Jock Trail (16A) to Cedar Grove Parking Lot (15B), 13.3km
Sunday, June 19th, 2021
“Nothing moved in the still heat except for the constant thrum of the deerflies and the occasional splash of water as the frogs found a meagre puddle of muddy water. The sun beat down on the dirt trail as the two travelers made their way south through the woods. Occasionally, there was shade and a breeze which was a welcome respite to the open, empty road they had just left behind. Sweat dripped down their backs as they swatted the flies away from their heads with the small branches they had torn off a sapling.”
It has a Walking Dead/Stephen King feel to it, doesn’t it? If you let your imagination go, that’s what this section of the Rideau Trail is like. Nonetheless, it is beautiful even if only in its Eastern Ontario wildness and is indeed a welcome change from the many kilometers of road walking that make up the Rideau Trail.
It was Father’s Day, and while many Dads got to sleep in or have breakfast made for them, that was not in the cards for Bob! He’s so lucky to have me, isn’t he? Who needs a full English breakfast in bed when there are trails to be walked and horseflies to be slapped away!
Our day started from home at 8 am with a two-car convoy to Cedar Grove parking lot on Roger Stevens Drive to park the destination vehicle. There are several parking lots for Marlborough Forest on Roger Stevens so look for the one that has a huge wooden Rideau Trail sign. I know, it sounds obvious, but driving from Ottawa, it wasn’t the first parking lot we passed and it got us wondering. After parking and unpacking, we headed back to Jock Trail where we ended our hike last time and would start our 13.3 km hike today. By 9 am we had our gear on and we were ready to walk.
We’d had a huge day of rain the day before and even though our summer had so far been very dry, I brought my gaitors and rain coat just in case. I didn’t end up needing them but I know that if I hadn’t brought them, I certainly would have needed them. That’s just the way my life goes.
The first 4.3 km is road walking but it is on a gravel road that has no exit so there is very little traffic. We passed some interesting carvings, some horses and ponies in their paddock, some cattle who were startled to see us and trundled off into the woods, as well as crossing a small portion of the Jock River and seeing lots of wild parsnip. If you aren’t aware of wild parsnip, it looks like very tall, yellow Queen Anne’s lace and the sap can irritate human skin quite badly so don’t pick it even though it’s pretty. Even a deer graced us with its presence. As we walked, the houses became less frequent and the trees became taller. Eventually we came to a T-junction at Kettle’s Road and turned left (or northeast) and continued on for another kilometer or so, crossing the railroad tracks.
Just after the tracks, we came to the entrance of Marlborough Forest. We had a hard time finding the orange arrows but the trail is pretty obvious! (I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s worth mentioning again, the arrows pointing the way from Kingston to Ottawa are completely orange. The arrows pointing from Ottawa to Kingston have a yellow tip on them.) The signpost across from the trailhead only has the orange arrows on it. The one we were looking for was at the beginning of the trail but hidden among the branches. It had taken us an hour to get to the Marlborough Forest trailhead.
Marlborough Forest is a massive conservation area in Ottawa. According to the Ontario Trails website:
“The Marlborough Forest is a large tract of land owned by the city of Ottawa. It is a diverse ecosystem of over 9,300 hectares (ha) of wetlands, wildlife fields, natural forests and plantations. Due to its diversity and ecological functions, it is one of the most environmentally significant natural areas in the City of Ottawa. Members of the public can use the area for hiking, skiing, snow shoeing, hunting including cross-bow, snowmobiling etc. The Rideau Trail runs through the forest on its way from Ottawa to Kingston.”https://www.ontariotrails.on.ca/index.php?url=trails/view/marlborough-forest—rideau-trail
Even though it’s not that difficult to get lost in Marlborough Forest, it’s always a good idea to print off the maps from the Rideau Trail website and bring the hard copy with you or download a map for offline use from All Trails. Cell reception was dodgy in spots.
The trail is wide and fairly smooth for a gravel road as it’s usually used as an ATV trail. As I had mentioned before, it had rained heavily the day before so there were a lot of huge puddles to walk around. Unlike our last hike, we did not need to bushwhack at all, there was space enough around the edges and it wasn’t really mucky.
The flip side of a nice open trail is the sun and the heat. And as I mentioned in the intro, there really wasn’t any breeze or shade. We were dressed in long pants to avoid ticks but I think for the next section of hike, I’ll opt for shorts and lots of repellant. At least it wasn’t too dusty. And we really didn’t bring enough water. I’ve never brought more than a liter on a hike in the National Capital Region because truth be told, there aren’t any really lengthy hikes on which you would need more than a liter. So we didn’t think to bring more water until we had hiked for two hours and we were getting really thirsty due to the heat, which we had also forgotten to take into consideration and then those one liter bottles we’d brought felt really small. If you’re going to hike over 10km between June and September, I’d recommend at least two liters per person or make sure you have more liquid in a cooler in your vehicle.
The trail winds its way through the forest and about halfway through, you walk through an open space filled with daisies and purple loosestrife. At every junction there are road signs that point you in the right direction. So we just kept following the arrows and walking towards Smith Falls, knowing that our next four hikes would take us to Burritts Rapids, Merrickville and then on to Smith Falls.
Throughout this whole hike, I have often felt nostalgic for the Camino again. I have mixed emotions about my trip back in 2017 for personal reasons but I started to think about doing another Camino – perhaps the northern route? Bob said he’d love to walk it with me so we can add that to the bucket list. (Which, after this year, I’m changing to the Fuck It List.)
At the last junction in the ATV trail, we turned right, and walked only 300m southeast. Then, off to the left, is a foot trail and not a very obvious one at that. I said to Bob, “Hey look! Another trail!” And then I noticed the orange triangle. I wasn’t expecting the turnoff to be that soon.
There are signs and it is a designated foot path. At one point, you enter private property and again, I’d like to extend a big thank you to those who let hikers use their property for hiking in good faith.
Talking about using private property in good faith, let’s talk about bathroom breaks in the woods. In this section of Marlborough Forest, there are no bathroom facilities of any sort, which means that if you can’t hold it, you’ll have to find a spot off the trail to go. No biggie for men who need to urinate. But for women and other bathroom necessities, please follow these basic principles. I had packed a trowel just in case I needed to dig a hole as well as some toilet paper/extra Kleenex. And ladies, don’t forget a sealable plastic bag to put any used tp in (if you only have to urinate since you can bury it otherwise) so as not to pollute the property and to keep the trail clean for other hikers.
This last 2km of the trail was a beautiful respite from the open gravel trail. The ground was mossy and springy to walk on. The canopy covered us from the sun and there was a lovely breeze, cooling us down several degrees. Much of it was overgrown and there were several paths around what could have been a very swampy section had the recent weather been different, including a very small wooden bridge and a longer more structured wooden walkway at the very end. Map 15 seemed to be the opposite of the section we had hiked before. Last time, we started with the natural part and ended with the road walking. This time we started with the open road and finished on a beautiful natural section. I definitely preferred this hike!
The last 200 m was road walking on Roger Stevens Drive to get back to Cedar Grove parking lot. We got to the Jeep, happily changed out of our hiking boots and into our sandals, and opened up some snacks. The Rideau Trail continues from this parking lot through more of Marlborough Forest (truly, this conservation area is massive!) where we will continue hiking next time.
Total km to date: 67.6km of 387km