Martin in Gatineau Park

Martin in Gatineau Park

Friday, 13 February 2015

Thursday 12 February 2015 – Western Cabin from P10

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Just a short 16 km ski today, in cool and cloudy, but quite acceptable weather after another 10 cm of overnight snow.

Sue and I drove to P10, whence she shot off up Fortune Parkway, leaving me for dead in the wake of a small child.

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Trail 3, the Burma Road, was a delight to ski after overnight snow and a few folk in front of us had smoothed the trail. We turned right at Ridge Road then took trail 2 down to Western Cabin, where Sue is pictured leaving in the top image.

We hoped to avoid having to light a fire in a cold cabin for the third day running, and we were granted our wish. The cabin was full, with about thirty people warming themselves in front of a roaring fire. There was standing room only for a while, but we eventually found a couple of places on a table with two old ladies.

Then it was back up trail 2 and along the sweeping undulations of trail 1b to reach Champlain Parkway and its attendant ‘Lookout’, pictured below – one of the coldest spots in the Park.

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Not exactly blue skies, but a good view from the escarpment – a bit like some of the views from the North Yorkshire Moors escarpment above places like Thirsk.

We hastened on to the Étienne-Brûlé Lookout and then along trail 3 to regain Ridge Road. Zooming down past Huron Cabin and flying on down the Khyber Pass – in superb condition for a fast descent – we were soon back at Fortune Parkway by Gossips’ Corner. The easy descent from there to P10 car park was achieved by 2.30. My Garmin Gadget* wasn’t working today, but I reckon we were skiing for about 2¾ hours, plus our lunch break at Western, covering a little over 16 km, with 250 metres of ascent.

The evening was spent most enjoyably with Michael and Sayuri, Michael having taken the day off to cook us a splendid meal. It was brilliant. Thanks.

As I write this on Friday morning, it’s minus 25C outside, and with wind chill the weather forecast says it is currently minus 37C. We won’t be going far in those conditions, so the next entry will be in a couple of days’ time. I hope that won’t bother any of the thirty or so prompt readers of these postings; I’m sure it won’t disturb the reading habits of thirty more who tune in every few days to catch up, and it won’t bother the 250 or so other readers who tune in daily (perhaps by mistake) to one or other of the 2100 or so other postings to this on line diary.

* The ‘Garmin Gadget’ is my Garmin Forerunner 310XT gadget that I use to record my routes and produce .gpx files. Fellow blogger Gayle recently posted within some ‘Random Witterings’ a list of mainly ‘human errors’ that she has encountered when using her own GG, and I recognise all her ‘common failures’, reiterated below:

  1. Turn on GG before setting out on walk; place by window to obtain satellite signal; forget to pick up before leaving; upon returning from walk, switch it off with nothing recorded.
  2. Turn on GG before setting out on walk; obtain satellite signal; put in top pocket of day-pack; forget to press ‘start’; finish walk with nothing recorded.
  3. Turn on GG before setting out on walk; remember to pick it up and start it; complete walk but forget to stop it; drive off somewhere, very quickly increasing the recorded mileage and speed.
  4. Decide to take day-pack on walk for no reason other than to give a pocket in which to hold the GG; check contents of pack (decide not to take anything out for fear of forgetting to re-instate it later); go out for walk; remember after half an hour that the GG is still sitting, switched off and completely forgotten, in the living room.

To those I can add what happened to my GG today (a recurring issue) – I had re-charged it the previous night and taken it off the charger, the act of which inadvertently turned the gadget on, completely draining the battery in preparation for its next trip…

Duh.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Wednesday 11 February 2015 – O’Brien to Herridge

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The sun wasn’t as bright today, and with wind chill it was about minus 25C, but we enjoyed good snow conditions on the classic 10 km trail from O’Brien (P11) to Herridge Cabin.

A little way into this route there’s a shortcut across Meech Lake. Sue couldn’t resist it.

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Herridge Cabin was empty and cold. Sue laboriously lit a fire. I went to nearby Healey Cabin. It was full of French in front of a roaring fire. I went back to retrieve Sue. Back at Healey the cabin was now empty and hot. Our toasted ham and cheese sandwiches nearly got over-toasted. We were joined in front of the fire by a friendly couple from Ottawa.

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Then we left the cabin, which had been occupied by a farming family until 1955. They also served as caretakers for the Prime Minister’s nearby residence, so the humble farming family got to know a variety of Canadian Prime Ministers, foreign heads of state, and royalty. None of these was in evidence today – probably hidden behind private gateways.

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Trail 36 back to O’Brien is an entertaining route, with three steep downhill sections that can form icy luges in some conditions. Today they were easy and fun, as was the ‘Black Diamond’ (hard) trail from P11 to Fortune Parkway. We nipped up that before coming home, and enjoyed the sometimes tricky steep cambered descent back to the Imprezza that Ken kindly lends us whilst he is slaving over air traffic control software systems.

Pneumonia hasn’t dampened Helen’s culinary skills. We enjoyed a sumptuous dinner tonight, perhaps helped by the fact that her illness prevented her from joining us skiing, so she could enjoy pottering around the kitchen all day!

Today’s 24 km route is shown below:

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Tuesday 10 February 2015 – A Trip to the Fire Tower

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The ski from Lake Meech to the Fire Tower and back is usually an enjoyable one, and in today’s (relatively) warm and sunny weather the 25 km there and back trip, with about 550 metres of ascent, was superb.

We got a late start having waited for the early cloud to clear, so it was 11.30 by the time we set off up the steep hill (pictured above, looking deceptively flat) from P12.

There were very few people about, and the trails had been freshly groomed, so the going was superb, and having shortened my ‘wax pocket’ my skis were gliding along much better today. I was almost able to keep up with Sue, who’s pictured below on Trail 40 that leads up to Ridge Road.

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Arriving at McKinstry Cabin at 1 pm, we were surprised that nobody had bothered to light the stove, so our resident girl guide did the business before continuing on to the Fire Tower, the furthest you can get on this side of Gatineau Park on the groomed trails. There’s a path down to Luskville from the Fire Tower, which I have a vague recollection of visiting on snow shoes a few years ago.

The Fire Tower isn’t particularly photogenic, or did Sue just slip when taking this picture?

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Back at McKinstry the fire was now in full bloom and our sandwiches quickly toasted on the cast iron surface. The other visitors were both skate skiers, one who had popped across from Montreal for the day, and the other had a tin of oysters for his lunch then needed a bag to take care of the oily tin. These people hadn’t done much skiing this year due to the persistently colder than normal weather and the lateness of the snow.

After our second long break at the cabin we set off yet again into the blinding sunshine.

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It’s an easy 10 km back to the car park by 3.30 pm. A very enjoyable, mainly downhill, run in lovely light with long shadows. Our route is shown below (but the link, like many things, isn’t ‘Apple friendly’, I’m afraid).

Back at home, Ken was nominated for barbecue duty and we enjoyed some of British Columbia’s finest salmon burgers. Sue’s stomach has returned to normal, and Helen has some medication for her pneumonia, so she should make a full recovery but may not be able to do much skiing this week.

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Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Monday 9 February 2015 – A Beach Holiday

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Those who know us well may appreciate that Sue and I regard our winter trip to Ottawa as our annual ‘Beach Holiday’. Much of the time is spend lazing around, with occasional trips to the beach such as today’s to Mooney’s Bay.

Sue was recovering from explosive innards and Helen was battling with pneumonia. Ken wisely went to work. I eventually escaped to the beach at Mooney’s Bay and whizzed around three laps of the Classic Ski Track – about 10 km – before meeting Ken’s 4pm deadline for picking him up from work.

All this doesn’t really warrant an entry, but if I leave it blank I’ll be puzzled in years to come… “why was there no entry for 9 February 2015? What on earth could have happened? The answer can’t possibly be ‘nothing’!”

Since setting off on this trip I’ve been reading Alastair Humphreys’ book ‘Thunder and Sunshine’ – around the world by bike, part 2’, having recently read part 1 of the same adventure – ‘Moods of Future Joys’. I finished part 2 this morning, so the answer to the question above is definitely not ‘nothing’, as these are books to be appreciated and remembered. Alastair’s single-mindedness is remarkable; he is one of a rare breed of professional adventurers who are an inspiration to many but are emulated by very, very few. Not many of us will want to match Alastair’s feat of spending over four years of his life cycling around the world, but as a young man that trip has formed the foundation of his career as a writer and adventurer. Well done to him, and I wish him every success in the future. The books are a delight to read, providing an insight into Alastair’s many and varied feelings and moods and encounters as he undertook his journey, and relating how even in the poorest parts of the world, indeed more often in those parts, the ‘niceness’ of people and their generosity and helpfulness got him through so many difficult moments. Whilst inevitably he had a few bad experiences, his overwhelming conclusion was that the ordinary people of the world have something in common – the impression that they left on Alastair led him to conclude “Don’t believe what you see on the TV: the world really is a good place.”

Alastair’s latest project is one of ‘Microadventures’ closer to home, and I think he’s reported that the book is selling better than those about his epic bike ride. To my mind, there’s something not quite right about that, especially as the bike ride books are cheaper, and available in a bundle and on the Kindle (which version is sadly full of typos and minor errors).

NB I haven’t read the book, but I have an idea that Alastair’s take on a ‘Microadventure’ at Mooney’s Bay today would be to dig a hole in the ice and take a quick dip, regardless of the absence of a lifeguard…

Monday, 9 February 2015

Sunday 8 February 2015 – The Whiteface Resort

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For our final day of this holiday within a holiday, we headed to the Whiteface Resort in Lake Placid, which had been recced by Helen yesterday.

It comprises a series of short sections of well groomed undulating trails, on which a one-way system operates. A mix of picturesque woodland and open country makes for a most pleasant experience, albeit there are only 6-7 km of trails. We enjoyed two circuits of about 5 km each, punctuated by a long coffee break and followed by lunch in the comfortable lodge. Then we said our farewells to Susan and Roy, who had a long drive back to Glastonbury, and we set off ourselves into the snow that had been falling since we left Ottawa on Friday. For much of the journey home this snow mutated into freezing rain, despite the temperature of minus 16C.

A longer skiing route, the Jackrabbit Trail, passes through all three of this weekend’s Cross Country skiing venues.

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Roy is shown below on today’s trail. We had nearly a foot of snow overnight and Roy had tried to ski through this fresh snow instead of the groomed trail. He chose a steep hill on which to experiment, and after the resultant somersaults he was still smiling. We hope the imminent operation on his broken wrist (broken in a cycling accident last year) is more successful than the original surgery.

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We also hope that Sue recovers quickly from the stomach upset that competed with the freezing rain to blight our journey home.

Meanwhile, Ken managed all five stages (80 km) of the Canadian Ski Marathon on Saturday, spending the night at the ‘Gold Camp’. But in today’s tough conditions he decided to call it a day after just two sections, eventually arriving back home at 8.30 pm, with split boots (due to ‘the cold’) and split thumbs (due to ‘the cold’). He’s coming to the UK in April. We’ve found something a bit easier for him to tackle!

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Saturday 7 February 2015 - Mt Van Hoevenberg Ski Trails

Light snow continued to fall overnight,  giving good skiing conditions if a distinct lack of mountain views in this area where the 46 Adirondack summits over 4000 feet in height are 'bagged' by locals in much the same way as the Wainwrights are bagged in England. Well, that's not quite true as most of the 'Wainwrights' offer splendid views, whereas here (I believe) many of the summits are below the tree line.

After a hearty breakfast in Susan and Roy's adjoining room, Helen (full of cold) went off to explore the facilities at the nearby Whiteface Club and Resort (a bit like Mooney's Bay, she later reported) whilst the rest of us took a trip to the Mt Van Hoevenberg skiing complex.

A good choice. The trails here were used in both the 1932 and the 1980 Winter Olympics. After a relatively easy 10 km warm up in the north west corner of the complex, where a biathlon contest was due to take place later, we paused for an early lunch in the Cross Country Lodge, a warm, welcoming and busy spot. 

Then it was on to the Porter Mountain Ski Loops and the Ladies 5 km Olympic Circuit. The Loops reminded us of the Burma Road trail in Gatineau Park, but here the hills were a little bigger, if not steeper. Anyway, it was great fun even if I did struggle to keep up. I'm regretting replacing my old skis as the new ones - as of last year - seem to have a 'drag factor' that makes them rather slower. They simply refuse to glide.

After that 13 km we returned to the Lodge for a second lunch, before embarking on a further 7 km of action on the North Brook Trail and the Flatlander Extension Loop (a nice wind down), taking our total for the day to a little over 30 km.

It snowed gently all day - soft, fluffy stuff, so all we really saw was snowy woodland and intricate systems set up to tap into the local syrup factories - the maple trees common to this area. 

Dinner in Cascade Mountain Inn, followed by a slideshow of Susan's Tasmanian pictures nicely rounded off an excellent day.

Sent from Lake Placid