Above, Victoria Walsh and her new guide showcasing trails in the region.
Tom Van Dusen
Nation Valley News
RUSSELL — The timing couldn’t be better. Just as authorities have eased COVID-19 restrictions allowing Ontario residents back in the woods, Russell’s Victoria Walsh has come out with a guide to help them find their way in the greater Ottawa area.
Walsh always believed that, when it came to the Great Outdoors, residents of Eastern Ontario didn’t consider what they had in their own backyard. When looking for interesting hiking experiences, many believed they could only be had in some far-off Canadian location, or even in another country.
Raised in Russell as part of a well-known family, Walsh fully appreciated local hiking opportunities having tried many of them herself, often accompanied by mom Wendy. So the former Armed Forces Master Corporal decided to share her knowledge in the fresh-off-the-press 2020 Guide to Hiking Trails in Ottawa and Region.
“There’s so much to see within two hours of the Ottawa city centre,” an enthused Walsh said while chatting along the Russell Recreation Trail which made it into her booklet along with local conservation areas J. Henry Tweed and W.E. Burton.
“And when we go, we learn about our own flora and fauna, enrich our knowledge of local heritage, stumble upon Mother Nature’s works of art, and support local businesses. Best of all, getting outdoors is healthy for our mind, body and spirit.”
Created under Walsh’s wellness banner “Girl Gone Good,” which encourages exploring the wilderness as part of a productive lifestyle, the guide sells for $12.99 and will raise funds for mental health as well as local conservation efforts; 25 per cent of profits will be directed to Boots on the Ground which provides support to Ontario’s first responders, while 15 per cent will go to the Mississippi Madawaska Land Trust.
Some 500 copies have been printed with a French version in the works.
The guide compiles in one publication information on more than 110 trail systems; it’s divided into two regions in West Quebec, the Outaouais and the Laurentides, and eight Eastern Ontario regions including Ottawa, Prescott-Russell, Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry, Leeds and Grenville, Lanark, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington, and Renfrew County.
While many of these districts offer their own guides, Walsh believes her compilation is the first to list all the trails in a one-stop reference. Each listing offers information on drive time from central Ottawa, kilometres of trails, elevation, anticipated effort, accessibility, points of interest such as lookouts, waterfalls, cliffs and vistas, associated costs if any, and whether dogs are permitted.
The guide is decorated with photos of grand vistas that Walsh took along the way and notes about on-site and side attractions such as when visiting Perth Wildlife Reserve check out Parkside Inn & Spa in Perth (“their massages are gold”), Perth Brewery and a “delish lunch” at Hungry 7. When at Foley Mountain Conservation Area, Westport, grab a latte from Cottage Coffee House, and at Alfred Bog Walk keep an eye out for wild orchids, carnivorous pitcher plants, and resident moose.
Walsh also includes reminders to plan, prep and hike safe, to leave no trace by staying on pathways and packing out trash, and to become informed on tick preventative measures and safe removal.
An “overall health nerd,” after leaving the military Walsh became an information technology consultant, public speaker, adventurist, and blogger while developing the Girl Gone Good approach to general wellbeing.
She recently completed a Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the University of Ottawa and will be licensed this summer as a Registered Nurse. She plans to work part time in that profession while continuing to promote Girl Gone Good… feeling alive, enjoying life, and encouraging others to do the same!