Thursday, October 18, 2018

The Last Sunset

I wasn't going to see it.

Not because the sun, for the most part, was hidden behind the clouds off to the west. I could see rain moving slowly over Kinburn and to the south of Dunrobin. The precipitation seemed heavy and, with the cold temperature and blustering wind, looked suspiciously like flurries.

There: I said it. The F-word. Flurries.

I'm not ready to use the S-word. It has an air of permanence. We will have that soon enough.


Crows glided in the stiff wind, almost hovering in place. They would pull their wings inwards, almost roll onto their backs, and dive a short distance before the wings would unfurl and they would swoop back up.

It was approaching 6:00. In about 15 minutes, the sun would be upon the horizon and with any luck, shine on the slopes to the northwest. My eyes could trace the hills in the distance, toward Shawville, and already see light making the red and yellow trees glow.

A few more minutes, and I would have light fall closer.

I saw the truck pull up in my peripheral, the two men emerge, both in green uniforms with patches on the shoulder. The driver, a massive man, approached me, smiling. In his hand was a leaflet with what appeared to be a map.

I smiled and greeted him as he approached but didn't turn my camera away from the west.

"I'm sorry," he said, speaking English after he had heard me say my hello, "I'm afraid the park is now closed."

"So early?"

"Yes," he said, "there's a risk of snow coming soon," his eyes seemed to find the precipitation over Kinburn, "the roads will become icy. It's too dangerous to stay open."

The descent from the Champlain Lookout, along the parkway, is steep and winding. With my summer tires still on my car, I wouldn't want to slide around a corner.

"The sun sets soon," I said, "in less than 15 minutes. Can I stay to capture it? I promise to leave as soon as it has set." There was only one other vehicle in the parking lot but its occupants were nowhere to be seen. No doubt, walking on the trail below the lookout.

"I'm afraid not," he said, "it's not safe. We're closing gates. The only exit now is by Boulevard St-Raymond." He handed me the paper with the map.

"Can I take a few more pictures? S'il vous plaît?"

He looked past me, toward the falling sky. Even though he must have looked out here countless times, perhaps every day, his eyes revealed his wonderment. This is why I do this job, they seemed to say.


"Sure, you can take a few more pictures, but then I'm afraid you must go."

"Merci," I said, then added, "how long will the park be closed?"

"Until further notice. But once we've had our first snow, we'll be closed for the season." He turned to head back to his pickup truck. His colleage, who had attached the notice to the windshield of the other car, was also heading into the vehicle, out of the cold. It was just above the freezing point and with the wind, no one wanted to linger outside.

I took a few more photos and returned to my car. In my rear-view mirror, I could see the NCC truck drive away. I contemplated sticking around but decided to heed the park officer's instructions. I still had about 10 minutes: I didn't want them coming back, this time not as polite.

I took one last look. Though the park might reopen in the coming days, I doubt I'll be back this season, especially at sunset. This autumn was a beauty. If this was going to be my last sunset here, for the season, I couldn't have asked for better.

Even though, in reality, I missed it.

Bring on the F-word, but let's hope the S-word is farther away.


Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Drive Through The Woods

The Gatineau Hills is one of the greatest spots to check out the fall colours. There are plenty of fabulous walking trails and lookouts where you can see the Ottawa Valley meet the Canadian Shield.

There are ruins, historical places, and waterfalls. At this time of year, the leaves make all of it magical.

Of course, I love to drive through Gatineau Park up to the Champlain Lookout, where you have one of the most beautiful vistas in the region. However, at this time of year, it can sometimes be a challenge to drive the parkways because of all the other people, in their cars, with the same desire to take in the scenery.

Forget about driving through Gatineau on the weekends: sometimes, the bumper-to-bumper traffic starts in Chelsea. Cyclists can climb the hills faster than cars.

If you've never driven through Gatineau Park but don't want to get caught in a long line, fear not: I have driven it for you. Last Friday, after work, I drove up to the Champlain Lookout. It was early enough in the afternoon that I didn't meet much traffic—although, there was that one slowpoke who drove less than 40 kph from the Fortune Parkway turnoff to the end of the Champlain Parkway.

When I arrived at the loop at the top, it wasn't packed and I was able to park right at the lookout. I sat on the top wall and took in the spectacular view, and then moved to the lower level for some more photos, before returning to the car.


(My office is only about a 20-minute drive from the Champlain Lookout, so I come up often and don't need to hang around for very long.)

Once in my car, I decided to attach my smartphone to a mount on my windshield, which I bought a few weeks ago for when I need my phone for navigation. But I've also started using my phone as a dash-cam, recording my trips to and from work.

I decided to record the drive down from the Champlain Lookout. With a quick stop and view of the Huron Lookout.

I doubled the speed of the video and stopped recording before I reached the end of the Champlain Parkway. What I have is about six-and-a-half minutes of video that goes down some of the steepest parts of the parkway.

I've cycled this route many times. On the way down, pedalling hard, I've reached speeds on my bike that have exceeded 70 kph. I've often muttered to myself, "please don't wipe out... please don't wipe out..."

Despite the numerous signs that prohibit you from parking, you'll see some bozos who have pulled over. One guy just stopped in the middle of the road.

Idiots.

There's no sound to this video because I couldn't find a suitable song that lasts 6:36. If you can think of one, let me know. When I drove this route, I was enjoying Ella Fitzgerald, The Watchmen, and Matt Good.

If you can't make it up to the Gatineau Park, this is your next-best thing. Enjoy.



Monday, October 15, 2018

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

With the trees turning colour
And geese honking o'er harvested farm fields
It's the most wonderful time of the year
 
It's the hap-happiest season of all
With those Thanksgiving greetings and family meetings
When leaves start to fall
It's the hap-happiest season of all...

(Okay, I'm no Andy Williams.)

But I love the cool days and crisp evenings, the smell of drying leaves and the crunching sound of them underneath my feet. I love the colour. Autumn is my favourite time of year. This week, The Brown Knowser will be dedicated to this beautiful season.