Martin in Gatineau Park

Martin in Gatineau Park

Saturday, 31 January 2009

Friday 30 January 2009 – O’Brien to Herridge

Today we enjoyed a gentle ski in light snow along the excellent trail 36, from P11 (O’Brien) to Herridge Cabin and back. The lack of sun was compensated for by the fine snow conditions, despite some steepish hills. These can be dangerous when icy, but today it was almost impossible to fall, any movement towards a ‘snowplough’ action succeeding in bringing one gently to a halt.

Before going skiing, a waxing session is needed. Woodroffe Mansion has a basement under the whole footprint of the house – so plenty of room for this sort of thing:

The trails around Lac Meech were very pleasant.

Herridge Cabin is an excellent spot….

...and attracts a wide variety of birds – today a flock of Pine Grosbeak arrived to join the Nuthatches, Chickadees, Blue Jays, Downy Woodpeckers and Hairy Woodpeckers around the table.

Here, Mr and Mrs P Grosbeak peck away as Mme Chickadee comes in to land.

This place has the reputation for being the best in Gatineau Park for wildlife. For those who receive actual real Christmas cards from us, it’s the site of the photo of the Barred Owl, taken on 1 February 2006.

It was a shame to leave this lovely route – here I am on the trail near a boathouse….

and we were sad to be back at the car after just 20 km (but with my blistered feet intact), taking from 10.00 to 13.35, including a 45 minute ‘lunch’ stop at Herridge (from 11.20!).

Our snowy journey home was punctuated by coffee at Tim Horton’s, fuel for lots of shovelling of snow once we got back.

Sue tried to photograph some snow landing on her camera case today:

Here’s a detail from the above image:


[The light was very flat today – it was snowing – so the images reflect that fact – especially that of the Pine Grosbeak, which sadly fails to highlight the splendid rosy colouring of the male.]

Friday, 30 January 2009

Thursday 29 January 2009 – In The Groove

A routine day
– up at 7
– take Helen to work
– back home for breakfast
– wax skis etc whilst Sue prepares lunch
– leave by 9.30 for Gatineau Park
– ski for 5 hours from 10 to 3 (including an hour’s worth of breaks)
– back to Woodroffe Towers
– drop off Sue to start tea
– collect Helen
– enjoy a leisurely pot of tea and a bath
– help with cooking
– Ken arrives home from his hard day at work
– lovely meal as usual
– go shopping (food, blister repair kit)
– download the day’s photos
– gather round to chuckle at more crap videos (delete them)
– Rummikub
– Sue wins again
– vet Ken’s CSM (Canadian Ski Marathon) spreadsheet (timetable for success)
– everyone else hits the sac
– I try to find time to record a few words and images here…..

A busy day!

We parked up at Chelsea (P8) and headed up Gatineau Parkway, knowing that it would have been groomed after the snow storm. We were soon tempted by the greater interest of Ridge Road, so turned up trail 1. Penguin Hill rises 150 metres in quick time. Quite hard work on our skis. Just beyond Keogan Cabin, still on #1, we found the benches at Gossips’ Corner free of snow. We gossiped.

Looking back from the start of the Khyber Pass, a couple of folk were coming up fast in our mirrors.

A welcome tea break at Huron Cabin gave Sue a chance to photograph lots of squirrels and this Blue Jay on the feeder.

Continuing along #1 we took the #24 loop. It had just been groomed and included a fabulous downhill section in perfect conditions. Rejoining Ridge Road from #24 we discovered this was the limit of the groomed trails, so the ski along Ridge Road to McKinstry and the Fire Tower would have a ‘back country’ feel today.

Around here the trees were very delicately frosted, as on this twig.

Turning back along #1, we headed to Western Cabin for lunch. The fire was roaring and toasted our sandwiches almost instantly. (Note the foil on top of the stove – it contains a sandwich with bread buttered on the outside to facilitate ‘toasting’.)

Heading steeply out of Western on back country trail 9 we found it hard work, climbing sideways up the steep, narrow track. Sue arrived unimpressed at trail 1B.

Luckily the Burma Road (#3) had been groomed and was in fine condition. But whilst Sue and I both had the same wax on our skis, hers had lost traction. Re-waxing with the dark blue wax made little difference. It had warmed to only around -5°C. We will take some stickier (violet) wax tomorrow.

Down on Fortune Parkway the sun came out and we enjoyed a fine view of Lac Fortune.

We were soon down the hill and back on Gatineau Parkway for the final (boring) run back to Chelsea. Here Sue flies past me in the fast lane.

Today’s was our longest ski yet on this trip, the 29km outing took us from 9.50 to 14.45, including 55 minutes of tea and lunch breaks.

Another fine day in the groove.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Wednesday 28 January 2009 – Snow

We’ve had around 15cm of snow so far today, with another 10cm due tonight. I was very careful driving Helen to and from work, until she announced ‘If we crash the Honda we could get Frank’s dad’s Camry for a good price’. So I went through a few ‘Stop’ signs, and tried driving on the left side of the road, but to no avail – the old Honda lives for another day and is parked in the comfort of the garage.

(Shame about the bike I ran over in the garage whilst parking up!)

Skiing in Gatineau Park was not the most sensible option today, so Sue and I strolled around the environs of Chateau Woodroffe. Here Sue ambles through the snow whilst I admire the peaceful wintry scene.

We crossed above the deserted Parkway, having to wait ages for any cars to appear on this normally busy road.

Sue eschewed a rest on this bench – despite the balmy -10°C temperature; the snow was coming down like rain, in very small flakes, with quite a breeze, so it was a bit like a mild dose of spindrift on a Scottish hill in winter.

This pair of mallards was trying valiantly to eat snow. Their beaks were caked with it, and Sue thought they were doing a mating dance.

I think they were just trying desperately to survive. (This one's for you, Darren.)

We felt lucky to be able to escape from the cold into Carlingwood Mall. The coffee was good. A kitchen shop sale yielded some unexpected purchases – a mandoline and some electric scales.

Next door the man in the art gallery failed to make a sale but did engage us in pleasant conversation for a good half hour.

Later some TGO Challenge business was conducted – more of that in a future posting; a fine meal was prepared, and we all had a chuckle at this video – Sue’s attempt yesterday to demonstrate our arduous progress along the ski trail on Ridge Road.



This cross-country skiing lark is such hard work, you know!

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Tuesday 27 January 2009 - Halcyon Days

Halcyon Days are supposed to be calm and tranquil, or happy and carefree.

This was one of those days.

Wall to wall sunshine adorned our living room, which today was again Gatineau Park. Early mist over the Ottawa River had melded into hoar frost on the trees as we crossed the river, passing Bate Island, which looked very similar to over a week ago, when we stopped here.

Kingsmere (P7) was our starting point today, together with Helen who has safely returned from her training weekend in Atlanta. We donned sun tan cream and dark glasses and headed in about -14°C up Trail 30 to Ridge Road. It was a gorgeous, still day. A right turn then took us along the black diamond (hard) Skyline Trail.

This trail was built immediately after the creation of the park in 1938, as a Depression Era relief project, and it sports a charming undulating pathway with good views towards Hull and the Ottawa Valley.

Here we all are, enjoying the warm sun and the fine views:

There are some short, steep sections on this 4km loop. I managed to lose control on one of the corners. My fall was controlled, however, compared to Sue’s two wipe-outs. Helen and I kept catching up with her snow covered form, dashing along as if there was no tomorrow. The adrenaline rush caused by last night’s films had clearly not worn off. Tortoise and hare stuff. All good fun though, and no damage was done, so we returned happy and warm to Ridge Road and the pleasant track to Keogan Cabin for lunch.

Here are shots taken firstly on the Skyline Trail, and below that on the immaculately groomed Ridge Road.

Huge icicles hung outside the cabin, and birds and squirrels were enjoying the feeder as usual.

Here are the interior, the view from our lunch bench, and the exterior of Keogan Cabin:

Deserting the warmth of the cabin, we enjoyed the descent to Kingsmere and were actually back at home by 2pm, ready for our customary leisurely afternoon.

Here are Sue, then Helen, descending trail 30 to Kingsmere. It looks easy, but notice how the person following Helen arrives at the corner (there is no track in that direction), and you may be able to hear her friend swish past at the end, just missing the photographer.



Today’s exercise constituted another 13km ski, taking us from 10.35 to 13.15, including our 45 minute break at Keogan Cabin.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Monday 26 January 2009 - The Best of Banff

After a rest day from skiing....

Yes we do help with the housework in our home from home!

...we spent the evening at the cinema, in front of seven films selected for Ottawa by the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour.

Here's their trailer:




The films were aimed at the 'adrenaline junkies' in the audience, rather than those looking for a cultural or environmental bias.

We were introduced to a multi-talented red helmet, a piece of Scottish rock covered in chalk, and a full length film about some BASE jumpers tackling a jump down a big hole in China - very impressive that hole was too.

During the interval an attempt was made to distribute minor items of gear (not up to the standard of my new hat, Phil) as prizes in a raffle for which everyone had been handed tickets. Unfortunately, as the numbers in the 'hat' didn't often match those held by members of the audience, this was a fairly long drawn out and tedious process.

Then we enjoyed more adrenaline fuelled film-making, with images of acrobatic cycling (the highlight being a ride along a chain-link railing), kayaking from the underground source of a river in Papua New Guinea to the Pacific (down some stupendous rapids), climbing on some sandstone towers (no chalk this time), and heli-skiing down unlikely looking slopes (rather steep).

We returned, exhausted, for hot chocolate and Christmas cake at Woodroffe Towers, all set for our more prosaic (not sure if that's the right word) skiing tomorrow.

The World Tour For Adrenaline Junkies will visit the UK later this year, but dates and venues have not yet been announced.

Sunday 25 January 2009 – The Taylor Lake Loop

It started overcast today, and therefore warmer. By the time Ken, Sue and I reached P19 at Philippe at 11.30 am the sky had cleared, but at -14°C the conditions were positively balmy, and today it wasn’t so difficult to keep warm.

After yesterday’s exertions we were all happy to have a short, leisurely day….

Sue and Ken shot off into the distance.

Luckily they were distracted by this impressive wall of ice.

The Taylor Lake Loop – trail 55 – incorporates the ‘Taylor Lake Luge’ that has claimed quite a few tumbles between us, especially from me. Today it looked relatively benign as we herringboned up it in these still excellent snow conditions. This often tricky descent had encouraged today’s anti-clockwise approach, thereby avoiding that obstacle, and luckily we didn’t have to dodge any out-of-control-skiers flying at us from the opposite direction.

We soon passed a different type of ‘cabin’, the Taylor Lake Yurt. This is used by groups for overnight stays. It’s basically a reinforced tent with a wood burning stove inside.

Then we passed the old site of the Yurt – it gets moved occasionally to reduce stress on the environment – where a neat sign requests one to treat the breeding turtles with care.

The views up the lake were stunning today.

From here to Renaud the final 3km of trail 55 got busier as we approached the cabin. It was much quieter than Healey was last Sunday, but inevitably there were familiar faces, and we said hello to Dan and Thomas, who had arrived here via a back country trail.

A family arrived, the youngsters having been transported in the sleds seen here parked outside the cabin.

One of the thrush sized dinky red squirrels was busy noshing below the bird feeder.

When it saw me it dashed into a hole in the snow. It then peered out from a selection of many entrances, checking my movements.

There was a good selection of birds at this feeder – Chickadees (below), Downy Woodpeckers and Blue Jays, with a thrush sized female Pine Grosbeak (far below) biding its time in a nearby tree.

After the usual excellent toasted sandwiches, washed down with tea and accompanied by various other goodies, we enjoyed a gentle ski along the wide but busy track back to Philippe.

On the way we passed the site of Ken’s camping trip from over a week ago.

Wild camping is not permitted, so even for this winter bivouac Ken and his friends had to make a booking, and the site does have ‘thunder box’ toilets to avoid pollution.

Here’s Sue’s picture of Ken reposing on the site of his bivouac, as if in his bivvi bag.

Luckily she didn’t notice that behind her I’d lost my balance in the deep snow and was writhing around in a completely helpless state. It’s quite hard to do anything at all from a prone position in deep snow with skis pointing in all directions!

It took a while to warm up after that, but the parking lot, and the warmth of the Subaru, were soon reached.

A flock of Bohemian Waxwings was harvesting berries from the nearby trees, oblivious of human presence.

Today’s 13km ski took us from 11.30 to 14.00, including our 35 minute break at Renaud Cabin.

After a most leisurely afternoon (aren’t they all!), and in the absence of our Head Chef, we adjourned to the nearby burger palace known as The Works, for a pitcher of beer and a selection of burgers, which, as they weren’t as piping hot as they should have been, came FOC.

Bad news here for unattended children, though. A large sign proclaimed that they would be 'sold'!

It's nice to know that humour of this kind can still prevail in a public place....

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Cold Ken and a BBQ

Ken returned, eventually, from his 61km outing. He had been slow and cold towards the end.

We revived him with tea, then he set about his next duty.

I had prepared the way for him by clearing the deck. Ken just had to cook the steaks.

They were delicious.

First BBQ of the year, cooked at -23°C, though it was eaten indoors with a fine bottle of Saint-Emilion 2006 (is that cheating?).

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.

But COLD.

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.