Martin in Gatineau Park - 2018

Martin in Gatineau Park - 2018

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Saturday 24 January 2009 – The Cold but Sunny Road to the Fire Tower

As can be seen from this picture of Sue at the Fire Tower, it was lovely and sunny today.


Below -20°C, with a fair nip of wind as well. Sadly my fingers never really warmed up, despite my trying most possible glove combinations (I had 4 pairs with me).

One of the visitors to McKinstry Cabin, our lunch venue, was complaining of a frost-nipped cheek. We stayed well wrapped up! At 27km, this was our longest ski yet, starting from P12 (Meech) by the scenic Lac Meech, a haven in the summer for canoeists, but just now it’s well frozen into a barren white expanse.

Trail 40 starts steeply. This was supposed to warm us up, 100 metres of height being gained really quickly. It’s quite difficult in icy conditions, but the snow was soft and powdery today, and really sticky with our light blue wax that nevertheless gave us good glide when we needed it.

Very few people were out on this sunny Saturday in the peak of the skiing season. I wonder why?.....Tim had called earlier, he often joins us at weekends…”Brrr”, he’d said, at the very suggestion of going skiing today, “Too cold for me!”

Anyway, we rose nearly 200 metres to Ridge Road, turned right, and headed a further 7km along the crest of the wooded ridge that heads along the top of the escarpment. Views down to the Ottawa valley are however limited; here you just enjoy the snow laden trees, the frozen lakes and the sweeping undulations and gentle curves of the trail.

An hour and a half of skiing from P12 brought us to McKinstry Cabin, the most remote of the cabins on the south side of the park. It’s an unusually shaped structure, particularly the interior.
A French Canadian lay sleeping in front of a radiant stove. His mates arrived. Their sandwiches were soon fizzing in their foil covers. This stove was really hot.

But our objective was the Fire Tower. The 2.5km from McKinstry to the Fire Tower is one of the nicest easy runs in the park. A quiet trail with long, gentle undulations. It takes us 40 minutes for the return trip, so on days when the stove at McKinstry has to be lit, this short ‘side trip’ provides ample time to return to a roaring furnace and a fine lunch.

Today, after a tea break and a change of gloves, we enjoyed this trip to the Fire Tower turning point at the end of the trail.

Back at McKinstry the thermometer outside indicated that it was still a fairly cool -21°C at around 1pm, the hottest part of the day!

The camera lens misted too much for a meaningful interior photo, and nobody wanted to pose outside for me!

We joined Ken, Lester and Dan for lunch in the cabin. They had left early from the easternmost point in the park, P3 – a 61km round trip for Ken, who was continuing to the Fire Tower, and only 5km less for the others. They are of course in training for the 160km Canadian Ski Marathon that takes place in a couple of weeks’ time.

By now the cabin was busy, and the other three kept being delayed by familiar faces arriving for a chat.

After a 40 minute break we headed back, returning along #1 past the #24 turn, to regain to Meech via #2 (briefly) and #33, which we hadn’t been on before. It was a lovely route, marred only by the frigid conditions, which worsened after leaving #1, as the final 3.5km to the car park was largely in the shade of the waning sun.

So it was a relieved pair of cool skiers who at 3pm returned to the little Honda Civic at P12, having successfully negotiated the final steep drop down Trail 40.

So ended a cold 27km ski, taking us from 10.10 to 15.00, including an hour’s breaks in McKinstry, etc. There’s a good 200 metre height difference between P12 and the Fire Tower (170m to 370m), but with today’s undulations we probably ascended a good 500 metres in total.

A false start from the car park – I had to stop because the steering wheel was too cold to handle, was followed by some unlikely events at Woodroffe Towers, where Ken had temporarily appointed himself as Head Host, as Helen has escaped to Atlanta for the weekend.

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