Last weekend my wife and I decided to try out a baby backpack that a friend lent us, so we made the short drive into Quebec to visit Gatineau Park, one of the real treats of living in the Capital Region.
Gatineau Park — which, at 70 years old this year, is one year older than Nature Canada — is a 361-square kilometre jewel of a park located where the Canadian Shield and the Saint Lawrence lowlands meet. Those who are familiar with the park’s history know that it took pressure from nature lovers and conservationists to cajole the government of the day to establish the park (thank you to the citizens of 30’s Canada who raised their voice for nature conservation!).
On this trip, we decided to tackle the 2.5km trail that encircles Pink Lake. It’s a fairly easy trail with just enough hills to climb to give me a nice workout, especially with a 20-pound girl taking in the sights on my back.
Pink Lake –which despite its name is a gorgeous turquoise — is what’s known as a meromictic lake. The handy plaque affixed to one of the trail’s viewing decks explains:
“In most lakes, the water mixes completely each year during the spring and fall, under the influence of water density, water and air temperature, and the wind; nutrients and oxygen are distributed evenly.
However, because of its sheltered position (surrounded by steep cliffs that protect it from the wind) and its shape (small surface area, average depth and bowl-like shape), the lake’s waters do not mix. This is why it is called meromictic.”
In fact, the deepest seven metres of the lake remain without oxygen, though even that isn’t enough to stop life from existing. Near the lake bottom there lives a pink photosynthetic bacterium that uses sulphur instead of oxygen when it transforms sunlight into energy. To maximize the amount of light it captures, without being in contact with oxygen, the colony forms a dense layer that floats seven metres from the bottom.
So that’s why it’s called Pink Lake, you might think! But no, the lake is actually named after a family who settled in the region in the 1800s.
Another interesting fact about the lake that I learned: it used to be part of the Champlain Sea, which was part of the Atlantic Ocean, and thus was once saltwater. Fed only by runoff waters, the lake has m0rphed into a freshwater lake very slowly; its desalination took place over three thousand years.
We arrived in the middle of the day, which reduced to almost nil our chances of seeing any of the 230 bird species that populate Gatineau Park, including the pileated woodpecker or the common loon. But we did see a pair of Midland painted turtles!
With a stop to feed the baby and plenty of pauses to admire the view, the hike lasted almost two hours. In addition to turtles, we also saw frogs, and plenty of the lake’s main (sole?) fish species, the three-spined stickleback.
I also came across a Boletus species of mushroom, which made me think of Ted Cheskey and his mushroom hunting trip
to Gatineau a few weeks ago. Here’s the mushroom…looks like something had a little nibble on it (Ted!?)
We almost missed them, but then spotted some cicadas mating — and completely invaded their privacy with my camera!
The backpack, by the way, was fantastic (it’s a Deuter Kid Comfort II) and we’ll be taking to the trails again in a few weeks.