the first photo for this post above) as is the informal snowshoe trail along the stream where you can get some great views (as you can see from the Greens Creek image).

Many of the snowshoe paths follow alongside the cross-country ski path.  Ensure that you do not snowshoe across or snowshoe on the ski tracks, as it is hard for nordic skiers to keep pace when their tracks are broken.  (This area is maintained by the Orleans Nordic Ski Club.)  Some snowshoe tracks break away from the bigger trails and go through some of the forested areas so you can explore more of this area on your snowshoes than on skis!  (p.s. Let's pretend that's a sun spot rather than a foggy lens on the photo above!)  We've seen owls, deer and mink here!

3. Forest near Canadian Aviation and Space Museum

You will most likely need your car for this, although there is an occasional bus that goes to the Aviation museum or you could access the forested area from the north end of Blair Road (a local bus stop is here at Blair and Massey).  There may be some more buses once Wateridge Village is built out but for now, this forested area north of the Parkway is pretty quiet.  Some dog walkers park along C.H. Airport-Marina Road (west side of the forest) and others park at the cul de sac at the end of Blair Rd (east side of the forest).

This is a lovely forested area that offers many small trails broken by dog walkers and some varied terrain that opens to the Ottawa-Outaouais River.  (The forest is bounded by the River, the Parkway, the Airport-Marina Road and the extension of Massey Lane to the boat launch.)  Plus there is a new area to explore along the southern side of the Sir George Etienne Cartier Parkway where there is a newly constructed bikepath/walking trail around the recently developed stormwater ponds that were created to capture the runoff from the new development.  They are fed by a waterfall along the ridge.  You won't be able to find the path right now but you could create a trail of your own!  We found some sweet winter tracks made by mice and have seen wild turkey here.  There is also great birding along the river.

4. Uplands Drive Hydro Corridor

This space is a favourite of mine as there is so much to explore.  I've only visited the western section and plan on exploring the areas closer to McCarthy Road this year.  There is some rough terrain here but not too steep and you will find that you go through a variety of environments/habitats, some shrubby, some more sparse and even a few treed areas.  It's more wooded in the eastern section.  With the open areas you may spot some larger birds and/or raptors!

What is amazing here are the long vistas, surprising in a denser area of the city, where the horizon is almost uninterrupted natural area.  You'll meet dog walkers again but feel free to break your own trail and have some fun!  Access here is from some of the dead-ends and cul-de-sacs off Uplands, through McCarthy Park and off McCarthy Road.  You can also access directly from the bus stop on Riverside Drive across from Vittoria Trattoria - which is actually a great place to warm up after - the restaurant offers delicious wood fired pizza!

5. Nepean Sportsplex - Pinhey Forest Trails

This is one of the spots that is easy to take transit to as it is on the main Transitway route in Nepean.  However there is still a bit of hike to get behind the Sportsplex and to the back of the parking lot where you will find the forested paths, so keep this in mind.  If the Sportsplex is open you can even walk through the building and use it to warm up after!

This is a great spot both due to the frequent buses and also because this is one of the larger intact forests in the city.  Ontario Trails notes that the two trails (Trail 31 & Trail 32) add up to almost 7 kms of trails both behind the Sportsplex and on the south side of Slack Road (where Pinhey Forest continues) which gives visitors lots to explore.  The forest is a mix of habitat with cedar and coniferous groves along with some areas that have rows of planted pines.  I visit when I can and wrote about a forest bathing walk I enjoyed here a few years ago.

Keep in mind this is a shared trail with skiers so be considerate when using the trail but the main trail is wide so easy to share.  There are great trail signs to keep you on the right path and a variety of loop lengths that all bring you back to the parking lot.  Lots of great squirrel activity here!

6. Britannia Conservation Area

The Britannia beach area including Mud Lake is just a nature lovers dream!  You may want to snowshoe through the more open areas of the western side or closer to the Parkway and Richmond Road.  Or you can go along the more wooded trails that loop around the lake (the western side paths do not offer the lake views though).  You can check the northern sections for winter ducks or you can even consider the Britannia Beach point (behind the Ron Kolbus Lakeside Centre).  This area also links up by a bike path (which you could snowshoe along) through to Andrew Haydon Park.

There are a few options for taking transit to this location as there is a bus that stops at the Lakeside centre or you can get off at the Lincoln Fields Transitway and venture north into the greenspace area.  One thing to note is that there is only a small connecting greenspace (where the bike path is) between the Britannia Park and Beach area to the Conservation Area and Mud Lake.  This is along Howe Street.  And while you are on Howe Street you might as well take a break and warm up at the Britannia Coffeehouse (273 Britannia Road).  It's open Fri - Sun in the winter months!

(Example of Trail Map and Markers found in NCC Greenspaces such as Green's Creek, Nepean Sportsplex.)

**Princess Louise Waterfall photo by Viliam Glazduri (InstagramFlickr500 pxContributing Creative to Wild. Here.
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