Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The "hidden treasure" on Mount Royal

I kind of agree with the Amis de la montagne, who are quoted in this Gazette article as saying that "the northern summit has been a hidden treasure." The city is now working on a new (well, the project is 20 yrs old!) car-free ring road, basically a 10k gravel road encompassing all three peaks of Mount Royal and the cemetery grounds.

Hanging out on Mount Royal is one of the things I miss most about Montreal. As you know, I was frequently a cemetery wanderer as a child. When I moved back downtown for the first time as an adult (after a nine-year detour to St. Lambert, Otterburn Park, and Bedford), one of my rezlings and I (yes, one day I will explain rezlings to the confused. Stay tuned) hiked all over Dr. Penfield and environs. We often made it as far as the Westmount lookout; we sunned ourselves at the base of Mount Royal. I often sat alone on the steps leading from Dr. Penfield to Pine Ave. in the evenings, looking down on the city. Even then, I felt so lucky to live there, so lucky to be sitting with this beautiful city spread out at my feet.

Upon moving back downtown again three years later, I again lived at the foot of the mountain, and I then began exploring it in more depth. Everyone has spent a lazy afternoon at Beaver Lake, or a drum-filled Sunday near the George-Étienne Cartier monument. Now, I began exploring the Olmstead path's tributaries in depth. The mountain became my refuge from the city, my moment of peace. It also became the place where I taught myself to run (this from a girl who was always dead last in high school forced marches). I got lost on the mountain (isn't that embarrassing?!) while showing my cousin around Montreal (he was rewarded for suffering through the 1.5 hr hike with a lunch at Santropol, so don't worry too much). I learned about the funiculaire (alas, gone!); I traced the outline of the cross; I took stairs of wood and century-old stone. I avoided the flasher (he prefers mid-afternoon). When I didn't get the job I really wanted, and when a year later, I realised that I would have to leave Montreal, the mountain was the first place I went, to grieve alone. Every time I have free time to myself when visiting, my first thought is: can I get up on Mount Royal? I have ruined new haircuts and dress shoes hiking across from ave. du Parc to McGill more times than I can count. I have also parked on steep hills (which I try to avoid doing otherwise) near McGill, abandoning my mum's car or a rental car to crunch through gravel and leaves.

The canal, and the rivers, in Ottawa, are glorious. The Experimental Farm, though far from home, is also a lovely destination for a long (18k) run or walk. I desperately miss the silence on Mount Royal, however; the sense of utter isolation from the noise of the city, while still being in the middle of the city. One of my great regrets is not being able to go to the Gatineau Hills often; alas, without a car, it's just not possible. I miss lacing up my shoes, throwing on running clothes, and being in the trees in 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, could the Amis start selling this in poster form? I would put it on my wall...

No comments:

Post a Comment