Martin in Gatineau Park

Martin in Gatineau Park

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Friday 28 January 2011 – Chalet Keogan from P6, McKenzie-King

Skiers on Champlain Parkway - 28/1/11

Whilst Sue went for a slither on the river, Helen and I headed to P6, for a 15km excursion to Chalet Keogan and back.

Trail 7 from P6 to the Parkway is very pleasant, then it’s a series of long hills and easy descents to reach the junction with Fortune Parkway, from where it’s only five minutes or so down to Gossips’ Corner and nearby Chalet Keogan.

As you can see, it was another overcast day, with snow flurries, which meant for fairly slow going, especially as my style today was somewhat flat-footed in an attempt to preserve what remains of my heel tissue.

Chalet Keogan

It was warm and cosy inside the cabin, where the usual toasted sandwiches, flask of tea, CCS (yes, copious supplies have accompanied us from England), trail mix and mandarin oranges, provided a welcome lunch.

There’s a long descent on the way back to P6 on this ‘there and back’ route, so we were back at the car in just a little more than an hour on this three hour excursion.

Whilst the cabin was well attended, we saw few people on the Parkway, but the header photo shows the differing styles of the cross-country (left) and the skate-skiers (centre), with Helen gliding effortlessly downhill on the right.

Thursday 27 January 2011 – P3, Gamelin, to P6, McKenzie-King, and back – And a Trip to Huron Cabin

Near the end of trail 5, Gatineau Park

Whilst Sue joined Helen on a shopping expedition, I headed out to P3, Gamelin, which is only a 15 minute drive from Woodroffe Towers, on the eastern edge of Gatineau Park where it borders the town of Hull.

Trails 5 and 15 are generally pretty quiet due to the lack of cabins where one can tarry for lunch.  Despite the warmth (-5C) this was the case today, so I enjoyed lovely undulating trails very similar to trail 3 (Burma) but without the risk of being ‘buzzed’ by skate skiers, as sometimes happens on trail 3.

After inadvertently finding the very end of trail 5 (a road), I retraced to trail 15 and followed it all the way to McKenzie-King – P6 car park.  The trail was in good condition despite a paucity of grooming, apart from one easy patch of ice.  It would have been harder in the other direction…. or is that a false perception that one gains after ascending steepish hills that you feel you wouldn’t want to go down, but when it actually comes to that are quite easy…?

Anyway, here’s my picnic spot.  No gloves needed.

Lunch at P6, McKenzie-King car park

Trail 7 leads quite entertainingly from P6, soon crossing the parkway spur before heading on through undulating woodland and crossing Champlain Parkway proper.

On the way I noticed this rather seriously pecked tree – the work of a Pilated Woodpecker, I suspect.

Who's been nibbling my bark?

So fascinating did I find this tree that I lost concentration and slid rather inelegantly down the camber of the track, creating the snow hole you can see to the right of the track in the following picture.  The snow was deep and my skis were in a tangle.  I writhed for some time before finally righting myself, completely covered in snow.  It’s a shame there was nobody else there to share in the entertainment.

Accident scene

With a final flourish, trail 7 dips and twists and rises to end at Gatineau Parkway.  The final 7-8km of today’s 24km ski was along the wide parkway, which had been well groomed with double tracks.

The highlight of the route back to P3 is Pink Lake, which is green.  (White today.)  The lake is actually named after the Pink family, who settled there in the 1830’s.  It’s a scenic spot with a walkway all around it and a number of viewing platforms.  In summer, quite different from this scene.

Pink Lake

It’s a lovely long descent from Pink Lake – the GPS registered 24kph for quite some distance – such long relaxing glides are a raison d'être for cross-country skiing.

Eventually, as Gamelin draws nearer, the skyline of Ottawa’s city centre seems very close.

A view to Ottawa

Here’s a wider angle from the same spot.

A view to Ottawa (2)

So that was 24km, with about 650 metres ascent, in a shade under four hours.  A very enjoyable excursion, marred only by the skinning of my remaining good heel.

Thursday evening

The weekly YCCC (Canoe Club) evening trip cannot involve canoeing at this time of year, so they go skiing instead.  Ken organised these evening skis for many years, but has now handed over to Paul, who kindly collected Helen and me, whilst Ken, a fitness fanatic, dashed off to the gym for more training.

P10 car park was pretty full.  Night skiing is a popular pastime.  Lots of folk were heading up Fortune Parkway in their own little pools of light.  Some of us needed no torch (or flashlight, as they call torches over here, ‘Petzl’ not yet having acquired the status of ‘Hoover’ or ‘Biro’ or ‘Primus’), as despite the lack of a moon there was plenty of ambient light from nearby Camp Fortune.

There were seven in our group, including a Crook who, on arriving at Huron Cabin, proceeded to consume the contents of an average sized ‘deli’ whilst dazzling other visitors with his Petzl.  Thanks, Tim, the cheese was delicious.

Criminal found with floosie at Huron Cabin

Surprisingly, after this obscene bout of indulgence, we all managed to glide safely back down the parkway to P10.  Even more surprisingly (since Huron Cabin had been full), I saw nobody on that journey, other than a few latecomers heading up the hill.

It was brilliant to be out on the trails, albeit easy ones, at night, and this 10km trip made for a most pleasurable couple of hours.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Wednesday 26 January 2011 – a short ski from P7, Kingsmere

Whilst Sue tried to rediscover her ‘ski legs’ down by the river (we’ll know more about the after effects tomorrow), Helen and I drove up to Kingsmere for a regulation 16km ‘potter’ to Champlain Lookout and back in around 3 hours.

We headed first up to Wattsford’s Lookout.

The view from Wattsford's Lookout

In 1921 Captain Gerald Wattsford, a veteran of the Boer War, purchased 100 acres of land just below this point.  The 13-bedroom house (Kingsmere Lodge) with private golf course and tennis court that he built must have had a short but colourful existence, as by 1948 the land had been bought by the Federal District Commission.  The house no longer exists.

Trail 30 soon joins trail 1 – Ridge Road – and heads off towards Keogan Cabin.

On Ridge Road

Today was warm (only minus 7C), so despite the cloud the trails were quite busy.  Continuing past Keogan and Shilly Shally cabins, and on up the Khyber Pass, we reached the viewpoint known as Champlain Lookout.  Haze, as well as low cloud, limited our view today.

The Champlain Lookout on a cloudy day

We adjourned to Huron Cabin, a busy place today, for lunch – courtesy of the roaring stove on which to toast our sandwiches, then down Champlain and Fortune Parkways to Gossips’ Corner.

Gossips' Corner

The return along Ridge Road and trail 30 to P7 car park made for a pleasant conclusion to this three hour excursion, especially as I encountered some lads who claimed to admire my technique in descending the hill with the Ridge Road/Trail 30 junction that they had failed to negotiate without getting covered in snow. 

That’s a first!

Banff Mountain Festival – World Tour

Storm clouds over Mt AspiringStorm Clouds over Mount Aspiring, Aspiring National Park, New Zealand © Iain Guilliard, UK – Winner of the ‘Grand Prize’ in the photography competition.

Last night we enjoyed a visit to the Bytowne cinema to see a few films from the Banff Mountain Festival.  They are on a ‘World Tour’:

“The Banff Mountain Festival World Tour brings Banff to audiences around the globe. Immediately after the Festival ends in November, a selection of the best films go on tour across Canada, the United States, and internationally from Scotland to South Africa to China, Japan, New Zealand, Antarctica, and points in between. Each year, the films travel to 30 countries reaching more than 210,000 people at over 550 screenings.”  They may be coming near you!

We habitually enjoy a visit to the Ottawa leg of this ‘World Tour’, and last night’s offering was one of the best.

Part 1:
Kranked Kids – a spoof mountain biking movie featuring the children of the stars of the ‘Kranked’ movies
Chimaera – a short film capturing spectacular winter sports moments
Rush Hour Dream – short film about an office worker goes to work and falls asleep in the carriage. In his dream he wakes up on a mountain side and discovers that he is carrying a paraglider in his laptop bag
Crossing the Ditch – a wonderful feature film about two young lads who kayaked, unsupported, across the Tasman Sea from Australia to New Zealand (look out for this one)

Part 2:
The Longest Way - an entertaining time-lapse of a one-year-walk from Beijing to Urumqi
Dream Result – extreme kayaking, at its most extreme
Still Motion -still images from motion-triggered wildlife cameras create an intricately sequenced movie-like production of Alberta’s amazing wildlife
The Swiss Machine - Ueli Steck may be the greatest speed alpinist the world has ever seen. In this film, Ueli tells of his record-breaking ascents in the Alps, accompanied by stunning aerial footage that captures him racing up 8,000 foot alpine faces. When he joins Alex Honnold in Yosemite, Ueli sets his ultimate goal: to take his one-man alpine speed game to the largest, highest walls in the world.
Life Cycles – a short but engaging film about the life cycle of a bicycle
Parking Garage: Beyond the Limit - a short spoof of the Discovery Channel Show, Everest: Beyond the Limit.

All in all, a very pleasurable way to spend an evening.

Tuesday 25 January 2011 – Huron Cabin from P10, Fortune Parkway

Today’s weather was warmer, but at the expense of the sunshine.  It was still minus 17C, so Helen and Sue opted for a day at the spa in Chelsea, having decided against utilising a fisherman’s ice hole for a bracing swim in the Ottawa River.

Not even the kayakers are out at this time of year, whereas in the summer the rapids are buzzing with them.

After dropping off the ladies, I drove the mile or so to P10 car park and set off up Fortune Parkway.  It was indeed warmer than of late, with one pair of gloves sufficient, and the Vapour Rise smock perfectly adequate over a long sleeved t-shirt.

I took trail 3 for a few kilometres, stemmed a nose bleed that must have made the trail look as if some terrible wildlife encounter had taken place, then headed across the easiest section of the ‘Black Diamond’ back country trail number 9 to Ridge Road.

Back country trail 9 in Gatineau Park

Eventually, after about 13km and an excursion around the trail 24 loop, I wound up at Huron Cabin.  This is often a busy place, but on a cold day like today you can be alone in the cabin.

Common Redpolls joined the ubiquitous Chickadees, Nuthatches and Hairy Woodpeckers on the feeder outside the cabin.

Huron Cabin

Luckily, others had already lunched there.  The place was warm and cosy, with the fire in good shape.  My sandwich toasted in no time, and lunch took only about 20 minutes instead of the more usual 45.

I was soon off down the ‘Khyber Pass’ to Gossips Corner, and descending through slow snow down Fortune Parkway to P10, and back to the spa to pick up the ladies – I was only ten minutes late.

19km in 3hrs 20mins, in light snow for most of the time, on ungroomed tracks: P10 > Fortune Parkway > #3 > #9 > Ridge Road > #24 > Ridge Road > #1B > Ridge Road > Huron Cabin > Ridge Road > Fortune Parkway > P10.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Monday 24 January 2011 – The Ottawa River

The Ottawa River near Westboro - 24/1/11

Gatineau Park predicted temperatures well into the minus 30’s today, after taking account of wind-chill.  That fact, and a skinned heel, were sufficient encouragement for me to take a day off at Woodroffe Towers, with short forays to the shops, and for Sue, down to the riverside – the scene of the above photo.

Despite the cold and frozen river, Mallards and Tufted Ducks seem to thrive hereabouts.  There is plenty of open water available to them as despite the extensively frozen waterway, where fishermen have little heated cabins over their holes in the ice, the rapids never freeze over.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Sunday 23 January 2011 – Western Cabin from Meech Lake

Ken ascends Trail 40 on a cold morning

Today was apparently the coldest 23rd January in Ottawa’s records.  Sue and Helen went to the cinema and enjoyed a ‘Stammering King’ movie.  Ken and I braved the cool weather in Gatineau Park.  The thermometer stayed at minus 23C for the duration of our three and a half hour excursion.  It was around minus 30C after taking account of wind-chill.

We set off from P12 car park at Meech Lake soon after 11.30am.  It really did feel cool, even with a windproof Paclite over the t-shirt and ‘Vapour Rise’ smock that had kept me warm yesterday, but we soon warmed up as we ascended Trail 40 (pictured above) all the way to Ridge Road.  It always surprises me that feet stay warm with one pair of old socks in these cold conditions, but hands are hard to keep warm however many pairs of gloves are worn.

In less than an hour we had turned off Ridge Road, down Trail 2, and had reached Western Cabin (or ‘Lodge’), which if this report is true has moved about a bit before coming to its resting place here.

A chilly outhouse lurks nearby.

A Gatineau Park outhouse - Western Cabin

A large wood store is necessary for all such cabins.

The wood store at Western Cabin

The view from Western’s window is extensive – over the Ottawa River and many miles beyond.

The view from inside Western Cabin

It was steamy inside the cabin, where we were joined by Tim, Sophie and Claire, who’d arrived late at P12.  We hadn’t wanted to wait for them there, preferring the warmth of the cabin.

Western Cabin - Sunday lunchtime

The five off us enjoyed the return journey together.  Here we are, setting off from Western.  There was no sign of any cyclists, Canadians being very law abiding.

Setting off up Trail2 from Western

Our route back to Meech was via trails 1B, Ridge Road, 3, then back country trails 20 and 21, before joining trail 2 for a steep descent to trail 40 and the final plunge back down to P12.

Here’s Ken crossing a lake on trail 20.

Backcountry trail 20, across alake

Tim demonstrated that it was still at least minus 23C. Luckily there wasn’t too much wind-chill.

Signs of a cold afternoon

Our 14km route had about 400 metres of ascent, as did yesterday’s 20km route.  But due mainly to the ungroomed back country trails it was slower going and took the same length of time – about 3½ hours.

I’ll have a day off tomorrow.  My feet blistered yesterday.  An inspection of my shoes revealed they were worn out, so today I wore some of Ken’s (shoes, not feet).  He had discarded them.  “They gave me blisters” he explained.  Guess what!  They gave me blisters as well…
…. and they aren’t even Inov-8s!

Monday, 24 January 2011

Saturday 22 January 2011 – Herridge Cabin via Trail 50

Ken left early to do some skate skiing training with a gang of fitness freaks.  Not for me….
….I have no skate skis.

Leaving Sue to recover from the journey and enjoy a stroll by the Ottawa River, Helen and I headed across Ottawa to P19, the furthest of the car parks that we use for access to Gatineau Park.  It’s a 45 minute drive from our abode in Woodroffe Avenue, across the river from Ontario and into the French speaking region of Quebec.

The car was very cosy.  It has heated seats.  But one of the array of dials on the dashboard conveyed the message that outside it was minus 19C.  That’s fairly cold, even by local standards.

We managed a speedy transition from the car to trail 50 and headed off along the easy route past Lac Philippe to Herridge Cabin.

The sun shone as we passed the junction with trail 51.

Helen on Trail 50 approaching the Trail 51 junction

The thick woodland by Lac Philippe conceals a lovely undulating track, but given the paucity of snow and the thickness of the tree canopy, leaves from which had been released onto the track, it was a case of ‘proceed with care’ around here.

Despite the ‘leaves on the track’ problem we reached Herridge Cabin, an old farm house 10km from the road head, in less than an hour and a half after a gentle ski that was most suitable for a first such outing for nearly a year.

I was wearing two hats and three pairs of gloves.  [That’s to please Gayle, the statistician amongst the congregation.]

Martin outside Herridge Cabin

Herridge is a sturdy two storey cabin that’s usually crowded on a Saturday lunchtime.  However, due to today’s cold weather there were very few people there when we arrived. 

Herridge Cabin on 22/1/11

But the place filled up.  It became cosy.  The top of the cast iron stove filled with foil lined sandwiches, toasting on the hot surface.  A queue formed of folk wanting to toast the butties that they had assiduously prepared with the butter on the outside of the bread. 

A Hairy Woodpecker chomped away at the ample supplies on the bird table.  Five Blue Jays failed to unseat it.  Chickadees flitted on and off the feeder whilst a Nuthatch hopped down a nearby tree trunk.

Then it was out into the cold air again.  My hands never did get really warm, and a toe and a heel and a knuckle were all suffering from the effects of wearing rarely used shoes and gloves.  The legs were willing though, and the return journey to P19 was soon accomplished.   By the time we had finished it was overcast, with snow flurries.  Yes, it can snow at minus 20C!

Thus concluded my first ski of the year – 20km in about 3½ hours including 45 minutes at Herridge.  Very pleasurable, as was the evening, spent with Ken and Helen and a guest of honour, Lucy, who lives on Victoria Island and who kindly provided employment there for my daughter in her gap year nearly ten years ago.  It was good to meet you, Lucy.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Friday 21 January 2011 – Steel Tubes

US735 at Manchester Airport

We don’t particularly enjoy our days in steel tubes like this one that flits between Manchester and Philadelphia on a daily basis, nor the rigmarole of US customs and immigration just to transfer from Terminal A to Terminal F and our rather smaller tube to Ottawa. 

Alexander McCall Smith’s ‘The Lost Art of Gratitude’ kept me happy for a few hours; ‘Phili’ was friendly enough; and after the 15 hour journey we were pleased to be in Ottawa with all our belongings and Sue’s neck in an acceptable state.  There was no need to wait in the cold, as Ken pulled up immediately we exited the airport, and we were soon tucking into a traditional fish and chip supper with our old friends at ‘Chez Woodroffe’.

It was minus 15C.