Beneath the bridge in the distance is Ottawa River. It is downhill from here, at the confluence of the Mattawa and Ottawa Rivers to the Atlantic Ocean.
Technically, that’s been the case ever since getting on the Assiniboine in what seems a lifetime ago. But seeing this bridge made it stick like nothing else.
The Ottawa River is the only body of water that I have preciously canoed. I was on it almost 40 years to the day ago as part of an Ironman inspired Canadian Special Service Force competition.
The river itself is a contradiction, testament to all of Canada, past and present. The nation’s capital lies on it, as do nuclear and hydro-electric power plants standing in stark to pictographs and petroglyphs dating back thousands of years. Much of it is still wilderness, overflown by fighter aircraft and transports carrying airborne soldiers bound for dropzones along the river. It is pristine, befouled by jetskis buzzing like angry gnats on any given summer day. The headponds of dams hide some of North America’s most spectacular and dangerous rapids, and still some of the whitewater sections of the river rival those of the Grand Canyon. For centuries, it was the main gateway to the vast, unexplored west. Here, all of Canada’s adventurers, explorers, and cartographers strode westward accompanied as always by their indigenous guides every bit as brave, as adventurous, as bold.
Beyond this bridge lies Petawawa, Ottawa, and Montreal. Familiar places still after a four decades absence. And the Atlantic. Beyond this bridge, lies the Atlantic. Have I really come this far? Is Canada really that big that it has taken the better part of 5000km to get here? Is it really that small that it has taken only 4 months and change? Contradictions indeed.