Martin in Gatineau Park

Martin in Gatineau Park

Friday, 5 February 2010

Thursday 4 February 2010 – The Lonely Road to Lusk Cabin

Lusk Cabin at lunchtime on 4/2/10

Today dawned brilliantly sunny, but by the time I’d driven out to P17 (Wakefield, again) it had clouded over and was a chilly minus 12C.

Today I was on my own for a longer ski, starting up trail 52, past Brown Cabin.  I soon encountered the uncommunicative school children that Helen and I saw yesterday.  I couldn’t get a word out of any of them, though their teacher was friendly enough.  I think he has a tough job.  I was saddened by the gloomy looks on the faces of these kids – some of those at home in the UK would die for the opportunity to do what they are doing, and passing strangers in the UK (in Timperley, anyway) would probably receive a “Hello Mister” in response to their greeting.

Ah well.

After gaining the summit of the long hill that was littered with these prone, snow covered children, I emerged into an area of pristinely groomed trail.  It seemed that I was the first person along it after the groomer, so it was all nicely ridged, without any trace of the usual ugly slashes caused by skate skiers.  A delight to ski along.

Trail 52 - nicely groomed

Turning right at the junction with trail 50, and nicely warm by now (I’d succumbed to the usual cool hands earlier), I glided effortlessly down to Lac Philippe and soon passed the reason for the trail being in such excellent condition.  The groomer driver smiled back.  The pace slowed as the trail now had last night’s 3-4 cm of fluffy snow on its surface.  I wasn’t complaining though; it was enjoyable, easy going along a trail that has often seen unexpected incidents due to ‘twigs’ and ‘leaves on the track’, both of which [for those readers in the UK] can result in falls.

Past Philippe Cabin I turned down the ungroomed trail to Lusk Cabin, one of my favourite places in the Park.  It’s pictured above.  Five French speakers were toasting their sandwiches on the hot stove.  I added mine and chatted to one of them.  My memory turned briefly to recall the legend of the lost skier of Lusk Lake, but that’s another story.

The sun reappeared, and the afternoon was another ‘blue sky’ experience.

On leaving the cabin I was surprised to see the grooming machine arrive – its first venture along this trail for some time, I suspect.  So I had the pleasure of being the first person along the freshly groomed trail, all the way back to the junction with the Taylor Lake Loop.  Whilst sorely tempted to ski the loop, I decided to return to P17 via the Philippe parking lot (P19) and then by trail 53, which was still not groomed, but with last night’s snow was a delight to ski down.

I like trail 53; it has pleasing sections through open country reminiscent of the CSM (Canadian Ski Marathon) route.  Such sections make a welcome break from the tree lined forest roads that house most of the trails in the park.  Not that I’m complaining.  I enjoy them all.

Views of an open landscape from trail 53

Back in the trees, the route undulates  and weaves to join the shorter route from Philippe, trail 51, and head up and down long straight sections for the final 4 km back to Wakefield.  Not being an adrenaline junkie, I love the long, flowing downhill sections where you can just relax and glide gently downhill.  It’s great.

Apart from the school children, I saw only 10-20 people on the trails today.  It was very quiet.  But the conditions were excellent for skiing this gentle 30+ km route in a bit less than 4 hours, excluding the long lunch break at picturesque Lusk Cabin.

Sue, who didn’t make it over here this year, would have loved this ski – I missed her more than usual today.

There will now be a break in transmission for a few days, as we set off early in the morning for a weekend at the Algonquin Eco-Lodge.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Wednesday 3 February 2010 – Helen and Martine enjoy a Bimble from Wakefield

Trees at P19

We’ve been rumbled….

Here’s an extract, referring to my ski last Friday, from The Gatineau Guide:

“Also out in the cold yesterday was the blogger Postcard from Timperley. She* skied from P7 despite a sign posted at the empty parking lot advertising marginal ski conditions, and she lived to report:

"This was a lovely two and a half hour ski – about 20 km – in lovely conditions once you got used to the cold.  I’ve not seen the Park so quiet on such a sunny day – the locals do seem rather averse to going out in cold weather."

*Why do I feel this is a she? I may be wrong. Whoever she/he is, they are clearly not cowed by a little nip in the air or a grandmotherly sign in the parking lot. Obviously someone worth knowing! And what about you "locals"? Are you going to let some foreigner show you up as "averse to going out in cold weather"? (She's from Timperley so that makes her a foreigner.)”

Fame at last!  Though I do feel obliged to change my name for today…

On a fairly warm morning (minus 10C with very little wind – and the wind chill really does make a big difference) we set off at 11am from P17 near Wakefield.  We had to fight our way through a large gaggle of school children.

Where are you going to?” we asked a laggard.  “Don’t know” (don’t care) he replied, stumbling over his skis.  Teachers were wrestling to resolve issues of inappropriate equipment and find a hauler for the all important but unexpected fifth sledge.

Where are you going to?” we asked a lad at the front, clearly champing at the bit to haul a heavy sledge along the trail.  “Brown Cabin” (I wish they’d b****y well get going) he replied, definitively.

Anyway, Helen and Martine set off gently along trail 53 to Philippe.  Here’s Helen enjoying a rare open section of trail, which she declared to be in ‘Good to Very Good’ condition, despite a lack of recent grooming.  (Incidentally, the grooming this year seems to be sparser than usual, the only real effort seemingly being made on the Parkways and Ridge Road.)

Helen on Trail 53

By and by, well – after an hour and a quarter, we reached the fleshpots of P19, the ‘Philippe’ Parking Lot, meeting just a handful of folk along the way.

Parking lots have convenient, if small, buildings:
 A welcome sight

This blog leaves little to the imagination!  These shots are really for Martine’s UK viewers, who are sometimes curious about ‘facilities’.
Would ‘Night Bird’ manage here?  I think so!

Interior shot

Trail 51 loops back to trail 53 after a couple of kilometres, leading back to P17 after a total of just over two hours and nearly 17km at our very sedate (I’m reluctant to describe it as ‘feminine’) pace.

On Friday (the day referred to above) I failed to record passing a hardy musician with a video camera along Ridge Road, one of very few people out that day.  She wasn’t here today; it must have been too warm!

The day had started with snow flurries, but we finished in bright sunshine.  A very pleasant little outing, which Sue would have enjoyed.  We were both sad that she couldn’t be with us.

Tim Hortons provided an adequate lunch.

The Wellington Gastropub provided an excellent dinner.

Now for something completely different:

Two weeks today, on Wednesday 17 February, Martine and Michelle (The Pie Lady of Crook Town) plan to meet at Newlands, probably around 10 am at NY 232 195, for a ‘Great British Ridge Walk’.  All properly equipped persons are welcome.  Best check with us in advance to confirm time and venue, and dire weather could result in a change of plan.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

TGO Challenge 2010 – A Route is Vetted

An idyllic wild camp by the River Enrick on 14 May 2007

There’s little news from Canada today, other than to report that Dr James R Eyamie found time to sort out a minor dental problem, the appointment for which was timed to prevent any meaningful skiing.

Anyway, a day’s rest is no bad thing, I’m sure many of you will agree, though I’m not sure I’d want all my free days dictated by a dentist’s timetable.

Thank you Dr Eyamie, you were most efficient.

The Vetter’s Comments

TGO Challengers have been known to shudder at the thought of receiving their vetter’s comments, which are unerringly helpful in my experience, but have exposed my very limited knowledge of the uplands of Scotland, not to mention some embarrassment at my misplacement of certain well known features.

So I was pleased to read in my vetter’s initial response to my route; such comments as:

‘I envy you if this is your first visit to this wonderful group of hills’

‘you’ll be surprised at how relatively easy the next two Corbetts may seem’

‘you’ll find yourself on much more amenable hills today’

and I especially like this one:

‘this is a splendid and well planned route’

WOW!

Then I spotted a few more worrying phrases, such as:

‘this is a hugely demanding day, with massive switchbacks over rough country and no paths whatsoever’

‘the ups and downs will be relentless’

‘more rough ground’

‘you’ll find the path rising from the ruin is of limited assistance’

‘a fair bit of rough country today’….’rather a heathery bogtrot’

and

‘you have a fair degree of ascent today, so it seems a shame that you won’t have any hills to add to your tally’  …he goes on to suggest an extra hill…

My vetter has left my planned route virtually unscathed and without comment.  He has discarded it in favour of my FWA (Fine Weather Alternative) of which he seems to approve.  ‘What’s wrong with an ambitious route’ he suggests, going on to encourage the addition of several further summits to the 22* already planned. 

I think I have a vetter with masochistic tendencies.  I’m told it runs in their genes, and without exception my vetters have always pointed out extra summits that I ‘might like to’ or ‘really ought to’ or ‘can’t miss’ visiting.  It’s just that this year’s route, with its 350km (220 miles) and 17000 metres of ascent is already somewhat tougher than earlier efforts.

I’ll see how it pans out.  I’m not revising my plans as a result of the vetting process, but I am now better prepared for what’s in store.  I’ll be loaded up with nearly 15 kilos of mostly ancient and heavyweight kit as usual, including the 30 year old condensation free Phoenix Phreerunner tent pictured above on the 2007 Challenge, my first.  I’m still waiting for someone to produce a lighter, modern version of this breathable single skin tent.  In the meantime I’ll soldier on with the old two kilo bundle, but surely (and I know I’ve gone on about this before) – it can’t be rocket science to produce something similar 30 years on, or do people just love to have condensation?

Or maybe it does need some Rocket Science?

*PS My real target is 10 summits, being a realistic compromise…

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Monday 1 February 2010 - ‘Friends and Family’, and the delights of Trail 3 – ‘The Burma Road’

A view from Trail 3 - The Huron Trail - in Gatineau Park
It’s worth reiterating the purpose of this ‘blog’:

“The main purpose of this blog is to keep in touch with friends and family, and maybe entertain others with common interests, particularly in relation to the outdoors. We hope you enjoy it, and your comments are valued....”

The original intention was to keep in touch with family and friends during a trip to New Zealand some two years ago.  That worked a treat.  In those days ‘followers’ didn’t exist, but there was a small network of UK Outdoors Bloggers – numbering about 50 when I joined.  Numbers have now drifted up to about 130, and various members (and others) follow each others blogs.  Friendships have developed, even with people who have not yet met.

This is all great, but, back to basics, the medium is fantastic for achieving that original aim, keeping in touch with family and friends.  I’m currently across an ocean from most of those, and as you may have gathered from recent postings and comments, my mum (84) is recovering from a major operation and my wife has been unable to join me on this trip because of a debilitating neck problem.  So, at this time, regular postings, mundane though they may be, are valued by those closest at home.  Even by children who may occasionally refer to these pages on the basis of ‘Where’s Dad?’ and ‘Will I be getting Sunday dinner this week?’

I notice that a new blogger, Laura, appears saddened by the loss of a ‘follower’.  Never mind, Laura, they can come and go, but I’m sure those at home appreciate your postings, and that you enjoy the process of blogging (and the excitement of cross-country skiing).  Any more than that could be considered a bonus.

Today

Helen and I enjoyed a lovely ski up and down Trail 3 – The Burma Road (aka The Huron Trail).  5-10 cm of snow overnight had freshened it up and made it delightfully easy (it undulates a lot and can be tricky at times).  So we went up it to Huron Cabin, and back down the same way.

Here’s Helen setting off up The Burma Road from its junction with Fortune Parkway.  It was sunny, and about –10C with a cool breeze.

Setting off up trail 3

Once up the initial steep hill, you pass a variety of forest scenery.  Some looks desolate and boggy, such as that at the head of this posting.  By then the sky was turning grey, with the threat of snow flurries.

We paused for hot chocolate and various goodies at Huron Cabin, but this was a short 15 km ski, so the usual toasted sandwiches didn’t appear, as we returned home for lunch.

The local red squirrels were tucking into their all-day breakfast provided by the nice custodians of Gatineau Park.

Red Squirrel outside Huron Cabin

After a little circuit to the Etienne-Brule Lookout we regained The Burma Road, which had very few visitors today and was pristine, before getting back to the Parkway and returning to P10 parking lot in a snowstorm.

Approaching P10 at the bottom of Fortune Parkway

Great! 

So there you have it – a perfect way of keeping in touch with family and friends, and an indulgence whereby one can, within reason, write any sort of drivel, publish any sort of photos, and innocently communicate with anyone in the world at large who cares to listen.

But there have to be a few minor snags, like ours at present – the internet connection is ‘down’, so who knows when this will be published…

PS – Sue, you need to look at A+H’s email and give them a call!  And I’m sorry to hear you lost at Scrabble again!  To an 84 year old!

Monday, 1 February 2010

Sunday 31 January 2010 – A Trip to the Fire Tower

The Fre Tower beyond McKinstry Cabin

Sometimes social etiquette leaves very little time for blogging.  Today is one of those days.

So I’ll be brief…

Ken and I enjoyed a lovely 26 km ski (3 hours plus an hour for lunch etc) from P12 by Meech Lake, in balmy conditions of –10C, up to this fire tower, where the groomed trails on the southern side of Gatineau Park terminate.  Any further progress would need serious back country skills over pathless terrain.

The fire tower was built in the 1940s and was used for over 30 years to monitor fires in the park.  It was superseded by the more sophisticated techniques of air patrol and lightning detection.

It’s 2.5 km beyond the modern, hexagonal, McKinstry Cabin, so as you pass the cabin you can light the fire (if, like today, nobody else has already done that), returning 45 minutes later to a nice warm cabin in which to toast your sandwiches.  Today we lunched with Judy and Sue, who just happened to be there.

After leaving, we met Jackie on the trail - “Hello Martin” came as a bit of a surprise to Ken, who doesn’t know Jackie!

The trail was lovely to ski, having recovered well from last week’s rain, but it’s not the easiest in the park, and was shunned by most people today, evidenced by plenty of space in P12 but overflowing car parks next to the easier Parkway trails.

That’s all for today.   Goodnight.