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mike's detours: mer bleu

Hey everyone! It’s Amy’s husband Mike back with another edition of Mike’s Detours.

Well it’s June and the forest floors of the woodland paths around Ottawa have started to become nice and dry. The hot, dry spring we’ve had has led to an early start to the hiking season. For outdoorsy types looking for a lovely locale to take a quick stroll in the woods, I highly recommend Mer Bleue bog, located off Ridge Road south of Gloucester.

Mer Bleue Bog is a 7.7 km2 forest and peat bog managed by the National Capital Commission. It sports over 20km of trails, which include the centrepiece of a 1.5km boardwalk over marshland and peat moss. According to the NCC, the bog is of such environmental importance that it is listed in The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance. It's quite rare to find peat moss environments such as these as far south!

Unfortunately that also means that you should bring plenty of bug spray if you’re heading out close to dawn or dusk as this time of year, mosquitos and black flies love it there almost as much as the locals. Luckily the ample numbers of dragonflies keep the bugs manageable when you’re out in the bog itself. They are actually fascinating to watch.

All in all I found Mer Bleue to be a lovely place for a morning stroll of minimal difficulty. Amy and I parked at P21, near the corner of Ridge Road and Anderson, and took the pathway east to the bog. We crossed through sparse forest and lovely meadows that sported the best of spring as much as the parched landscape could.

The place is justifiably popular; we were happy to see many walkers about on our Saturday excursion and given its ease to reach and child-friendliness, expect crowds on nicer days. There are several lovely picnic areas throughout the park if you want to bring food.

The path reaches an informative signpost that indicates the beginning of the interpretive boardwalk loop. The 1.5km loop is in excellent shape and provide many idyllic landscape scenes, along with helpful signs that highlight just how special this place is. This time of year is a great place to visit the bog as the examples of flowers really make what is normally a sticky mud pit into a place of raw, primal beauty.

Once you’re finished, you’re back at the signpost and can continue back with a trail that starts just north of Ridge Road or double back. We found that the northern trail (starting at marker 53E) was considerably wet and muddy for the first kilometre so we doubled back and took the drier path instead. Or, there is a moderately difficult hike up the escarpment to obtain lovely views of the area, but we ran out of time before heading up there.

Fun fact: Mer Bleue is suspected to house unexploded ordnance dating from the Second World War, when the area was used by the Royal Canadian Air Force as a test area. That said, thousands of people visit weekly so I’m sure that anything endangering the public would have been found by now.

The NCC’s website on Mer Bleue provides helpful information as always. Places like this really highlight how lucky we are in Ottawa, having such fabulous nature trails available a short distance away from most of us.

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