Unfortunately, a grey day. I dropped Sue and Helen off at the Spa in Chelsea and headed to P11, O’Brien, car park for the first time this trip.
The trail started as it meant to continue for the next 6km, by way of a steepish section. The Gatineau Groomers had obviously heard that the Brits were coming, so they prepared this trail for a British athlete.
Unfortunately Amy Williams is not in our party, so the groomers’ efforts to create a luge course, aka trail number 36, for her were in vain.
It wasn’t actually too bad – I removed my skis to avoid some rocks on the second part of the second hill down to the reed beds by Lac Meech that are shown above. Apart from that, the 10km journey to Herridge Cabin, the last few km being on a slightly wider and smoother trail (Pine Road – trail 50), was achieved without incident. Just satisfyingly challenging in these slightly icy conditions for my very average standard of skiing.
Small red squirrels, ubiquitous in this area, were chomping at the seeds below the feeder outside the cabin, with Nuthatches, Hairy Woodpeckers and Chickadees also in attendance.
Larger black squirrels are also in evidence, especially in Ottawa, where they are the equivalent of the grey squirrels in the UK.
I’d planned to stop for lunch at nearby Healey Cabin, but the only two people I met on Pine Road told me they had lit the fire at Herridge, so I went there. Lunch was in the company of two ladies on a through ski from Wakefield (P17) to Vallée Meech (P16), one of whom kindly took this picture.
Returning by the same route (an hour and a half each way) I tried to capture its ambience ‘on film’, but the dull conditions weren’t very amenable to that. The undulations were hard enough to spot in the flat light, let alone possible to record by someone as amateur with their camera as me.
Here’s a typical section of the trail.
And here’s one of the several ‘luges’. This is actually facing down a fairly steep hill, with the skiing surface a shallow ‘u’ shape. Speed control is helpful in order to stay upright and get round the corners. Great fun, and satisfying when successful – if you fall you generally just get covered in snow and tangled with your skis, which are just attached by the toe and don’t release like downhill skis.
After meeting and chatting to the only other person doing this route today – he’d sidestepped over the rocks where I’d taken off my skis – I found myself back at Lac Meech, and on a short cut across a bay. This summer residence and boathouse view would be from a canoe in the summer months.
There was flowing water, though, and it’s bridges like the one from which this shot was taken that require careful negotiation, as an error could result in a cold dunking rather than just a snowman impersonation….
I finished in a flurry of skis and snow, just missing a telegraph pole at the end of the final luge back to the car park, and crashing into a snow bank instead. Luckily there was nobody around to mock my failure to stay upright.
The 20km ski with 460 metres ascent took just over three and a half hours including my lunch break. That’s quite long enough to be out on a day like this, and whilst it was an immensely enjoyable little outing, I was glad to be picking up Sue and Helen and returning to Woodroffe Towers by mid-afternoon.