When you’ve got two young kids and a full-time schedule, the notion of ‘self-care’ is rarely lived out. So when Jack Tannett of the Rideau Trail Association invited me to join him for a snowshoe hike on the Rideau Trail, I jumped at the chance. Escaping on a Sunday afternoon, the setting couldn’t be more perfect.
The sun was out, the sky was clear, and we had just had a fresh, 10-cm snowfall the day before. We met in downtown Perth, reviewed the trail map, and decided on a 4.5-kilometre hike which started just outside town, bringing us out at Tay River Reflections.
We parked Jack’s vehicle at the end of a farmhouse laneway, just off County Road 43 on the dead-end Rathwell Road.
“These trails run along so many private properties, and we depend on and appreciate landowners allowing us to use their land for leisure,” Jack explained.
About the Rideau Trail
The Rideau Trail is a 387-km network of hiking trails between the City of Kingston and the City of Ottawa located in the general area of the Rideau Canal and its tributary waters.
The Rideau Trail Association is an active charitable organization that maintains and champions the Rideau Trail and arranges self-propelled outdoor activities such as hiking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing on the trail and in nearby areas, through an engaged core of members and volunteers.
Jack is one of those proud members.
He’s part of the Central Club section of the Rideau Trail, which begins at Murphys Point Provincial Park and ends at Rosedale, just north of Smiths Falls. The scenic area has rivers, lakes and rocky outcrops of the Canadian Shield. It encompasses the historic towns of Perth and Smiths Falls as well as portions of the Rideau Canal. It feels like a hidden gem when you cross these areas unannounced and you’re greeted with breathtaking views, animal life and moments that connect you with nature.
We were making our way on the part of the trail that eventually runs along the Tay River using the historic tow path.
Jack was the perfect guide as he offered insight about the region and shared stories from past hikes and trail-maintenance projects (like the time when a group of female volunteers lifted a floating-away trail bridge last summer, and put it back in its place). Jack’s passion for hiking is obvious: last year alone, he hiked 536 kilometres.
Snowshoeing Along the Tay
As we strapped on our snowshoes, Jack offered me walking poles (which I happily accepted), and we made our way toward the trail.
The closer we got to the trail, the more I relaxed: the hard crunch of the snow beneath our snowshoes was the only sound we heard. The hike was set to bring about a much-invited retreat into nature. We never would have known to turn left into a wide-open crop field, except there’s one tiny indicator: an orange triangle posted to a tree. That was our cue to turn.
The Rideau Trail is marked by these orange triangles, which helps hikers navigate through forested land and open fields, and along roadways.
While our hike started as a bitter -18 degrees, the temperature eventually worked in our favour: uncovering the trail with our fresh tracks made for easy navigation on the crisp snow, and we quickly warmed up with the exercise. As we made our way along the trail, we spotted animal tracks in the forest, snow covered-logs and bridges, and a gorgeous water backdrop complementing the serene setting on a winter’s afternoon.
With the Tay River running along our left side, we got a close-up of a frozen waterway that I’d never before experienced: looking like jewels frozen in ice, crystal specs were laced across the frozen river. “It’s just so silent and unspoiled,” Jack commented. He couldn’t have been more right.
As the only ones out on the trail, we took the opportunity to stop and soak in the landscape. We weren’t in a hurry to wrap up the hike, and I felt a sense of gratitude for the quiet escape to nature – one that I currently don’t experience enough of in my everyday life.
When we’d stop, I’d often close my eyes, take a deep breath and embrace the fresh, outdoor air filling my lungs.
As we made our way toward my car, Jack pulled out a thermos and two cups: celebrating our completed hike with a cup of hot apple cider. I couldn’t have asked for a better end to the day.
The Rideau Trail was the perfect way to soak in nature with guided navigation while discovering all the elements that make winter such an epic season; one that perfectly portrays silence, solitude and beauty.