Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Lots of Life at Pink Lake

Pink Lake is one of the best trails for early hikers - those walking on their own who have a good bit of energy to burn - try them out around 3 or 4 years of age and up.  It's also good for babies in backpacks though there is a reasonable amount of climbing so be prepared for the extra workout (yours, not the baby's!). 

The hike takes about an hour to complete.  It has one path that is easy to navigate with wooden stairs up and down many of the hills (they also protected the sensitive shores from erosion), lots of lookouts, interpretative panels and benches along the way for a quick picnic.  

Best of all.....there is an abundance of life.  The water is typically teaming with tadpoles and tiny fish schools, there are plenty of frogs along the shoreline and if you're lucky you'll see families of garter snakes (there were lots today) and the odd turtle or two.

Garter snakes - totaly harmless, lovely to watch.    
A few facts (to impress your children):
  • they are common throughout North America and can be found as far north as Alaska
  • they were long thought to be non-venemous but do in fact produce a mild venom
  • they have "large" teeth in the back of their mouths that help spread the venom
  • they are meat eaters like all snakes.  They aren't fussy and will dine on anything they can overpower. 

The garter snakes can be found near the water and on the banks on the inland side of the path. Be gentle if you touch them and don't put them in your pockets! They should remain at the lake. According to Wikipedia (I'm no expert on garters) a bite can result in mild itchiness and swelling.

Frogs....many, many, many frogs.  Sitting on rocks, on logs, deep in the grass and swimming in the water.  Listen for the jumps and watch them carefuly - they're fast.

Turtles - sorry, no photos, though someone with a much better zoom than mine got a great shot of one sitting on a long about 15 feet from shore.

Practical Tips
  • the best things are free (like this!)
  • the Parkway is closed on Sunday mornings through the summer for bike days
  • this is a sensitive environment and the Park works hard to deal with the erosion of its banks - please stay on the trail
  • it is a very unique Lake and there are lots of interpretive signs with information
  • there is also an abandoned mine!
  • as anywhere, leave any critters you see in their wild home - they'll be happier
  • you can access it from Gatineau Parkway off Tache Boulevard in Gatineau (about 1/2 hour drive to the hike from Kitchissippi)
  • it is the turn just past the one for Pink Lake lookout
  • it's about 2.5 km long and takes about an hour (more if you see a lot of critters!)
  • there is a parking lot (that sometimes fills up)
  • there are outhouses at the trailhead
  • It is always very busy on Thanksgiving weekend - go very early or head just a little farther into the park to either King Mountain or Lariault Trail (equally good for a short hike with young climbers)
  • for lots more information about Gatineau Park see http://www.guidegatineau.com/.

Things to bring when hiking (and particulary with kids)
  • plenty of water and some snacks
  • bug spray
  • suntan lotion
  • a couple of band-aids (it's easy to scrape a knee)
  • binoculars (my most frequent forgotten item and the one the kids like the most)
  • camera (try letting the kids take some shots if they're not too young)
Young kids are fast and with their light weights they climb easily.  They may leave you behind sooner than you think!