My husband Geoff and I first started talking about moving to Chelsea after looking and looking for a home in Ottawa and realizing that maybe we wanted more than city living. Our friends Lydia and Felix have lived here for years and we would always come out for their legendary Halloween party and to hike in Gatineau Park. When I discovered I was pregnant last September the house hunt was on as our tiny apartment in Westboro just wouldn’t work with a new babe on the way. Oh and guess what, Lydia was pregnant too! Chelsea was looking more and more appealing. We purchased our first home in January with a closing date of March 15th, which turned out to be the peak of the COVID pandemic. Moving out to the woods couldn’t have come at a better time.

Moving while 7 months pregnant during a global pandemic came with its stressors, but we settled into our new space nicely and it immediately felt like home. We were delighted to have direct access to the neighbourhood trails right from our very own backyard. I went for several slow walks, waddling my way up and down the roots and rocks. Geoff took up the COVID friendly activity of trail running and soon had a mental map built up of all the loops and routes we could hike.

Lydia had her little boy Frankie in mid April, and our little Juniper was born at the end of May. COVID and our very pregnant states made it difficult to meet up before the babies, but as soon as we were both feeling up to it our mission was to figure out how our houses connected via the community trails. Coordinating newborn schedules and nap times was a challenge, but we both aimed to leave our houses at the same time and walk towards each other. Fifteen minutes later, babies strapped to us and already asleep, we met by the hockey ponds off of Musie Loop. That was easy!

We continued to hike to each other every week, showing each other the ways to our homes. Lydia shared her favourite loops around her house and I showed her what I had learned of mine so far. Endless little trails to explore and discover as we chatted all things baby, motherhood and raising little ones in the new world. Our hikes and these community trails became a safe haven from COVID, a space where we could walk with ease among the trees. Where you can pass your neighbours with a friendly bonjour/hello and not worry about that big scary virus. We’ve watched the seasons change from spring to summer to fall and as we head into winter we know it will always be safe to meet up on the trails with our little pandemic babies.

Story courtesy of Emily Wilfong