Mer Bleue Trail 51

Several weeks ago, Stef was in town for a short visit. She didn't have much time to spare, but she did manage to find a few hours to go on a hike. We decided to try a new trail in the Mer Bleue Conservation Area, and decided on Trail 51.

Trail 51 is not situated through a sphagnum bog like the Boardwalk Trail (Trail 53). Instead, it's a protected area of the Ottawa Greenbelt that covers both grassland and forest habitat. The mosquitoes were fierce in some of the forested areas that ran through drainage basins, but otherwise it was an excellent hike.

While walking through a field, I spotted a red milkweed beetle in some clover. I love macro photography of insects, so I started taking photos. I couldn't help but find the little beetle adorable and charismatic. Looking back on the photos, it almost seems like the little guy was posing. (You can click the following two photos for a higher resolution version.)

Of course, a hike with Stef wouldn't be complete without a little bit of adventure. We had been trekking along a forested area called The Nut Tree Trail when we came to the end of the woods. Instead of the trail continuing on through a field, we found ourselves in an area cleared of all grasses and trees. The area was filled with only sand and there were tread marks throughout the clearing. 

Unfortunately, while the Greenbelt is protected from urban development, some areas lie under hydro towers that require maintenance. This means that fields must be cleared to allow for machine access. It was a little dramatic to see such a barren landscape compared to the lush environment we had been surrounded by. It's a sad reality, but inevitably these field are cleared on occasion to prevent trees from growing under the towers.

After wandering out into the clearing, Stef and I had a hard time reconnecting with the trail. We had to scour the forest's edge looking for a clear path. Fortunately, we spotted another hiker in the distance who seemed to know where to go, so we followed her direction and eventually found another segment of Trail 51. 

Stef and I continued on to the last part of our route, which ran through a drainage basin. This area was lush, green, and well hydrated, but also overrun with mosquitoes. We even came across a couple of hikers wearing full mosquito nets. Clearly, they knew the trail better than we did. As usual, I endured several bites but came out with some worthwhile photos of the area. 

Despite the construction and mosquitoes, it was definitely a great new trail for Stef and I. Besides, it just wouldn't be a normal hike for us if something didn't go awry. There are many more trails to the Mer Bleue Conservation Area, and this experience made me realize I probably should start exploring more of them. 

Unfortunately, I'm beginning to realize just how little time I have left in Ottawa. I only hope I can explore a little more and take everything in before I pack up and move over 4000 kilometers away.

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