Ottawa Valley: Oh, Canada!

Ottawa Valley: Oh, Canada!
June in Canada can make you forget that “Great White North” is the nickname for our neighbor above, for no signs of frosty, snowy whiteness appear anywhere. Rather, the tapestry of the Canadian countryside wraps the landscape in lush layers of summertime green spiked with colorful threads of blue, yellow, white, and pink. It just depends whether you gaze at the abundant flowery fields or upward to the skies.

Non-snowy scenes like this provide the backdrop for a summer ride through Ontario. The Ottawa Valley Tourist Association invited a group of female moto-journalists here to experience the roads, the landscape, and the variety of activities in the region firsthand. The area offers beautiful places to go and exciting things to do.

Our tour covers 800 miles in five days, a large circle that weaves together a variety of scenery and adventures both on and off our motorcycles. It takes us from Old World sites in Ottawa, Canada’s capital city, to the beauty and even older-world natural history of Canada’s first provincial park, Algonquin. Along the way, we trace the routes of some of history’s early explorers and the country’s early settlers, and investigate places centuries and even millennia old. A misty morning hike to a gorge, a rafting trip through legendary whitewater, several turns on a racetrack hidden in the woods, and a gallant battle with the region’s infamous black flies round out our activity-packed itinerary—with not one hockey puck or snowflake included.

Opeongo Road, aka the Opeongo Line, opened up the interior of the Ottawa Valley to settlers in the 1850s.

Calabogie Peaks

Our journey begins in Ottawa, this region’s largest city. The raw, big-city hustle and bustle of Ottawa is smoothly polished with the patina of old-world elegance. After gathering our rides, loaned to us courtesy of Deeley Harley-Davidson Canada, Honda Canada, and BMW Motorrad Canada, our group of eight riders threads through hot, metropolitan stop-and-go traffic and makes its way westward to the less populated countryside of the Ottawa Valley. Here the real riding begins as the traffic fades away and lush countryside appears. Barns here. Cows there. Fields. Water. And in between, snaking blacktop. Though we only travel 65 miles to our evening’s destination, we’ve ridden into an entirely different world.

We disembark at the Calabogie Peaks Resort for the night. Lakes, wildflowers, tall pines, and dragonflies punctuate this place that seems so serene in the summer twilight. Hard to imagine, but I learn that Calabogie boogies in the winter as home to Eastern Ontario’s highest vertical ski and snowboard resort. We eat and stay at the full-service Calabogie Peaks Lodge. Our hosts present us with gifts of bug repellant and mosquito-net-covered hats. I laugh at what I figure is a gag gift, not realizing I’ll soon learn that Canadian bugs are no joke.

The Blackbird Café, with its quaint ambience and excellent food, is located at the intersection of Highways 52 and 508.

The next day dawns sunny and clear, perfect for meandering over the spider-web pattern of roads that disects this section of the Upper Ottawa Valley, the oldest settled region in Canada. Travel brochures come to life, and we dutifully watch for moose as blessedly traffic-free roads lead us by clear lakes and through groves of tall, pointy pines. Numerous potholes cut short the daydreaming, though, as do the miles-long stretches of gravel that seemingly pop up out of nowhere. Otherwise, the curvy roads and luscious landscape make a thoroughly enjoyable ride.

Lunch in the quaint Blackbird Café in Burns-
town fortifies us for our afternoon endeavor. Our surprise destination slowly unveils itself as we ride through the trees and see signs for the Calabogie Motorsports Park, a racetrack that offers state-of-the-art facilities literally in the middle of the forest. We ride several laps around its 3.05-mile loop, winding through the thick trees.

The one-hour tour through the remarkable postglacial solution Bonnechere Cave is well worth the stop.

Once back on the blacktop, we travel to the London House Inn & Spa at the RiverRun Rafting & Wilderness Resort in Beachburg, where we’ll stay the evening. Our odometers have clicked off about 190 miles. Tomorrow we experience an adventure of a different sort.

A River Runs Through It

What started here as a whitewater rafting business along the Ottawa River grew into a full-fledged adventure resort offering cozy accommodations, a pub, and a selection of activities with pretty much something for everyone. For a relaxing day, you can rejuvenate with spa services like a White Chocolate Wrap or a Sea Salt Body Polish. Or if your preference is for a bit more excitement, you can run the rapids of the Ottawa River. Given that I’ve never been whitewater rafting before, I opt for what I hope will be great fun, along with three others from our group.