When Rob and I initially planned the QB-5 trip, we feared that the first two days of trail wouldn’t be enough to excite the group. In talking more with Ted from GravelTravel.ca, we joined together the Ottawa Valley route with a section from the Swisha Valley Loop, adding a “day” of off-road travel to our plans. In order to connect the two routes we would have to travel 46 highway miles to Waltham, Quebec, then join up with the Swisha Loop. The highway driving was relaxing and hilly, bringing us through a few towns until someone needed a rest stop and we found our way to a Tim Horton’s for coffee and a bathroom. After a twenty or so minute stop we carried on towards Waltham we hopped back on the two lane state road we’d been traveling down after a half hour or so of Jenny intermittently serenading us with song over the CB, Bob chimed in to announce signs he had been seeing for a scenic waterfall just a few miles ahead. After gauging group interest, we decided to veer off our route and explore the area to see what the waterfall was all about. Shayna did some quick Googling and read off information, and upon arriving Bob, Shaun, and Dani went to get some information from the destination’s main office about what it would cost for us to visit.
We had another two hours of trail riding before our route was completed, and planned to visit Canada’s capital city of Ottawa once we were done. The trail section seemed slow moving as time flew by, leading me to call up to Bob and ask him what our exit options were to bypass the remaining 25 miles of trail. Truthfully, in the back of my mind I was concerned that Dani and I had a 2.5 hour drive west after Ottawa to begin our drive across Canada, while the rest of the group would be just under an hour from their final campsite. Bob quickly circumvented our route and plopped us onto paved and highly traveled roads, where we spent an hour or so making our way through the countryside before hopping onto the highway for a faster paced drive into the city.
Dani turned the CB radio off as we merged onto the Trans-Canada Highway headed west, beginning our 2,375 mile drive to Jasper National Park in Alberta’s Canadian Rockies. It had been a great start to our trip, and I could only hope that the weeks to come would follow suit.
To summarize, the trip as a whole was a success. There were moments that were frustrating for everyone, issues with radio communications, the campsite parking debacle, and probably a few other things I don’t remember. In the end though we all had a great time, enjoying each others company and getting out into the backwoods of a country and province I’ve never been able to explore before.
During our e-mail debriefing. input from the group was that we need shorter days and more social activities; while this was something Rob and I had tried to design into the route this year by shaving off a lot of driving versus 2016’s North Maine Woods trip, we’ll have to go back to the drawing board and change how we design the route for next year. Social activities were harder to find in the Ottawa Valley as we were in pretty rural areas, but I think we all agreed that the waterfall adventure course was a highlight of Sunday, and perhaps even the biggest highlight of the trip as a whole.
I’m not sure where we’ll go next year, or what kind of trip we will go for. Some are thinking we should stick closer to New England and explore Acadia National Park, using our campsite as more of a home base and doing day-trip adventures, while others are keen on looking further south to Kentucky or Tennessee for some backwoods adventure down there. We’ve got a year to throw around ideas and actually plan it, and a year to talk about change we can make to have the whole thing be even more enjoyable. At the end of the day though, the ability to get out with 15 friends and use the vehicles we’ve built for off-road travel to do such a thing and do it well, was an awesome opportunity and one that I will not take for granted. Until we’re able to hit the road again, I can’t wait to see where the year ahead takes us and find out what’s in store for next summer.