The Rideau Trail, Map 17

Steeplehill Crescent and Fallowfield (17D) to Huntley and Brownlee (16F), 8.8km

May 16th, 2021

It’s been a year and a half since we’ve been out on the Rideau Trail. I couldn’t believe it either. I was shocked when I saw the date on the last post (the dates of our walks, not the date I posted it). I couldn’t believe that we didn’t get outside to walk more along the RT during the pandemic. I mean, what else was there to do?

I know that during the first lockdown, the RT was “closed”. But eventually it opened up as long as people abided by the COVID-19 Rules of Life. And true, when we were opened up a bit in the summer, we were at home spending time with our dog who was at the end of her life. And then September rolled around and all hell broke loose with the second wave.

So, yeah, it makes sense that we didn’t walk the RT at all last year. 2020 will forever be a hole in my life. Like, did time pass or were we all just stuck in Groundhog Day? It seemed both immeasurably fast and slow at the same time.

But this year will be different. (Yes, I know, I say that every time.) The Year of Languishing is OVER. 2021 certainly did not start off well but it’s taken a definite upswing and I can’t wait any longer. My soul is going to die if I don’t find some adventure somewhere. Even if it just walking down old farm roads through newly-worked fields.

That’s what Map 17 is.

We parked one vehicle at the Monaghan Forest parking lot and the other 9 km down the trail at Huntley and Brownlee. Our end point was as close to the small village of Richmond as we would get, following the main trail. As we drove back to the beginning of the day’s walk, we felt for the first time, that we were actually starting to leave Ottawa and truly start the “hard” part of the trail, meaning we were out of the comforts and accessibility of the city.

We parked in Monaghan Forest parking lot but that is not actually on the Rideau Trail. Fallowfield is a busy road and I wouldn’t recommend parking on the shoulder. You might be able to park on Steeplehill Crescent but it’s narrow so we just felt safer parking in a designated parking lot. Monaghan Forest is a lovely network of trails in its own right, if you are interested in just wandering in the woods for a bit.

We left the parking lot and headed west on Fallowfield until we reached Steeplehill Crescent again and continued walking south, starting the trail at 17D on the map. The orange markers are on telephone poles around here because Map 17 is mostly road walking. That being said, it is mostly on old farm roads – both paved and gravel – with very little traffic. Plus we started walking at 8:30 on a Sunday morning during a lockdown. Throughout the entire 9 km, we saw no other pedestrians and only a handful of cars. There is only 500m in today’s section that was on busy highway.

Steeplehill Crescent is a lovely, old paved road that wanders through family-run farms and crosses Mahoney Creek, which comes off the Jock River.

At the start of today’s 9km walk.

Shortly after that, the RT makes a very small detour into Terry Carisse Park. If you miss the orange marker that’s tilted to the left on the telephone pole, and keep to the road, you really don’t miss anything except walking through a grassy field and a brief view of the Jock River. If you do decide to follow it, it is only a few hundred meters long parallel to the road and at least it’s off the road for a few minutes.

Shortly after you leave the park, you will come to Rushmore Rd. and an abandoned roadside stand. It made me think about when I was growing up in Perth and we’d drive into Ottawa “the back way” through Franktown and Richmond. It wasn’t built up like it is today and farmers would often have little stands out selling their produce and baked goods. We left the asphalt and would spend most of the rest of our walk on gravel (but graded) roads. I wore running shoes today, knowing that we had road walking on the itinerary but because of the gravel, hiking boots or thicker trail runners would not be amiss.

Rushmore Road is a total of 2.8km, including a short 100m on Old Richmond Road. This part reminded me of walking through the Meseta in Spain when I walked the Camino in July, 2017. Those days were filled with fields and a lot of sun and gravel roads through farms. The type of landscape in which you could see your destination on the horizon but it would still take you hours of walking to get there. While these roads didn’t cover as much distance, it still had that same quality of walking for miles and not getting anywhere. This is farm country and you won’t be able to pop into a shop and pick up some water (or go to the bathroom) so plan accordingly. There is no shade so bring a hat and lots of sunscreen and try to do this leg of the journey earlier in the morning.

We did see a few trucks on these gravel roads. Unbelievably, one happened to be someone we actually knew who stopped and asked us if we wanted a lift somewhere. I’m sure he must have thought we were crazy to be out for a walk in the middle of the fields.

At the end of Rushmore Rd is the only highway walking – 600m on busy Eagleson Rd. While there is a wide shoulder, it is slanted into the ditch so we preferred to walk single file for this small section.

The arrows on these roads are few and far between, most likely because the roads are so straight there is hardly any way you could take a wrong turn but I did check my All Trails app a couple of times just to make sure. We also had a print out of the map just to be safe. (My formative hiking training was in places that didn’t get any cell service so I always carry a real map.)

We turned right (west) onto Brownlee Road and followed this road for another 2.5 km. On a telephone pole at Shea Road, we noticed a blue triangle. The blue arrows are alternate or additional trails to the main Rideau Trail. If you follow it, you will come to the village of Richmond in 2.6 km. Richmond is now a part of the municipality of Ottawa even though it is surrounded by farmland and still retains its country village feel. If you are doing a longer hike, you could find food, drinks and essentials here. As far as I know, there is no accommodation or camping though.

It was only one more “block” down Brownlee to Huntley, where we had parked our little Accent. We had walked a total of 9 km in 1 hour and 40 minutes, and almost the entirety of Map 17.

It felt great to be back out on the trail again. While this section of the trail isn’t the most exciting, it certainly has its charm. It is a wild idea in this day and age to walk out of a city but that is exactly what we did. While we still have three maps to go before actually hitting Ottawa’s official city limits, we have left the urban sprawl behind us. Let the true adventure begin!

Total km to date: 43.3km out of 387 km

Happy Hiking!

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