Martin in Gatineau Park

Martin in Gatineau Park

Monday, 20 February 2017

On the Piste Again

It's a dull day in Tallinn and what snow there is is mainly artificial, although we did land in a snow shower.

There are 21 of us on this trip, including guides and hangers on. After assembling at a comfortable hotel we wrestled with ski hire and headed out to a 3.5 km ski circuit along the lines of the Mooney's Bay circuit we practice on in Ottawa. 

But there's more snow there, and I have my own skis. 

Today most people got sorted out but a couple of us finished up with waxing skis but no wax. That's not really much fun, so a 5 km ski was enough for me. Others, equipped with the sort of waxless skis I've ordered for tomorrow, managed better.

You may be able to spot Sue, Ken (Helen went shopping) and Susan and Roy in the top photo. We'll get to know the others as the week progresses.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Another Birthday Party (1)

En route to Gatwick - an impromptu birthday party. 

Saturday, 18 February 2017

A parkrun birthday and a tasty meal

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This entry is the last before our next trip, just to show that we are alive and well and enjoying some eccentric cooking.

Today’s parkrun at Wythenshawe in pleasantly warm conditions attracted 288 participants, one of whom, Brian G, was celebrating his 70th birthday. He’s pictured above in his green Go-faster top, after completing the 5 km course in a little over 25 minutes, about to extinguish the last of the candles on his cake. Parkrunners love cake, which was today also provided by Geoff F in celebration of his 50th outing.

Well done everyone, and thanks to Andy H, unusually lacking in family support, for conducting proceedings with his usual efficiency. Results are here.

On Thursday we were treated to a fine meal with some good friends, partly in celebration of Sue’s imminent landmark.

We started with ‘UTI accelerant’, aka bulls’ blood soup with a grassy garnish.

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The main course comprised bulls' testicles with Daryl’s fish muscle on a bed of winter weeds.

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For dessert, we were honoured with second helpings of bulls' haemorrhoids with vanilla sludge on a bed of buttered gluten free fruit flour.

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These were all absolutely delicious, especially after an opening dose of a colourless herbal medicine produced from juniper berries, then ongoing flagons of a straw coloured liquid that our host claimed to have been produced by the alcoholic fermentation of grape pulp.

Happy eating, and thanks to Jessica who spent last night here and after struggling through her elephant’s fingers (we’ll get some fish fingers for you next time, Jess) carried out her washing up duties to her usual standard.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Another Quiz

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Last Saturday night we enjoyed an evening with our regular ‘Spinners Quizzers’ aka ‘The San Marinos’ and some of their better halves. The seven course meal that was assembled from contributions from the eight quizzers was delicious, but it did require a bit of a break between the chicken tagine and the soufflé. I’d come prepared though – that time was taken up with the above picture quiz. You just need to identify the image.

Out of 24 points, Lyn, Louise and Bev scored 13, nearly 4 points ahead of John, Robert and Stuart. That was in about 20 minutes, with no references to the internet etc, as per pub quiz rules.

Can you do better? Answers by email to martin@topwalks.com. [Click on the image to get a bigger version – there’s a magnifier at the top right of the screen.

Have fun!

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Monday 13 February 2017 – A Curry Walk and Some Escapes

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Monday morning. Timperley Bridge. A good day for a stroll down the towpath to Manchester. JJ had chosen well. Rick was there. Andy and Ursula turned up, dressed as if to conquer a Lakeland peak, or more. We milled around a bit, then set off to the north.

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After a while we reached Stretford, where Rob and Pam joined us. They were dressed more casually, as if to dive in to the nearest branch of the Slug & Lettuce.

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JJ’s excellent report on the walk is here. Apparently there was no curry on the curry walk, as some of the participants were allergic!

Sadly I had to return to Timperley to feed the family before heading off to our local break out room, Code to Exit.

The idea is that you get locked in a room and have to solve puzzles and obtain codes in order to escape. It was a birthday present for Sue.

We escaped from the Blueprint Room!

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Whilst Mike had to go to work, the rest of us were on half term or sabbatical or some such, so we had a coffee then got locked in the Forgery Room. We escaped from that as well, or I wouldn’t be here!

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I didn’t contribute much, but it was good fun.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Where was I then?

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Here’s a pleasing image to look at on a cold February morning, looking out onto one of my favourite places.

More pictures to follow below when someone identifies the location.

…well, it took Conrad less than an hour and a half, probably much less if he had seen the posting earlier.

The above picture was taken on 24 August 2005 from the tunnel windows of the Sentiero de Luca/Innerkofler via ferrata on (in) Monte Paterno. I was accompanied by Sue, Ken, Ian and Megan.

The following pictures were taken at Forcella Lavaredo and Rifugio Tre Cime-Locatelli on 16 July 2007.

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Happy Days…

NB – Tre Cime is also known as Drei Zinnen – it’s part an area that has a turbulent past.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Where were we on 6 November 2004?

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OK, clever clogs (Gayle and Conrad), the name of the mountain (seven letters) is what I’m looking for, but you can name the place where we were camping if you like.

Happy days, and a test of your IT savvy!

Friday, 10 February 2017

Where am I Today?

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I’ve swapped the snow of Ottawa for the sleet and bitter NE breeze closer to home. But where exactly am I today?

Here’s a detail from the milepost.

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Wednesday, 8 February 2017

First Flowers

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When we were in Canada the weather was great for our purposes, but it’s often a monochromatic view over there at this time of year.

Back in Timperley, Sue took this picture of a Primula in our garden to prove to Helen that February in the UK does at least enjoy a bit of colour. I’m sure there’s lots of it in Dunham’s Winter Garden.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Tuesday 7 February 2017 – Dunham New Park

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After a sleepless journey home, a bit of fresh air found me enjoying Dunham New Park’s greenery in balmy Altrincham.

At least the sleepless night enabled me to get up to 20% in Ken Follett’s ‘The Pillars of the Earth’ (quite a long book), having already finished ‘The Girl from the Tea Garden’ by Janet MacLeod Trotter and Patrick deWitt’s excellent book, ‘The Sisters Brothers’ during the ‘beach holiday’.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Monday 6 February 2017 – A Circuit from P8

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For our last outing of this trip, Sue and I chose a bit of good exercise around the easy, anticlockwise, Parkway loop from P8.

It was cold and sunny. Just as we like it. The trails were quiet.

After more than two weeks, we saw our first grooming machine – of the larger variety that they use on the Parkways (perhaps there is only one of these machines, plus several smaller ones).

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On Champlain Parkway we passed this huge sheet of ice.

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That’s it for now. We are due at the airport shortly. No doubt the Bridgewater Canal may feature in the next posting…

For the record: P8 (Chelsea) > Gatineau Parkway > #32 > Fortune Parkway > Champlain Parkway > Gatineau Parkway > P8 = 21.9 km, 417 metres ascent, taking 2 hours 44 mins (2.42 moving time)

Au revoir from Ottawa and many many thanks to Ken and Helen for putting up with us for the last couple of weeks.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Sunday 5 February 2017 – A Short Dose of Culture

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Today was overcast, with snow flurries. A good day to take a rest from skiing.

Helen, Sue and I (in between games of Boggle and Rummikub) ventured into town to the National Gallery of Canada, where there were three exhibitions to attract us.

The first was a large exhibition of the art of Alex Janvier, a native Canadian artist. His abstract artwork, much of it in a circular format, was very striking.

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After exiting this exhibition we moved upstairs to the following view towards the Parliament buildings.

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The second exhibition was of Josef Sudek’s photographs, mostly of portraits or ‘still life’, taken around Prague. Interesting. Many pictures were taken from his studio in the dark days of Nazi occupation.

Then there was a selection of photographs from the archives of the Globe and the Mail newspapers, portraying an ‘Archive of Modern Conflict’ from a Canadian viewpoint.

The cafeteria then called, from where we observed (I’m reluctant to say ‘admired’) a ‘Majestic’ sculpture outside the window.

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Then it was back home for the usual routine – G&Ts and tonight, pork tenderloin.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Saturday 4 February 2017 – An Outing from P17 (Wakefield) to Lusk Cabin and back to P19 (Philippe)

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On a cool, overcast day with snow flurries in the Park, Ken chose a Winter Triathlon in Ottawa*, Helen dropped me and Sue off at Wakefield for a ski into Lusk Cabin, whilst she took the short (12 km there and back) route from Philippe, to which point we all returned after a convivial lunch in the overheated cabin.

Lusk Cabin is one of very few in the park that allows overnight stays. It’s a small cabin with six bunk beds that can be booked for exclusive overnight use between the hours of 4 pm and 10 am the next morning. Otherwise it is open to day visitors. Somebody had got the fire going well today and the small cabin was really hot compared with the outside temperature of about minus 8°C. The heating elements in my mitts weren’t needed today – it was too warm for them.

It’s a lovely 3 km ski into Lusk along trail 54. We’ve excelled ourselves this year by covering the vast majority of the easier trails in Gatineau Park, thanks to the benign conditions. In some years the trails have become rather icy and that has inhibited our itinerary. But not this year, when perhaps we should have tried a few more of the ungroomed ‘black diamond’ trails. Never mind, we would have fallen over a lot on those trails!

For the record: P17 (Wakefield) > #53 > #51 > P19 (Philippe) > #50 > #55 > #54 > Lusk Cabin (lunch) > #54 > #55 > #50 > P19 = 17.6 km, 353 metres ascent, taking 2 hours 46 mins (2.10 moving time)

* Ken came home in 90th position out of 197 participants. 1 hour 33 minutes for the 8 km skate, 8 km skate ski, and 5 km run (on which he found the use of yaktrax crampons improved his performance – a creditable 27 minutes for the 5 km). [Winner took 59 minutes!]

Friday, 3 February 2017

Friday 3 February 2017 – Another Outing from P3 (Gamelin)

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Just me and Sue on the trails today, as Ken was working and Helen went skating on the Rideau Canal, which has only been open for that purpose for the last couple of days.

Lovely conditions again. There’s no cabin on this route, so we stopped at MacKenzie-King (P6) to consume the contents of our flask and take advantage of the rather limited facilities.

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Whilst the trails are mostly through woodland, you get the occasional wide open spaces (with wind-chill) like this part of trail 29 that links Gatineau Parkway with trail 5.

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Returning to Gamelin, the next picture was taken from a bridge over a motorway. It shows a range of activities – fat biking, classic x-c skiing and skate skiing, all within a few minutes of the centre of Ottawa.

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For the record: P3 (Gamelin) > Gatineau Parkway > #5 > #29 > #15 > P6 (MacKenzie-King) > #7 > Champlain Parkway > Gatineau Parkway > #29 > #5 > Gatineau Parkway > P3 = 21.7 km, 366 metres ascent, taking 3 hours 27 mins (3.09 moving time)

Thursday 2 February 2017 – Another Outing from P10 (Fortune)

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Another sunny morning saw Sue and me joined by Helen on a ski from P10, near the centre of Chelsea and the site of last night’s snowshoe running.

Sue is pictured above setting off on the 2 km climb up Fortune Parkway on a cold morning. Helen decided to do a there and back ski to Huron Cabin, where we met her for lunch after going further down Ridge Road and enjoying the intricacies of trails 24 and 1B.

After turning onto Ridge Road at Gossips’ Corner, you soon pass this small cabin – Shilly Shally. The Shilly Shally lodge on Trail 1 was created by skiers in the late 1940s, probably from the remains of an old settlement and logging-era cabin. The current structure probably dates from the 1960s and ‘70s.

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Back on Ridge Road after our diversion down trail 24, snow flurries started. These slowed us down for the rest of our ski – snow in the tracks means ‘slow in the tracks’. Today I kept my nose covered in a (successful) effort to avoid the intake of cold air that may have led to yesterday’s toothache. My battery operated electric mitts were used for the first twenty minutes or so, but at only about minus 11°C the power wasn’t needed after that.

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For the record: P10 (Fortune) > Fortune Parkway > #1 > #24 > #1 > #1B > Champlain Parkway > Huron Cabin (lunch) > Champlain Parkway > Fortune Parkway > P10 = 19.5 km, 285 metres ascent, taking 3 hours 10 mins (2.41 moving time).

Alan has enquired about the snowshoes. They all seem to be made by Atlas. The running shoes are smaller. Ken’s are pictured below next to my regular ones, which would have been difficult to use on last night’s run.

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Here Sue models Ken’s shoes in her slippers. I eschewed wearing slippers last night and found trail shoes worked fine. It was surprising how fast you could run on a proper trail. Last night we were following a maniac (former olympian) who led the group through deep pristine snow in a forest, so it’s perhaps not surprising that we only managed 5 km in an hour!

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Regarding Conrad’s question as to a comparison between cross country skiing and walking….

…there’s no ready comparison to my knowledge and it depends on how fast/energetically you walk or ski. Our 15 to 25 km skiing outings are equivalent to a half day walk I would guess. The 16 mile walk quoted by Conrad possibly equates to a 20 to 25 mile ski, depending on the terrain. There are many people older than Conrad on the trails. Once certain leg muscles and shoulders are used to the exercise, I think cross-country skiing has rather less impact on the body than walking.

There is however a bit of homework needed for skiing. Before leaving home, the skis need to be waxed according to the snow temperature – see the gadget on the work bench below, and it helps to have a large basement such as is found in many of the houses of Ottawa. The picture shows just a fraction of the basement here, which extends over the entire footprint of the house.

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Happy Days.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Wednesday 1 February 2017 – Another Outing from P7, and some Snowshoe Running at Night

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Susan left early for a week in Kelowna, Ken went to work, and Helen fancied a rest. So Sue and I enjoyed the short ski enumerated below.

The weather was superb, and whilst it hadn’t benefited from any recent grooming, trail 3 – The Burma Road – was a lovely route to ski on today. The final descent was fast, and with a large group of people blocking my planned exit, a hasty readjustment failed to halt my progress into the woods. First ‘fall’ of the trip.

That was after herring boning up some hills like the one shown below.

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Lunch was taken at Keogan Cabin, home of icicles and (today only, I hope) toothache.

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For the record: P7 (Kingsmere) > #30 > #1 > Huron Cabin (elevenses) > #1 > #3 > Fortune Parkway > Keogan Cabin (lunch) > #1 > #14 > #4 > #1 > #30 > P7 = 17.8 km, 325 metres ascent, taking 3 hours 28 mins (2.36 moving time).

There’s a group of about thirty crazy Ottawa folk who go out snowshoe running on Wednesday nights. I wonder how many of them prepare by way of a meal of beans on toast? At least two. I might have known Lester would be there as well. Here he is pictured with Ken wearing some lightweight running snowshoes. Luckily a spare pair was available for me, so my full size shoes could be left in the car.

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It was actually great fun and very good exercise, albeit we only covered about 5 km in the hour of activity. The somewhat convoluted route is shown below. These were mostly not snowshoe trails until we created them tonight in the undulating woodland near the Visitor Centre in Chelsea.

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You might be able to find the Visitor Centre on the winter trails map shown below (click on it to enlarge), which for anyone interested is available on the Gatineau Park website.

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Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Tuesday 31 January 2017 – An Outing from P11 (O’Brien)

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At last, a blue sky day. Inevitably this meant it was a bit cooler. We started skiing at minus 14°C and it warmed up to around minus 10°C. My electric gloves warmed my hands for thirty minutes or so, after which no further power was needed. It’ll be interesting to see whether they perform in colder weather.

Trail 36 was a delight – freshly groomed with hardly any other people on it. We took the track down to Meech Lake and skied around a small island in McDonald Bay.

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It was Sue, Susan and me on today’s outing as Ken was at work and Helen was downhill skiing at Mont Cascades with Frank.

The fire at Herridge Cabin had only just been lit, so we went to nearby Healey Cabin, where a couple of mountain bikers were in residence. There was also a large party of snowshoers, whose speedier members had got a roaring fire going.

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The snowshoers had all brought food and were enjoying a lavish banquet by the time we left. I think some local Canadians were introducing a group of Indians to the Park. Everyone was very jolly.

We returned by the same route. Whilst we were unable to find the ‘No Nude Bathing’ sign that used to ornament this trail, we did see a sign that told us we were on the Trans Canada Trail, which I guess is quite an undertaking.

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For the record: P11 (O’Brien) > #36 > Meech Lake > #36 > #50 > Herridge Cabin > Healey Cabin (lunch) > #50 > #36 > P11 = 21.7 km, 388 metres ascent, taking 3 hours 59 mins (3.02 moving time)

Fabulous conditions for a lovely day out in the sunshine.