Today I am beginning a new series, from a visit made in May when Tom and Janette were here for the Tulip Festival, so these next few posts will be from that day.
Gatineau Park encompasses much of the Gatineau Hills, an uprising of land north of the city of Gatineau on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River. Most of the park lies within the regional municipality of Les Collines-des-l'Outaouais, and takes up over 360 square kilometres of woodlands, lakes, and rolling hills. It is a federal park, having a unique status in that it is not technically part of the national parks system, but administered by the National Capital Commission. Its origins date back to the early twentieth century, formally established in 1938. Private property ownership was still allowed in the park under its mandate- one of the hurdles towards it becoming a formal national park- but Gatineau Park is a delightful escape for those in the national capital, an oasis of nature with some spectacular scenery in all seasons.
We headed into the park only to find a closed parkway, leaving places like Pink Lake and the scenic lookouts along that route inaccessible for this visit. I expect that the parkway opened up for the season just a few days later. Navigation on my part led us by a different route to another destination- the Mackenzie King Estate.
William Lyon Mackenzie King is one of our finest prime ministers- I would say he and Lester Pearson are tied as the best. Have a look at his story here. A longstanding Liberal politician, he served as an MP under Laurier, spent time in private practice as a lawyer, and then returned to politics upon Laurier's death, taking the reins of the party and dominating federal politics from 1921-48, most of that time as Prime Minister. As a young man he began buying up land around Kingsmere Lake here in the Gatineau Hills, and started building a home- and then another- as a retreat away from politics. The lifelong bachelor left the entire estate to the country upon his death (along with his in-town residence, Laurier House), and this place was, for all intents and purposes, his true home. There are three distinct residences on the 231 hectares of land- two of them are open to the public, while the third, a 19th century farmhouse called The Farm, is now the official residence of the Speaker of the House of Commons. We started over from the parking lot to Kingswood, the first of the two residences the public can visit, beyond the above gate.
Quotes from King are placed in the form of signs along the paths here at the estate, in French and English. They tend to reflect his love of the land, this one for instance says, "such happiness as I felt in being beneath my own roof, amid the trees."
Kingswood, a combination of the nearby lake's name and the name of Woodside, his childhood home in Kitchener, Ontario, consists of cottages and a carriage house. It was the first residence built here over time, more modest than what he would later build. Today Kingswood houses artifacts of the man, but we were a few days earlier than the official opening for the season, so the buildings themselves were closed.
This view from a porch looks down the slope towards Kingsmere Lake.
We headed down the path. This outlying building is most likely a pump house, or a shed. It lies up from the shoreline.
This was the path heading back up. Those of you who follow Tom's blog might remember a similar view in a post he did back in May.
Steps led right down to the shoreline of the lake, a pretty spot in the midst of the hills. Fall colours around here are particularly stunning.
Close by the steps, fiddleheads were growing.
Here we have the other structure built here, a boathouse that incorporates changing facilities. King enjoyed spending time on the lake with guests, whether that meant swimming or boating. We'll pick up from here tomorrow.