Last Wednesday, I visited a strange and foreign land: Canada! I had some work-related obligations in Ottawa, Ontario -- which, as it turns out, is a mere eight-hour drive northwest from my house, just up past the middle of New York state. So off I went, and of course I had to make time to get out into the woods while I was there. I've traveled in Canada before, but I've never been to Ottawa, and I couldn't pass up this chance to explore!
As soon as I checked into my hotel in downtown Ottawa on Wednesday afternoon, I headed off to Gatineau Park, a few miles north of Ottawa and just over the border into Quebec. This really did feel like a foreign country, since everyone I passed in these woods was speaking French! I spent most of my time in this park walking around Pink Lake -- named after a person, not the color -- and the change from Connecticut was dramatic. The air was cool and clear instead of hot and muggy, and there were conifers and rocky inclines all over. Pink Lake itself was gorgeous:
Right in the middle of the lake (a tiny black dot in the above picture) was a Common Loon! What an appropriate first Canadian creature to see:
According to the various informational signs along the trail, this lake is meromictic, which means that the upper and lower layers of water don't mix. Apparently the only creature that survives at the bottom of Pink Lake is an ancient bacteria that lives off of sulfur instead of oxygen. That's preeeeetty cool. In any case, the lake's water was also just really lovely and clear, and I often looked in to see fish staring back at me:
An amazing number of creatures popped out along the path as I walked around the lake. These are all animals I'm familiar with from Connecticut, but I loved how frequently they showed up here and how active they were! An Eastern Chipmunk darted right out onto the path's steps only a few feet in front of me:
And then it proceeded to just sit back and groom itself:
Eh, so there's a human looming over me, no big deal:
I noticed the same sort of nonchalance in the chipmunks and squirrels when I visited Utah last summer, whereas the chipmunks I see in Connecticut are extremely skittish! I wonder what causes this difference in behavior.
At other points along the path, a gorgeous Wood Frog bounded into view:
An Eastern Garter Snake rustled in the underbrush and then slithered back into the leaves:
And a small Painted Turtle walked across the path, with another creature in tow:
I've never seen a leech on a turtle shell before, but I guess it happens. Poor little guy:
There were some really cool plants in these woods, too. Here's something we don't have in Connecticut, Pinedrops (Pterospora andromedea), big (2 or 3 feet tall) flower stalks that emerge right from the forest floor:
Pinedrops are some of those weird plants without chlorophyll, and they get their food from underground fungi. These flower stalks are definitely striking, and the flowers are quite pretty up close:
In the sunlight, those stalks practically glowed red -- pretty, and very weird:
Finally, these lovely flower buds looked vaguely familiar, but I haven't been able to identify the plant they belong to. (Help is appreciated if anyone recognizes them!) I just love these purple stars floating in the dark forest:
The sun was quickly setting, so I left Pink Lake. It was a wonderful first taste of this awesome area, but I wasn't finished yet! More pictures of creatures and plants coming soon!