At the bottom of the draw we crossed a (mostly dry at the moment) small creek and then turned a sharp right, following the creek downhill for a bit. Compared with the dry, hot and open Escarpment along which we had just been hiking, down in here it was dim, shady, and moist - and a corresponding increase in the bug situation. Fortunately this part wasn't too long, and soon the trail began to veer away from the creek bed and, at the same time became quite a bit wider and more prominent. And then immediately after that we came to a very obvious, very well-marked junction. Pink arrows and blazes pointed to a path that led steeply uphill to our left, while the improving path that we were on continued on a generally down-valley course.
Our plan was to visit the next segment of Escarpment Crest, so the uphill choice was the one for us.
The uphill path started off at a fairly stiff grade. The trail was packed out and entirely dirt, but with no roughness. It looked like something that experienced a fairly elevated level of foot traffic. The grade soon eased, then levelled off entirely, and we once again entered the zone of drier vegetation and open bedrock patches (i.e. we had re-acquired the top edge of the Escarpment)
This section of open Escarpment was not as long as the one back near the South Window, but it did have a lookout that was more outstanding: a spot called The Gallery. The width of the lookout and the lack of vegetation beyond its rounded edge gave it a much more expansive, airy feel. The view was also more sweeping, more panoramic. Today, with attractive clouds of cumulus dotting the sky, a distant rainshower off in the distance, the verdant farmlands immediately below, and the wide Ottawa river beyond -- and with a fresh little breeze to keep us cool and the bugs away -- it was the highlight spot of the hike.
Once we had our fill of the beautiful views at The Gallery, we continued on along the crest path. Soon we re-entered forest and began descending again, this time into the next draw along the Escarpment. I believe this draw is called Hidden Valley, and once down into the bottom of it, we would begin our descent back to the Escarpment's base and the completion of our exploratory loop.
The trail continued to be obvious, easily followable (although a little rough in spots here), right down to the creek in the draw's lowest point. The most prominent path (there's a faint junction) turned right here, following the creekbed until we emerged onto the lower slopes (still forested) of the escarpment. The path became less and less of a herdpath and more and more of an old wide, rough trail, with boulders and rocks and such, as we descended. We observed several other side paths feeding into this increasingly arterial route. It appears to me as if this trail might either have been a roadway or a logging road way back when, or perhaps was an official trail at one point (that has since been decomissioned). It was a bit less fun to clamber down this rougher trail, but it served well as a clear access back to where we needed to go.
One of Several Descent Junctions
Immediately upon reaching the Escarpment base and the beginning of the valley floor, the roughness disappeared and the trail became ruler flat. We walked along on the level for a few minutes and then emerged through a tunnel of vegetation at the edge of the farmer's field across which we had walked three hours before. This marked the completion of our loop, and the completion of the day's explorations. From here it was a simple walk back across the grass to Chemin Cregheur and the cars.
In summary, this went better than I'd expected. The herd paths that we had heard rumors about were indeed in place, and in fact are quite detectable and followable, if you have an eye for such things. There's little to no bushwhacking required if you stick to these paths and don't get off course. And we discovered that there are very nice sections of the Eardley Escarpment that these paths traverse, and that these bits are open, meadowy, and view-filled. And quiet.
Interactive trackmap with photo points - South Window and Gallery Loop - click map to view
Eardley Escarpment - South Window and The Gallery - Hike Data
* : +/- 75 feet
Total Elevation Gain:
Total Elevation Loss:
* : +/- 75 feet