Backyard Adventures – November 2015: The Debriefing

So, as I’d previously written, I’d staked out this past weekend for a few Backyard Adventures in Ottawa. I’d planned to hit up a few unusual spots in the Nation’s Capital, and I’m pleased to say that I did, indeed, accomplish every one of those missions and had a great time doing it.

I’ll be writing in more detail about each one of my excursions, but here’s a taste for now:

I took the train into Ottawa—a two hour ride from Montreal, where I currently live—and met up with my parents at the station. We did the usual catching up, during which they filled me in on their recent trip through the Netherlands, Germany and Austria. The next morning, my father and I headed out for Gatineau Park and a hike to the Carbide Willson Ruins.

Willson Carbide Ruins Gatineau Park

Neither of us had been to the ruins—and I’d only heard of them about a month ago—so we were pleasantly surprised by the size of the crumbling construct and the undeniably picturesque setting. The building used to be a mill where the owner, Thomas Willson, conducted lab experiments involving sulfides. A small waterfall and rapids still rushes through the area and trees have sprouted from the mill floor.

To get to the ruins, you have to drive and then hike through the park. A trail takes you to a small bridge, offering beautiful views of Meech Lake and the surrounding woods.

Meech Lake Gatineau Park Ottawa After the hike, my father and I grabbed lunch and parted ways, he heading back out to the country, where I grew up, and I to my hotel: the Ottawa Jail Hostel. The place is an actual former jail with nine floors of cells converted into rooms of various sizes. Though they offer larger spaces, I opted for an authentic jail cell—all three by nine feet of it. The room held an inflatable mattress on a cot and . . . well, that’s it.

Ottawa Jail Hostel

After checking in, I headed back into the rapidly cooling evening. My plans to meet up with a friend had fallen through, so I decided to hang out at one of my favorite coffee spots in the Byward market, I Deal Coffee, and read for a bit. Eventually, I got hungry and moved on to one of my favorite resto-bars in the area, Chez Lucien. I enjoyed one of their fantastic burgers and a local beer.

I spent a couple hours in the hostel’s common area, chatting with actual travelers, but, I turned in early as I had plans to meet with a friend and, later, with my sister the next morning. I gotta say, though it’s pretty fun to now be able to say I’ve slept in a former (and supposedly haunted) prison, my night in the Jail Hostel was not terribly comfortable. Still, it cost all of $40, the staff were supremely friendly and helpful, the location is excellent, and, if you’re more of the hostel type (I’ve been there, done that, and prefer hotels and B&Bs now, thanks), it’s probably all you’ll really need. Plus, you get to say you slept in a haunted prison so . . . Bonus.

The next morning, I visited with a friend, who gave me a tour of her new workplace, one of those tech companies that showers its employees with fancy coffees and booze and themed workspaces. Yes, I am jealous but also crazy happy for her.

Finally, I caught up with my sister over lunch and was soon on the train and headed back to Montreal.

And, honestly, yeah, I really do feel as though I’ve gotten out, saw things from a different perspective—things in the city where I grew up, mind you—and I’ve now got a few more experiences to share. It wasn’t a vacation or a Real Trip, per se, but by mindfully making of it an adventure, it was an adventure.

Seriously, this Backyard Adventure thing works . . . and it’s already got me thinking about the next one, and where it might lead . . .