Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Saturday 8 February 2014 – A Trip to the Fire Tower

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On this lovely sunny Saturday, Ken, Sue and I took a 25 km trip from P12 by Meech Lake to the Fire Tower and back. This starts with a steep ascent (very nice on the return journey) up trails 40 and 24 to reach Ridge Road after just over 3 km. It continues for another 7 km along fine undulating ‘Forestry Commission’ type tracks to get to McKinstry Cabin, outside which we are pictured above.

It’s a relatively new cabin, though I can’t find its exact history. After pausing in the cabin for a quick cuppa, we continued a further 2.5 km, in a surprise flurry of snow, along Ridge Road to its terminus at the Fire Tower.

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It’s a lovely ski, along quiet tracks even at weekends, as most folk stop at the cabin. Conditions today remained great. It has been a good year for snow hereabouts, and today’s well groomed trails made life very easy. After being a bit cool earlier in the week I found myself seriously overdressed today, and quite damp when I got home – very unusual.

We thought of Michael and others, taking part in the 180 km Canadian Ski Marathon this weekend. Perhaps we should have entered, the conditions were just about as perfect as they could be for the event today. Unusual!

On the way back down trail 40 there’s a sun trap shortly before the final descent to Meech Lake. Ken took advantage, inadvertently doing a fine bit of advertising for Salomon. Wisely, he put a windproof layer on after this break, as the fast descent into the shade involves a significant drop in temperature, to about minus 10C today.

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Back at base, we enjoyed a welcome pot of tea with Helen, who brought us the news that she had been unable to fish out any small/medium lobsters from the supermarket pond. “So I got four large ones” she advised.

Jolly good!

Friday 7 February 2014 – Lac Philippe

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A fairly simple and standard outing on the skis is from P16 near Wakefield, along trail 50 to Lac Philippe, and back – a 19 km ‘there and back’ route.

We did this today with Helen, on a cold overcast morning. Minus 10C according to the thermometer, but up to minus 20 at times with the chill from an icy wind. We wrapped up well, however, and didn’t get cold. The picture above contrasts sharply with the blue skies of some of our previous visits. In 2012 for example.

Here are Helen and Sue at a corner that catches out many of the novices who ski this trail. It can be a hard turn for a novice on the way back down.

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Herridge Shelter is an old farm building from the 19th century. It’s situated half way along the trail to Lac Philippe. Converted to its current use in the 1980s, it serves as a good place to pause for a break on the way to the lake, and a good place to stop for lunch on the way back, by which time the fire you lit on the way out will be roaring and the two storey building will be pleasantly warm (or it would be if the powers that be hadn’t recently replaced the stove with an inferior model!).

In this cold weather, some might expect us to be hauling heavy rucksacks with lots of warm gear. But all you need is a windproof layer in reserve, to put over your two/three layers of t-shirt, long sleeved t-shirt and shell. Paclite ‘waterproofs’ are ideal, and are compact enough to be carried in a bum bag together with lunch, flask and ski waxing kit. Here’s Sue with our selection of bum bags, hers being in the middle. That’s the one she used for two weeks on the TGO Challenge then for five weeks on the E5 long distance trail, so there’s plenty of space in it on days like today.

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Above Sue’s head is a Radon testing notice and gadget. Those nice people who have banned bird feeders feel a need to test for radon gas as part of their latest Health and Safety initiative. We relaxed, in the knowledge that people have been living happily here since the early 1800s, and the Prime Minister’s country residence is just a few metres down the trail.

After an excellent lunch – the stove may be sub-standard, but it did toast our butties, we set off back to the P16 car park in good spirits.

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I’ve already mentioned that this is our ‘beach holiday’, so you won’t be surprised to hear that after our energetic 19 km outing on the piste we returned to Quinterra Beach Chalet to enjoy an afternoon of books and board games, with the odd pot of tea thrown in. I’m pointing to the winning move…

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Friday, 7 February 2014

Thursday 6 February 2014 – Hog’s Back Falls

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Today was bright and sunny in Ottawa. But very cold. Minus 20C. So we gave skiing a rest and resumed our 'beach holiday'.

That included a short walk beside the nearby Hog's Back Falls, on the Rideau River, pictured above. The idea behind the name is obvious, but looking at the falls it's a mystery to me how they became so named.

Both black (like our greys) and diminutive red squirrels are abundant here. This bold black one seemed keener to chew a twig than to risk chomping on the evergreen bush to the right of the picture. Carrion crows lurked nearby, trying to spot where the squirrels were hiding their goodies.

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Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Wednesday 5 February 2014 – A Camp Fortune Circuit

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Wednesday means a downhill skiing lesson for Helen, at Camp Fortune, the hub of Ottawa’s ‘downhill’ fraternity. So Sue and I started our cross-country route from here, using trail 14 to reach Ridge Road.

It was an overcast day with a bitter breeze. My Sealskinz gloves are marginal in this weather (-10C plus wind chill), so tomorrow I may use thicker gloves that unfortunately need to be removed in order to use the camera. (Not that I used it much today.)

So today there were very few pictures as they would be 'dull and samey' as opposed to just samey. I've therefore headed this posting with a picture of Huron Cabin taken yesterday. I have in the past received requests for pictures of cabins in Gatineau Park, and anyone who wants one is welcome to have a full size version of this image.

The cabins are not 'en suite', but they do have toilets, in Huron's case 'his and hers', but most cabins have just one unisex thunder box.

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In past years we've enjoyed watching the birds on the feeders at the cabins, but recently it has been decreed that such activity harms the birds, so feeders are now banned in the park. "We don't feed the bears, so why should we feed the birds" say the powers that be, perhaps unaware that the bears are currently fast asleep whilst the birds need all the help they can get to survive.

Perhaps bureaucrats have similar attributes the world over.

However, we have seen red squirrels, hairy woodpeckers, nuthatches, tree creepers and chickadees in the woods. The chickadees are a bit like a cross between a great tit and a blackcap.

After getting as far as the far junction of Ridge Road with trails 24/40, we returned via trail 24 to Ridge Road, then trail 3 – the Burma Road – which was a delight to descend today, though trail 32, our back country route to return to Camp Fortune, was mostly too hard for us and had to be walked.

Our outdoor activities for the day were now at an end after 20 km on the pistes, so we enjoyed lunch in the cafe with Helen, and Frank, who’d been doing some telemarking.

A nasty, swirling, light snow then accompanied us home, making us glad we’d stopped at lunch time as we peered out from the warm car.

Tuesday 4 February 2014 – A Trip to Western Cabin

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Another lovely sunny day on which to christen my new ski gear.

Ken went to work. Somebody has to fund the lifestyle!

Pauline, my old colleague from Grant Thornton days, called to celebrate her annual two weeks of gloating about how young she is…

Cinnamon buns put us in a good mood for skiing in the sunshine, so Sue, Helen and I headed off to P7 (Kingsmere) for a 25 km ski as far as the trail 24 loop with Ridge Road and back again. On the way, Helen enticed us down a narrow ‘off-piste’ trail towards a lookout.

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I was the only one to fall over…

We proceeded uneventfully past Keogan Cabin and up the Khyber Pass to Huron Cabin, where no fire had been lit. After a cuppa and a break to warm my hands (-10C didn’t seem to suit them today) we continued around the trail 24 loop, then back along ridge road and trail 2 to Western Cabin, and its roaring fire, for lunch.

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Excellent cheese and ham toasted sandwiches, with or without mustard!

The easy ski back took most of us along trail 1B to the Champlain Lookout, for extensive views from the Gatineau Park escarpment that houses around 200 km of cross-country ski trails.

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An excellent outing in lovely weather with a full set of teeth.

The new skis and, more importantly in some ways, boots were fine, though I took the day very slowly.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Monday 3 February 2014 – Beside the Rideau River

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Today was a lovely ‘blue sky’ effort. No skiing, sadly, so my new skis have to wait until tomorrow to be christened. I suppose the day’s rest will help to re-acclimatise those muscles that can still be felt from the previous two days.

The day was dominated by my need for attention to a dental problem – the crown that was fitted to the tooth that broke during our last trip three weeks ago fell out last night. It was only fitted on Thursday, but my dentist did try so hard to sort it out by the time we left, and it was clear to me on Thursday that the laboratory had provided her with an item that could have fitted better. It’s re-fixed now, at considerable cost that may or may not be recoverable. C’est la vie!

Before the dental visit, Sue, Helen and I enjoyed a short walk from the house beside the Rideau River, which flows into the Ottawa River beside which Ken and Helen used to live.

It was sunny and warm for our delightful stroll.

A visit to Joan followed the ‘ouch’ visit (wallet, not mouth) and the day was more or less gone by then, apart from the usual ‘beach holiday’ activities that form an integral part of our visits to Ottawa at this time of year.

Great fun!

Monday, 3 February 2014

Sunday 2 February 2014 – The Burma Road

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The above picture is a rare sight in these parts at this time of year. Simon and Doug are lunching in comfort on the bench beside Trail#1 at Huron Cabin. It’s warmer than –5C on a calm, sunny day. It’s usually much colder than this, and until the current warm spell has apparently been diabolically cold in these parts.

We awoke to around 10cm of fresh snow and decided to head into Gatineau Park before it got too crowded on what would turn out to be the best skiing day of the year here, according to numerous comments made by passing friends and strangers alike.

After purchasing my season’s ski pass at the Visitor Centre, and parking at P9, we were soon on Fortune Parkway together with a plethora of skiers ranging from super athletic types like ironman (woman) Cory – in training with a large rucksack for next weekend’s 160 km Canadian Ski Marathon – to families, with small children being pulled in centrally heated sleds.

After 3 km or so, Sue, Ken and I headed up #3, Burma Road, for a scenic journey to Huron Cabin, whilst Helen stuck to the Parkway and #1. The soft fresh snow made life very easy, though the others seemed to need to re-wax a couple of times whilst my skis performed well on yesterday’s blue wax. Here are Ken and Sue, enjoying the undulations of the narrower Burma Road trail before bumping into Tasmin and her husband.

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Lunch was taken in the busy cabin at Huron, with sandwiches toasted on the hot cast iron surface of the wood burning stove.

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After lunch, we headed down #1 to the Khyber Pass – an easy descent on the fresh snow – before returning to P9 via the wide, well groomed tacks of Fortune Parkway. There were lots of very slow skiers to dodge on this warm, sunny Sunday afternoon, but it was hard to keep up with the ‘buggy sledges’.

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My Garmin showed 15.5 km for the trip, compared with 8 km in Mooney’s Bay yesterday.

A visit to Fresh Air Experience on the way home signalled the collection of my new Salomon skis and the sad demotion of the battered old Fischers to ‘rock skis’ for use in conditions where the snow may be inadequate.