Happy Trails! Safe and responsible hiking in Natural Areas
Date and time
Speaker: Victoria Lanthier, GirlGoneGood
Spending time outdoors in nature is good for our physical and mental health, and the Ottawa area has a rich diversity of greenspaces and trails to explore . Outdoor recreation has been especially important during the pandemic, and many people have discovered the joys of hiking or biking our trails for the first time. The City wants to ensure that all trail users know how to stay safe and enjoy their experience, with minimal impact on the natural environment. We invite you to join us for a presentation by local outdoors enthusiast and wellness advocate, Vickie Lanthier of GirlGoneGood.
Vickie Lanthier (she/her) is a military veteran and served operationally with the Canadian Armed Forces. She became a public speaker, avid skydiver, and a well-traveled adventurist. After a successful career in communications within the military, she released and became an information technology consultant. She currently works as a technical architect by day and runs GirlGoneGood in her spare time. Victoria has recently completed a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Ottawa. Victoria continues to travel often and resides in Ottawa, Ontario.
Vickie’s mission for GirlGoneGood is to promote the prioritization of wellness while exploring nature for all persons, through safe and responsible recreation. The driving forces behind GirlGoneGood® are:
- helping others find new trails to explore
- encouraging respectful/smart hiking
- wellness and mental health
- supporting local/small business/community
- paying it forward
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Please remember to lower your hand once you’ve had your turn or if someone else asks the same question that you were going to ask. We are streaming live tonight from the city of Ottawa, which is built on the unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe Nation. The peoples of the Anishinabe Algonquin Nation have lived on this territory for millennia. Today, Ottawa is home to approximately 40,000 First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people. Ottawa’s indigenous community is diverse, representing many nations, languages and customs. We would like to honour the land of the First Peoples as well as all First Nations, Inuit and Métis in Ottawa and their valuable past and present contributions to this land. We encourage all those listening, wherever you might be, to do the same. Meegwetch.
Spending time outdoors in nature is good for our physical and mental health, and the Ottawa area has a rich diversity of green spaces and trails to explore. Outdoor recreation has been especially important during the pandemic, and many people have discovered the joys of hiking or biking our trails for the first time. This is a great thing, and we encourage people to keep spending time outdoors. We also want to make sure that all trail users know how to stay safe and enjoy their experience with minimal impact on the natural environment. Staying on the trails and leaving no trace helps to keep our natural areas and green spaces in good shape, not only for the next visitor, but for the generations to come. Our speaker tonight is Vickie Lanthier, a military veteran who has combined her interests in health, communication, and the outdoors into GirlGoneGood®. She has extensive experience with the trails and natural areas in and around Ottawa, and we look forward to sharing her advice with you this evening. Welcome, Vickie.
Thank you. I appreciate being here tonight with everyone. So, thank you, everyone, for having me in your homes. I appreciate again that it is sunny outside, so the opportunity to go out and play, maybe after this, is something we could take advantage of. I also like smaller groups because it means we could pay more attention to questions and answers at the end. So we go ahead to the next slide.
So what I’ll go over today is how to choose the right trail for you—after an introduction—responsible recreation, some hiker safety tips and insights, and local hiking resources for you. Next.
All right, so who am I? Very quickly. I’m an avid day hiker. I’m a frequent road tripper. I’m also a writer, I’m a veteran, IT consultant, and I have a Bachelor of Science in nursing, which is a really weird mix, admittedly. But it really is the backbone for GirlGoneGood—a quirky name, admittedly, but GirlGoneGood means doing good for myself, for others, and for nature. That’s where that name is based out of. Girlgonegood.com is a hiking resource website for southeastern Ontario. So on that website, you will find a plethora of hiking resources, tips, tricks, downloads, packing lists, trail reports, and trail recommendations in order to find the right trail for you.
I also donate 100% of my net proceeds to mental health and conservation charities. Next slide. I feel like this hits us all in the last two years especially, where we have found ourselves and our balance by going back into nature. I have really appreciated in the last few years how we have moved from being stuck in the busyness of our lives and all come out into nature to ground ourselves and maybe balance things out a little bit. Next.
Okay, so we’ll start with how to select the right trail. There are an abundance of trails within Ottawa itself and then Ottawa and region. So for me, what I talk about mostly are trails within two hours of Ottawa. We have the city of Ottawa itself, and then we have nine surrounding counties and regions that surround Ottawa within two hours. So that’s mostly the area that I’ll be talking about.
How to pick the right trail for you? I will never say in any of my resources if something is easy or beginner or family-friendly. I try to refrain from using those words. I find that they’re not only terribly subjective, but also not inclusive.
So when you’re taking a look at trail information, you want to take a look at level of effort, so how long the trail is and how much elevation gain there is. We start asking critical questions like: Is the path paved? Is it dirt? Is it boardwalk? Is it rugged? These are the kinds of questions that you want to take a look at in order to determine if it’s the right one for you.
The next is level of skill. We have to appreciate our own hiking abilities and this could be intimidating. It’s intimidating as a new hiker to get out there and know what’s what. If you are a new hiker or wanting to get into hiking, my recommendation is to join a hiking group for the first time or stick to in-town and in-city trails. And the third is to grab a hiking buddy. Those are my three safety tips if you’re trying to immerse yourself in the hiking community for the first time in trails. So, things to ask is: if there’s cell reception, is there trail signage, and how are my navigation skills? Because even within some pockets of the city of Ottawa and definitely outside, we think that this may be a popular trail and that we’re going to have the same beautiful signage that sometimes the NCC has because it’s only 30 minutes down the road.
But the reality is there might not be cell reception, you might not have signage, and you might require navigation skills in order to get through it. The third thing is the season. You’ll be surprised the differences between the seasons that we have to consider. I have a handout on my website on seasonal considerations, but there are important questions to ask, like road access during the winter. If you go out into the counties, there are plenty of trails that are… To access the trailhead, you have to drive on dirt or forest roads. That is not going to be plowed or accessible in the winter.
Then you have to ask yourself, is it a shared trail? In Ottawa, we are wonderful at sharing our trails in the winter and redesignating them to snowshoe trail or cross-country skiing or skate skiing. Not all trails can be for us hikers. We have to share them in the winter. And we have to be cognizant of that change and not to be too disruptive about it, because the reality is there are so many trails to hike, you could easily find another one. And we can leave some for our beautiful skiers and snowshoers.
Hunting season is another question to ask in the fall. So, lo and behold, even within city limits, there are pockets where there is legalized hunting, or you can legally hunt. Sorry. So you have to be cognizant of hiking within forest trails in the fall. You have to adapt for that. You have to wear bright colours. You have to speak loudly. You have to abide by any trail closures if there are any. And then, of course, the last one to consider is in the spring and mud season. I like to say that there’s actually… We don’t start hiking in the spring. It’s actually flood, then mud, then bug, and then hiking season. That seems to be our flow in Ontario.
So to have some patience with that, because it can get quite disruptive to the trail itself and the surrounding flora. And the last is to consider the features. So what kinds of features do you want to see or what kinds of features do you need in order to pick the right trail for you? So that could go from boardwalks to ramps to towers to interpretive signage to waterfalls and vistas. So those are the four considerations that I would take into account when you’re trying to select the right trail for you. Next.
So this image is a little grayed out here, and that’s okay. But this image is of Deacon Escarpment up near Golden Lake. It is a private property open to the public for hiking and cabin rentals. It is a gorgeous property with over 20 km of trails. And I just wanted to share this because as you can see, I think it gives Gatineau Park a good run for its money on how beautiful it is. And that’s simply to share that we have more than what we think for beautiful areas and trails within our reach. Next.
The 10 Essentials. So there are two things that you’re going to hear every hiker harp on, and it’s going to be the 10 Essentials, and it’s going to be Leave No Trace. So I can’t do any talk justice if I don’t talk about it. And there’s a few added things that I like to add specifically for Ontario. So let’s go over the 10 Essentials. Yeah, we could stay on this slide. So the 10 Essentials themselves are navigation, which, in the city you’re okay with your cell phone for the most part. Outside of the city, you’re going to have to strongly consider either a spotter, an emergency spotter, or a GPS or map and compass.
You’re also going to have to consider bringing an extra battery for your cell phone as well if you’re doing a longer hike. Headlamps, oh my goodness! We all love sunrise and sunset hikes. This is also a prime opportunity for us to get in trouble while hiking because we are either hiking in the dark or hiking out in the dark. So you always have to bring a head lamp and spare batteries. And if you’re going in for a sunrise or sunset hike, my recommendation is that you go hike the trail in daylight first. And a quick note that red light does not pair well with blue markers. So if the trail has blue markers, make sure you have white light so that you can see that properly.
The next thing is sun protection, then first aid kit. Funny enough, if you have a dog, did you know there’s dog first aid kits and dog first aid courses as well? So that’s something to note if you’re a dog owner, especially if you’ve got one in the last two years like most of us did with all our beautiful pandemic puppies. Next is a knife or repair kit.
Then fire, like waterproof matches, shelter like an emergency bivy or a tarp, extra food, extra water and extra clothes. And you’re going to think this is a lot. But in quite honesty, I could pack this into ten litres or less within my bag. So it’s not as much as you think, but it does come in handy. In the last 20 years, I think I’ve used everything on this list at least once for myself or others.
Now the four things that I would add to this list for Ontario specifically (next slide) would be bear spray. We do have our beautiful black bears in this area. We do have sightings of different large animals and coyotes and everything else. So in Ontario, bear spray is a registered item. So you could go to SAIL or MEC or Bushtukah or any of the outdoor stores and sign for bear spray yourself using your driver’s license or another piece of ID. You have to know how to use it properly. I was fearful. I did have someone, bless their heart, ask me once if they sprayed it on themselves like bug spray. And that was an honest-to-goodness question. No, you do not.
So my first recommendation is bear spray. But you please go onto the provincial Ontario website and you can have the links on how to react properly to bears and how to use bear spray. The next thing is a bug shirt because, oh my heart, we have all the bugs here in Ontario! And please consider that all trails will have ticks. It’s just the way it is nowadays and we have to adapt for it. So that means wearing your socks over your pants even if it doesn’t look cool. Using DEET or permethrin clothing. And bug netting is a blessing in those months where we have the flies and mosquitoes and then maybe flies again in August.
Cell phone apps: here’s a neat thing about cell phone apps, especially for in the city. I don’t recommend it for the counties, but in the city where you’re going to use your cell phone, please consider downloading what3words. what3words is an application on your phone that you could use in an emergency that the OPP use to identify where you are within 10 metres. So kindly consider using that application.
And poles. Poles are my friends. People think it looks nerdy. I’m a big fan of using hiking poles, especially during mud season, deep winter seasons and steep descents. It’ll save your knees and your balance and it will save you from getting into trouble while hiking. Next slide.
So this here is a picture from Manitou Mountain in Calabogie. Now we know Calabogie mostly because of Eagle’s Nest. Everybody goes out and they hike Eagle’s Nest, which is slowly getting overrun. On the other side of the mountain, however, there’s over 9 km of trails and I think five lookouts. This is one of the lookouts, I believe this is Manitou Mountain lookout, that you could explore. Now, you have to be careful on these trails because even though they’re well marked, it’s easy to get turned around. But that rugged trail on Manitou Mountain is as challenging... For those folks who love Gatineau Park, I would say that side of the mountain of Manitou Mountain is a good equivalent to both trails, if not more challenging, if that’s what you’re looking for. Okay? There’s also some other great areas in Calabogie like Wabun Lake lookout, which is an 18 km loop. There’s Jamieson, there’s Griffith Uplands, which is 10 km with elevation.
There’s Dacre Heights, which is an old ski lift that you can actually hike up in the winter and then ski down if you want to. It is private property that’s open to the public, so that’s a lot of fun. And a few other things. So don’t get stuck on the same trails. Feel free to explore a little as long as you keep the 10 Essentials in mind. Next slide.
Leave No Trace! So I’m officially, as GirlGoneGood, partnered with Leave No Trace Canada. Very proud to have had that done in the last few months with them. Of course, we all want to follow the seven Leave No Trace principles, so I’m just going to go through them quickly because you could go to leavenotracecanada.ca and look it up yourself and they have wonderful explanations on it. I’m just going to give my little tip with each of them as we go along.
So the first one is plan ahead and prepare. I would say that plan ahead and prepare, in today’s day and age (especially good example is the storm we just had!) would include going directly to the trail manager’s website to see the status or any updates on that particular trail.
Now what is a trail manager? Because that gets asked as well. It is either someone who maintains the trail or someone who owns the property. Usually they do both. So that could be a land trust, it could be the City of Ottawa, it could be the NCC or conservation authority. Or it could be like Dacre Heights where it’s private land open to the public. But make sure to look up that trail. Don’t just rely on AllTrails but go directly to the trail manager to get the right information.
Next is travel and camp on hard surfaces. This point, especially for Ontario, the only point I have here is to really watch for spring roads, the dirt roads, especially in Renfrew County, Frontenac, any of those just outside Ottawa counties. If you have a forest road or dirt road going into the trailhead, those are sometimes too soft for vehicles in the early spring.
Dispose of waste properly. If anybody is on social media, on Facebook or Instagram, you can find me @girlgonegood. It’s at the end of this presentation and you go out on the trail and pick up trash! It’s called plogging. We’re making it trendy again. If you go out and pick up trash on the trail, please take a picture and tag me in it because I would love to see that. We have been growing in our outdoor community and making plogging trendy and picking up trash as we go. So my habit is to, if it’s an out and back trail, I will hike to the furthest point and then on my way back I always carry garbage bags or small bags with me and I pick up as I come back. That would be a wonderful thing and I would love to see it.
Next is leave what you find. So everyone loves foraging and discovering different mushrooms and plant types. And I would say, how about we leave nature for nature? And there are several different ecological reasons why to leave nature as is. You could actually go ahead to the next slide. Sorry.
But if you are curious about that nature, why not download an app like iNaturalist and play a game of identification along the trail and take note of... Foraging could get you in a lot of trouble really quickly. It’s not permitted on the conservation areas and you have to learn how to ask the right questions. Like, do you know how to forage properly? Can I forage on this property? How much of this plant can I forage? There’s so many questions. You actually have to know how to do it properly before moving ahead with it.
Minimize campfire impacts. This has been surprising this year! I have actually run into live fires while hiking on whether it’s Crown land or public land that also has camping sites. I’ve run into two live fires already this year, which is a little disheartening. And then what I’ve also found, unfortunately, is a lot of small fires that have not been dissipated properly. And I don’t know if that’s for the Instagram effect or if we’re just trying to, you know, go out and find our own peace in nature. However, please look on the Leave No Trace Canada website on how to actually minimize campfire impacts. And please consider not having a fire and abiding by the trail manager rules in the first place.
The last is: be considerate. Oh, sorry, I’m at respect wildlife. I’m skipping ahead. Respect wildlife. Of course, a good rule of thumb is to stay at a distance that you could cover the wildlife with your thumb. So keep the distance away. Have your hand in front of you with your thumb out front. And if you could cover the animal with the top of your thumb, then that is a safe distance or considered a safe, respectable distance to be away from that animal.
And the last one is: be considerate of others. Now, this one here, I want to particularly point on sharing viewpoints. I know we all like to take pictures at the viewing points, but we need to share these points. These open areas are for all of us. Another one would be to consider not having music on the trails. This impacts the experience of others and wildlife. And third, that people, we just don’t think of, and that’s fair, is in the more rugged areas where there’s a lot of rock face and you end up on this beautiful vista with cliffs below… do not throw anything, any rocks or kick anything over the cliffs. This is a huge safety factor and it’s actually been addressed at Eagle’s Nest because there are in all seasons climbers below and hikers below. And this creates a huge safety risk for those hikers and climbers.
Yeah. So that would be that. If you have any questions on Leave No Trace, please go visit their website below. Next slide.
Okay. This is perhaps my favourite part: hiker safety! Because I’ve had these questions over the last two years. So particularly, we’re interested in safe solo hiking, hiking with kids and hiking with dogs. Let me just switch gears here. Hold on a second. All right. Hiking solo. And I’ll give you an example of why this is important. I have had only one instance of trouble on the trails in 20 years in the Ottawa region, and it was two years ago and it was on a City of Ottawa trail. And I was followed onto the trail by a large male who approached me inappropriately. And we handled the… the situation was handled.
So I want to share some safe solo hiking tips so that you know what to do when you are uncomfortable on the trail. Okay? First is to always let someone know where you’re going, the route that you’re taking on that trail, and what time you think you’ll be back at. So I’m a good daughter, I text my mom, although maybe she finds it’s a little too much now with the amount that I hike, but I text her when I go out hiking and I say: I’m going on this trail, I’m following it clockwise. I should be back by this time. And then when I’m off the trail, I text her again. Also for reference, I’m 43 years old and I still text my mom for safety. I think it’s okay no matter what age you are.
If you’re going by yourself, choose a more popular trail, hike in groups or bring your dog. If someone is… If you get a bad gut feeling and someone is making you feel off on the trail, try to catch up to the people in front of you on the trail. Have your cell phone on you if there’s cell reception and call someone. Always consider an emergency spotter if there’s no cell reception, never disclose that you are alone. Always make up a great story. “Oh! My friend Rebecca is just up ahead. Hold on, I gotta run and catch up with her.” “Oh, I’m late to meet the gang in 5 minutes at this lookout. I’ll see them there.” Get really good with your fake friends! You know, we have imaginary friends as kids, we could have them as adults too for our own safety, sometimes.
Consider wearing a whistle on your person. Don’t hike with two earphones in. Don’t wander off the trail. Consider carrying bear spray for bears. If your gut tells you something is off, leave the trail. Go back the way you came or finish the trail quickly. Never post on social media where you are going or where you are until you’re off the trail. And then back at your… Or until you’re back at your car and left the location. And the last one is what I’ve already told you, is to consider downloading what3words app on your phone for emergencies.
Hiking with kids! So funny enough, last year we did have a situation where a lovely little girl, a preteen, got lost in the woods in Ottawa. And OPS contacted me and said, “Hey, what tips can you give us for parents and guardians to teach kids for safe hiking?” Great question. Let me go through them. And to be mindful, this was just in Kanata woods. It wasn’t out in the robust. So, it’s easy to get turned around. And we do have significant green space in Ottawa itself, so it is good to consider. I also like saying that even though we’re hiking with kids, the kids still need to be taught on emergency procedures because what if something happens to us?
What if we get an allergic reaction or have a heart attack or something happens to us? Our kids need to know what to do. So consider teaching children to carry the minimum emergency gear and know how and when to use. To always stay on the trail. How and when to use an emergency whistle. I know it’s scary giving a kid a whistle because they’re going to whistle it all the way down the trail! But just like calling 9-1-1, we’re going to teach them in the same fashion how to use a whistle and when to use it.
In that note, tell them when it’s okay to call 9-1-1 and that it is okay to call 9-1-1 when lost. Amazingly, some kids are apprehensive when they’re lost to call 9-1-1 or to engage a stranger and call out for help because we usually teach them otherwise. So be very clear in what case, if they are lost, it is okay to do these things. Teach them how to send a Google Map pin to a parent or the 9-1-1 operator. So teach them how to access Google Maps on your phone and create a pin. You could actually look it up on YouTube and teach yourself and the kids at the same time.
Teach them how to look for significant features. So you’re hiking along, okay, what three significant features do you see? Well, I see that the sun is ahead of me. I see a really big tree behind me. I could hear traffic to my left. You’re going to have to teach them how to identify these things so that they could articulate and help the operators locate them.
How to react safely to wildlife. Because we do have bears and coyotes and deer in the area. The dangers of seemingly safe waterways. This is important. I think we underestimate, a lot of the time, the current and the tow. Just the other day we had a kayaker in distress in Pakenham who misjudged the rapids there. Right? We have more of an undertow in our waterways than we anticipate. To always stay in sight of an adult while they’re hiking, to only hike with a buddy if they’re older kids, to stick to the planned trail and route. And that, as always, it’s okay to call it for help in an emergency.
So those are the considerations for kids. It does happen, unfortunately, that they get turned around and it’s a very scary situation with them. So consider going through these things just like you would for a personal house fire drill. Right?
Now, hiking with dogs. My goodness, do we ever have a love for dogs in the last two years! And with that has been bridging that gap of how to hike with dogs in a safe and responsible and respectful manner with everyone’s need to get outdoors. So here are my hiking with dog tips. Consider and check ahead of time. If the trail is no dogs, on leash or off leash permitted, this is important. Carry a large Ziploc bag or a plastic jar to store your poop bags in. A lot of people, and we see an abundance of... either toilet paper and dog poop bags seem to be the worst offenders on our local trails. Now I understand. I get it. Carrying a dog poop bag isn’t the greatest. Or maybe you could pick it up later or I’ll grab it on the return trip. Or there seems to be this funny habit of hanging them in the tree.
And for the love of me, I don’t know what that is. Maybe someone could explain it to me later. However, if you bring a Ziploc bag or a jar, stick it in that! You can either carry it or put it in your bag and there won’t be any spills. Saves everything. Don’t allow your dog to engage with strangers, full stop, unless the stranger gives explicit permission. Now this goes both ways. People shouldn’t just come up and pet your dog either. To be fair.
Reasons to keep dogs on leashes include respecting the trail designation and guidelines by keeping them on a leash. You’re saying that you respect the land and the trail manager’s decision on how that trail is managed. You have to consider folks with trauma, allergies and other negative experiences with dogs. They may be hiking a trail, an on-leash dog trail, or no dogs allowed trail because they have trauma or allergies or other reactions to dogs, and that is within their right. So we have to be respectful of that trail designation and that other person. As well as the negative impact on flora and fauna.
We think that dog poop is no big deal but the reality is that there’s bacteria and parasites in dog poop that isn’t naturally found in our wildlife, and we have a lot of ground-nesting birds and other flora that is sensitive to that.
As well as the welfare of your dog. We all know the porcupines over in Pine Grove. They like to come out, and we just want to make sure that our pups are safe as well. And then it’s just like the well-being and experience of others. So when you’re hiking with your dog, your checklist could be water and a packable water container, extra food and treats, dog poop bags, maybe a Ziploc or a jar, a dog first aid kit and fabric stretcher for big hikes. Those are actually available online. And a soft boot brush to wipe their paws after the hike so that you could stop the spread of invasive species.
All right, so those are my tips for those three big areas. We could go ahead to the next slide. This is the lookout at Mont Morissette. It’s a beautiful trail with 360 views. I just want to give an example of what the Outaouais region looks like in the fall, which, of course, is gorgeous. This is a good example of sharing the lookout because it’s a wooden tower and everyone goes up. Well, not everybody. There’s… It’s well enjoyed by photographers and other people to achieve this view. So to be respectful, you take your time, you take your pictures, and then you leave. Next slide.
All right, so GirlGoneGood. I am trying to lead with purpose. I would like to share my mission and ethos with you because I think leading by our values is important as a business and community. Our mission is to promote the prioritization of wellness while exploring nature for all persons through safe and responsible recreation. I do have a #goodhumanrevolution initiative where I encourage trail managers and financially contribute to inclusive changes. Our ethos is we are guests in nature. Let us care for and protect her as nature’s health and our own are connected, which I think we’ve realized in the last few years. We are guests on Indigenous lands. Let us seek to understand, respect, and actively advocate. We are guests of land and trail managers. Let us abide by their guidelines and rules. Thank you. Next slide.
So right now I am partnered with these wonderful people, YETI, we have a new headquarters in Canada. So we do have YETI Canada, which is exciting news. And they do have some upcoming initiatives that impact our community and nature, which is fun and will come as the year progresses. Leave No Trace Canada has an abundance of resources on their website. I implore you to go check them out. And #NatureForAll. If you haven’t heard from them. They are a wonderful organization. They are a global organization to partner with and access. Their resources online are multilingual resources and they have some of the coolest resources for kids that I’ve seen, like experience different soundscapes from forests all over the world. They have comic books for kids. They have different learning packages for kids and all multilingual. So if you are looking for those types of resources, they are a wonderful place to start. Next slide.
These are my two sponsored charities. So Mississippi Madawaska Land Trust. Their properties are primarily in the Lanark County, but they have diversified and they have purchased some beautiful, or acquired some beautiful property this year. You will probably know them from the Mill of Kintail. It’s a very popular hiking trail just here near Almonte.
And then Boots on the Ground is a 24/7 peer-to-peer support for Ontario EMS. They are wonderful and I like them because their peer support is... They go through training. So they actually have expertise and training and oversight to give peer-to-peer support for Ontario EMS. I have to say within two years we’ve been able to donate over $25,000 to both these charities or between these charities, which is pretty impressive for a two-year effort. And it’s all because of our engaging community. So I do that through the sale of my hiking book. I have a book. It’s called A Guide to Hiking Trails in Ottawa + Region. It has 196 trail and trail systems listed along with the information. It’s divided by county. It also gives you that city, region or county insights. It lists off the public beaches. It tells you if the trail is dog friendly or not. It has challenges and safe hiking tips and responsible recreation insights. I’m currently on the third edition. You could get it on my website. It is $20 and this is how I donate to mental health and conservation is by donating 100% of those net proceeds. Next slide.
So here are the hiking resources that you can find on my website, as well as some additional websites listed below for you to check out. For anyone who is on Facebook, we have a very active Facebook group community. It’s Ottawa Area Hikers + Adventurers, and everyone just shares their hikes and their trails and the current status. And it’s wonderful and they’re very engaging and we have some photographers in there as well. So that’s a great Facebook group to be a part of. You can also find me on Instagram and if you need recommendations for group hikes or other resources, the Ottawa outdoor community is wonderful and lovely and we leverage each other. So just send me a message and I will share that community with you. That’s all I have for today, I think.
Thank you, Vickie, for this lovely presentation. Well, now it’s time to ask Vickie some questions. So if anybody has any questions for Vickie, just raise your hand. You just go at the bottom and you... Or you can wave at me. I’ll be more than happy to go to you. You can unmute yourself. You cannot unmute yourself, but I will ask you to unmute and you can go ahead and ask your question. So we’ll start with Janet. Janet, I’ll ask you to unmute and you can go ahead.
Yeah, thanks. I just wanted to say that the Mill of Kintail is the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority, not the Land Trust. So I think you said it was run by…
Sorry! This is what happens, Janet, when I have too many trails in my head. What I was thinking in my mind was High Lonesome. What I said was the Mill of Kintail, which I was just at yesterday. So you’re absolutely right. And thank you for that.
All right. Thanks.
And I should have introduced Stéphane, who has been handling the logistics of tonight’s event beautifully. Thank you, Stéphane for your support. It’s invaluable to us. And yes, Stéphane will be helping us moderate this question and answer session as he said. So anyone else who has a question for Vickie, please go ahead and raise your virtual hand. Or if you want to just turn on your camera and wave at the screen, that’ll work, too. Vickie, I was wondering what YETI is about. You mentioned it was, they have a new branch in Canada and what sort of things do they do?
So YETI is actually a cooler and drinkware company. They are with the outdoor community. They’re very popular in Canada now. They stand by how robust their products are and how they could take a tumble and still survive. So what’s great is the sustainability that they have. And then we’ve had some talks on how we could grow their efforts in Canada. Yeah.
I have to say, Vickie, I have a YETI cooler and I wouldn’t change it for anything, so I would definitely recommend one of those. So, does anyone have any more questions for Vickie? Oh. Katie, I will ask you to unmute yourself and you can ask your question to Vickie.
Okay. Hi. Thank you, Vickie. It was a wonderful presentation, really, really interesting, and got me thinking about safety and, you know, with kids and everything in ways I hadn’t really thought of before. And it was really helpful. And I just wanted to touch on one of the comments you mentioned about how OPS... I think it was OPS, so the OPP had reached out to you when a preteen had gone missing. And there is some sort of unofficial trails in the city’s green space and, you know, they don’t have maps, they don’t have public maps. They don’t have… And residents have made their own trail system network within those screen spaces. And I’m just wondering if you have, like… I don’t know what I’m wondering. How do we bridge that gap between, you know, EMS and these unofficial trail systems? And, you know, should that be on people’s radar on getting that information out there? I don’t know.
Yeah, that’s a great question. So in the case of what happened last year or even the year before, now I’ve got to…
Time all blurred together…
Blurs together in the pandemic, right? So what happened with that one 12 year-old is, I have to say that our operators are phenomenal within the city and they actually talked the child through finding the compass on their iPhone and asking what the child saw and slowly directed the child out of the area. They were able to ping the GPS location. So what I would say for… I know because we all do our homemade routes, especially within the city and some of the smaller city green spaces, I think it would be sharing with the child. Know a feature, just a feature per trail of that undesignated trail. Like know that the entrance is at this park because those trails aren’t very long. So it would be quick to find the child, quickish, if there is at least one feature that they could describe to the operator. And honestly, sending that Google Map pin is super helpful. You’re always going to have reception nowadays. And most kids have cell phones. I don’t know when this happened in life, but it did apparently, that most kids have cell phones. So I would say the significant feature, know how to send the Google Maps pin and just stay calm and where they are.
And I would just add, Vickie, that it is amazing to me whenever I do check Google Maps or other mapping apps and things when you’re in, you know, a little neighbourhood wood lots and there is a well-beaten footpath and most of our neighbourhood woodlots will have a well-beaten footpath through them, guaranteed. It’s amazing to me how many of those completely informal, unofficial, not recognized trails show up. On things like not only Google Maps, but I’m going to out myself here as a little bit of… my one vice in virtual gaming and that sort of thing is playing Pokémon GO.
And I’ll tell you, the trails show up on the maps in Pokémon GO. And all of the landmarks along that trail system will show up as features in the game. So if your kid does like to play Pokémon GO, it can actually help them find their way.
You know, just saying. But yeah, like, Google Maps will also show a lot of these unofficial trails because I think just enough people travel them over time. We know that, you know, IT is watching and it figures out where people are based on their cell phones and it starts to show the trail.
So it’s amazing how many of those trails you actually can see on Google Maps and some of the other programs out there.
I’d also say, like, if you could teach your kid to name those unofficial trails after a significant feature.
So, “Mom, I’m going down the Red Bridge trail. Mom, I’m going on Tall Oak trail.” And then communicate that back. I’m not sure if that answered your question fully, Katie. Hopefully, it helped a little.
Yeah. If you can come up with your own system of reference, that’s great. Yeah.
Thank you, Vickie, for this answer, and Amy, for the great recommendation to play Pokémon GO. So encourage your kids to play this game. Do we have any more questions? Oh! I see Gabriella. Gabriella, I’ll ask you to unmute and please ask your question.
Hi. Hello. I’m sorry, I arrived mid-presentation. I’m new to the area, so I just wanted to ask, and sorry if this was addressed already. Ticks. So are they a concern, especially also with kids? So yes, would you have tips in that direction? That would be great. Thank you so much.
Absolutely. Great question, Gabriella. And yes, yes. They are… I do have on my website a hiking with kids page and also like a free download with all these tips on it as well. But when it comes to ticks, you just have to assume they’re everywhere, even in the parks when you go for a picnic. So we have to get in the habit of after we come back from an outdoor space, checking our bodies, taking a shower, going for a swim. Those will mitigate the factors of the tick latching on. Throwing the clothes in the dryer for 10 minutes is under public health advisory. That’s part of their recommendations after you come back from an outdoor space. But while you are outdoors, especially hiking, you want to avoid the long grass. And that’s part of why I really enjoy the trails that are wide dirt paths or boardwalks in the summer. And the trails that typically have long grass, I’ll go enjoy those in the winter. But if you’re in the long grass area, then it’s the practical socks over your pants, using DEET, buying clothing with permeth… I can never say it. With a special treatment on them.
Yes. Thank you. Even though I’ve had it for years, but I can never say it. Yeah, you just have to constantly check. I even keep a lint roller in the car for after hikes to run along my leggings. And I use DEET from my hips down when I go hiking. And I keep extra shoes, socks, pants in the car to change afterwards. So I only use DEET on the outside of my body, keep my socks over my pants and then change when I get back to the vehicle and check.
All good tips, Vickie. And, you know, if anyone has any other questions about, you know, Lyme disease particularly and that sort of thing, Ottawa Public Health has some excellent information on their webpages about ticks, West Nile from mosquitoes and all sorts of other, you know, potential risks and things to be aware of when you’re outdoors. And that goes from, you know, making sure you’ve got your sunscreen on, all the way through.
So, you know, they even have some winter hiking safety tips as well. And so I would encourage people to check out Vickie’s tips at GirlGoneGood. And then if you want some more health-related details, go to Ottawa Public Health as well and check that out. And as Vickie said, assume that there’s a potential of ticks out there. And it’s not only in the spring and summer and fall. Any time the temperature is above zero degrees, there’s a risk that there could be some ticks active. They are that tough. The risk is obviously much lower in winter. But if you do get one of those warm thaw days and you get tempted to go out for a hike, be aware and just be conscious of that and do your tick checks and use your lint roller. It’s a great tip. I love that idea that you can just, you know, use that lint roller, especially for the small immature ticks. It’s really good for getting the small ones off. Katie! Looks like Katie’s back again.
Thanks, Katie. I’ll ask you to unmute again.
Awesome. Thank you. I’m back again. Vickie, I just had a couple more personal questions, if you don’t mind. One is how did you get started or interested in hiking in the first place? And the second question is, do you have any trails sort of left on your bucket list that you haven’t explored yet in the Ottawa area? And if so, which ones would they be?
Yeah. So let’s start with the second question first. Out of the 196 that I have in that current hiking book, I’ve hiked just over 100 myself. So that other 90 is my bucket list for the area. I can’t say that… You know what, I just love them all! I even love the boring ones that are flat and 1 km—boring! I’ll find something to be curious about on them. So I can’t pick a favourite. And how I got into this? Well, I’m born and raised here and I’m forever wandering and it used to be a thing with my mom, we still do it, where she’ll say, “Hey, do you want coffee?” And I know to pack snacks and water and maybe my passport because we’re going to go wander for 8 to 10 hours. And if there’s a road we don’t know, we’ll go down it. And that’s how I started discovering. I was always… I always loved the outdoors and I’d hike when I travelled. But that’s how I started discovering the trails around here.
Thank you, Katie.
And that was before cell phones, so…
Do we have any more questions for Vickie? So, Vickie, I just want to, while we’re waiting and if people think about a question, do you want to repeat your website? Just if people want to go to the information?
For sure. It’s GirlGoneGood, three Gs, girlgonegood.com. And I’m also on Instagram and Facebook under the same name, just @GirlGoneGood. And we also have that really great engaging group on Facebook, the Ottawa Area Hikers + Adventurers. You can find it.
And the city also has a web page with some of our many natural areas highlighted. If you go to Ottawa.ca and search for conservation areas, it should pop right up. And you’ll see, as I said, a selection of, you know, some of our areas. It’s just City-owned ones. We let the NCC advertise their own. They do a great job of putting information about their trails on their website. And they have some phenomenal trails, obviously. But we like to think we have a few good ones ourselves. And we’re especially appreciative of our community partners who help us maintain and manage those trails. In some cases, it may be the Conservation Authority, like Morris Island, for example, which is managed for us by the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority, or the trails in the Carp Hills, which are ably managed and loved by our friends of the Carp Hills under a stewardship agreement with us. And, of course, then there’s the South March Highlands, which is renowned for its biking and hiking and is managed for us by the Ottawa Mountain Bike Association. And, you know, we certainly couldn’t do it without the support of those partners, you know, as we’ve just found out with the unfortunate event, the storm on May 21st, our operational staff are running off their feet right now, trying to clean up after that still.
And I’m afraid it’s going to be some time before they’re able to turn their attention to trees. That may be posing a bit of a hazard on some of those trail systems. So, you know, they have so many other things that they need to take care of first that we would just advise that in the interim, you do take a little extra care when you’re going into the woods. To watch out for any trees overhanging the trail, any damaged limbs and things that may pose a threat, and if you want to report those to 3-1-1, you certainly can, and we would encourage you to do that. But as I say, it may take us some time before our staff can get out there because of all of the work that has to be done in terms of getting people’s private property made safe and repairing the utilities and keeping the roads open and all that sort of thing. So, yeah, we have, in fact, added a warning to the top of that conservation areas page to highlight that little issue. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get around to everything in good time. But, we do, as I say, we still do encourage people to get out there and enjoy the natural areas, but do so in a safe and responsible way.
Okay! There it is, at 8:01. I don’t see any other questions. So I think we’ll say thank you very much to Vickie for being with us tonight. Thank all of you for staying in and sharing your time with us. We appreciate you as an audience. And anyone who did come in partway through or may have missed the presentation entirely tonight will be able to catch up when we get it posted to the YouTube channel. As we said, the entire session has been recorded, so you’ll be able to catch anything that you missed and it will be available as soon as we can get it edited and get the transcripts done. So thank you all very much. Thank you, Stéphane, for your support tonight. And have a good evening, everyone.
Have a good evening, everyone. Thank you, Amy.
Good to see you all.
Thank you. Good night.