Visitors to Gatineau Park urged to stay on the beaten path
2 hikers required rescue after venturing off designated trails, NCC says
Visitors to Gatineau Park are being urged to stick to designated trails after two hikers who ventured off the beaten path had to be rescued recently.
The National Capital Commission (NCC), which owns and operates the park, said one of the two visitors injured themselves and the other became lost. Both had to be rescued.
"We have to locate those people and it's not that easy when they're not on the official trails," said Alain d'Entremont, the NCC's senior manager of visitor services and recreational programs.
D'Entremont said such incidents have occurred more frequently during the pandemic, as more people seek outdoor adventure in the 361-square-kilometre park.
But users who rely on smart phone apps to guide them can be led down unofficial trails, d'Entremont said. What's more, cell reception in the park is notoriously unreliable.
"If you do get lost [or] you do get injured ... it will be hard for ... the emergency services to get you back to safety," he said.
Instead of apps, d'Entremont recommends using an old-fashioned paper map and carrying other supplies such as extra clothing, food and a first aid kit if possible.
Jonathan Bigras, owner of Alt Plein Air outfitters in Gatineau, Que., recommends preparing well before a hike.
"If it's a four- or five-hour hike, you need to be prepared and you need to stay on track," Bigras said. "If you don't know the trail, you won't know where you're going."
He agrees the apps fall short, especially if the hiker's unfamiliar with the terrain. Still, Bigras said hikers should make sure their phones are fully charged before setting out, especially in colder weather.
Bigras said it's also a good idea to carry a compass, and to learn how to use it. Other essential supplies include lots of water, good hiking boots and a backpack to carry everything, Bigras said.