Martin in Gatineau Park

Martin in Gatineau Park

Friday, 19 February 2016

Thursday 18 February 2016 – Herridge Cabin from P11

16021817meechlake

A perfect blue sky day saw Helen visiting her mum and Sue and I battling our way through Ottawa in Ken’s Imprezza to reach the P11 car park near Meech Lake by around 11.15.

It was minus 15C, rising during the day to minus 10C. This is the limit of comfort for my hands. Today I tried some of the hand warmers that are based on a reaction that warms up iron filings. They sort of worked, but my hands were cool for the first part of the afternoon ski back from Herridge. Sue reckons I need to put more effort into the skiing to keep warm. I thought I was doing that, but curiously the Fitbit heart rate data reveals a similar level of exercise as for ‘casual walking’, ie entirely ‘Fat Burn’, with no ‘Cardio’ or ‘Peak’ heart rate zones being reached whilst skiing. So perhaps I need to try harder (or get better gloves!).

We headed up trail 36, which has been closed for part of this season due to lack of snow. It’s quite hilly. A snowshoeing trail is soon reached. The sign always amuses us.

16021803nudist1

Today’s nudists and cyclists were, perhaps sadly, of a law abiding tendency.

16021804nudist2

It’s a lovely trail beside Meech Lake, with nobody else around today apart from one lady who dropped some gloves… with which she was later pleased to be reunited.

16021807trail36c

We met a grooming machine and for a while after that enjoyed the pristine surface that we were first to ski on.

16021808groomer116021811groomed2

For the last few km to Herridge Cabin we joined the much easier and more heavily used trail 50. Despite recent grooming, the soft, fresh snow seems to have churned up really quickly, though the groomed tracks on either side were fine.

16021814trail50

A couple of hundred metres before Herridge, we came across a man who was ‘paralysed’ in the tracks. The rescue sled arrived in about twenty minutes, by which time he had recovered sufficiently to return unaided to the cabin and be able to ride out on the back of the snowmobile rather than on the stretcher.

16021815herridge1

The bird feeder at Herridge was doing a roaring trade, with Blue Jays, Nuthatches, House or Purple Finches, Chickadees and more, plus small red squirrels harvesting the leftovers.

It was a lovely ski back along trail 36, with the sometimes tough descents all very easy in the soft conditions. My hands even got comfortably warm as the temperature rose to minus 10C.

At Meech Lake, one of a group of three elderly chaps decided to ski across the lake (see top picture) whilst Sue and I wound our way around the picturesque lakeside and back to P11 for a slightly tedious drive back home through Ottawa.

16021819bymeechlake

Today’s route: P11 > #36 > #50 > Herridge Cabin, and back by the same route – 20 km, 350 metres ascent, taking a little over 4 hours including stops.

I’m not sure what you’ll get next – mobile blogging perhaps, or a weekend break. We are off to the USA…

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Wednesday 17 February 2016 – A Trip to the Fire Tower

16021701trail40

51.2 cm of snow fell on Ottawa yesterday, apparently the most snow in one day since 1947. And this has been a winter of very little snow.

There’s a tendency to think that when it snows in the UK, drivers’ brains depart from the rest of their bodies, and there’s often a perception that in places such as Ottawa where people are more used to snow, and where winter tyres (and commonly All Wheel Drive) are habitually used, the driving standards may be better. Yesterday there were over 100 accidents in Ottawa, and today’s tally was about 75 by mid afternoon.

Helen, Sue and I battled through the snow to reach P12 (O’Brien) by 10.30, for an enjoyable ski up to ridge road, McKinstry Cabin and on to the Fire Tower, the most distant groomed point in Gatineau Park:

P12 > #40 > #24 > #1 > McKinstry > Fire Tower, and back – 25 km, 600 metres ascent, 5 hours including stops.

Frank caught us up at McKinstry and looked after our bags and got the fire roaring whilst the three of us went to the Fire Tower and back – a 5 km return trip.

It was Helen’s first visit to the Fire Tower for three years, so she was pleased with the achievement, as followers of my Facebook entries may have realised. (I was instructed to upload a photo that could be shared with all Helen’s friends.) Here she is with Sue, at the Fire Tower at around 1pm. The snow flurries that would accompany us for the rest of the day had started by then.

16021709firetower1

Here’s Sue after lunch getting ready to leave McKinstry Cabin together with a friendly couple who skied back to P12 at a similar pace to us (it took us 2 hours to get to McKinstry and an hour and a half to get back).

16021711mckinstry2

The final descent on trail 40 is quite steep in places, but in today’s soft conditions it’s very easy, even the final ‘dive’ to the car park!

16021713descent2

We’ve done this ski many times before, but never in conditions quite so soft. The trail grooming company did well to get the trails groomed so quickly after the heavy snowfall. They are often the butt of complaints, but not today.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Tuesday 16 February 2016 – Blizzard

16021604rideau2

Yesterday’s green wax for the skis was replaced today (after judicial removal of many leaves stuck to the skis) by some blue wax, but to no avail. Sue and I ventured out only briefly into the all day blizzard that has deposited around 35 cm – well over a foot – of white powder over Ottawa. Not a day to go for a drive, even to Mooney’s Bay just a couple of miles away.

The 4 km walking circuit from Quinterra Court took well over an hour. It was hard going. Sue posed for a few snaps, but she could be anyone on this monochromatic day.

16021601Quinterra116021602Quinterra216021603rideau1

Nevertheless, Michael and Sayuri did manage to get across Ottawa for their dinner (just one lamb was sacrificed), and a lovely evening was enjoyed by all of us.

Wednesday
Final tally – 51.2cm of snow fell here yesterday. Quite a lot by any standards!

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Monday 15 February 2016 – Renaud Cabin

16021506renaud1

After a 4 km walk on Saturday and a 14 km walk yesterday (a similar amount of skating for Sue and Ken), today Ken went to work and Helen, Sue and I headed off with our skis to parking lot P17 near Wakefield, where we hoped it would have warmed up a bit from the minus 22C that greeted us this morning, albeit on another lovely sunny day.

It did eventually gradually warm up to about minus 10C, clouding over this afternoon. We made the best of the weather by heading off to Renaud Cabin, pictured above. It has been rebuilt since last year. Here’s the old cabin, of which there is now no trace or reference.

Renaud

It’s a shame that the old cabin isn’t remembered in some way in the new one – it was a cosy place, with character.

A friend of Helen’s, Katie, joined us briefly until her waxless skis – not suitable for these cold conditions – forced her into an early bath. Meanwhile, one of my pole’s basket broke immediately after we set off, but its absence didn’t really hamper me too much on this easy route:

P17 > #53 > #51 > #50 > #55 > Renaud, and back the same way to P17, the #53 loop that we usually follow being out of condition, ungroomed, and possibly unpleasantly marshy. This is about 9.5 km each way, taking around 1.5 hours each way plus the time you stop in Renaud Cabin. We were out between 11.00 and 2.30 today.

Here are Sue and Helen in the sunshine on trail 51.

16021502suehelen

And at a junction – the Taylor Lake loop, we didn’t go that way today – on trail 50.

16021505suehelen3

The new Renaud Cabin has been referred to as the ‘Cathedral’ by some stalwarts of Gatineau Park.

16021507renaud2

This must be the lightest and sunniest interior of any of the Gatineau Park cabins. With the wood stove going like the clappers and the sun beaming in, it was red hot indoors, albeit well under minus 10C outside.

16021508renaud3

It’s a day cabin only. Alcohol and overnight stops are both banned.

Here’s a view to the wooded escarpment from just outside the cabin.

16021510renaudview

This was a gentle 19 to 20 km, on a lovely if cold day – a brilliant first ski of the season for Sue and me.

Monday, 15 February 2016

Sunday 14 February 2016 – A Walk, A Skate, and A Cake

16021403hogsback

We rose from our warm beds to a temperature of minus 28C outside, the coldest it has been here this winter. Too cold for comfortable skiing, so Sue and Ken went for a skate on the Rideau Canal.

Helen stayed at home and I walked down to the canal to meet Sue and Ken for lunch. We are about the same distance from the centre of Ottawa as we are in Timperley from the centre of Manchester (13 to 15 km), but some of the riverside stretches here are on private land. So it’s a 4 km road walk to Hog’s Back falls, into which the water in the top picture pours.

Nearby, the footpath beside the Rideau Canal is joined at this lock.

16021404lock1

After a couple of kilometres the end of the skating rink is reached. The sign at the end of the canal indicates 7.8 km to the Parliament Buildings – claiming to be the longest rink in the world.

16021406rideau1

I walked about half way down the rink before meeting Ken and Sue. Here, the rink passes under a bridge, near the TD football stadium, home of the Ottawa Redblacks. Note the motorist who appears to have taken the wrong exit at a roundabout. Canadians don’t ‘do’ roundabouts!

16021410rideau5

It was a day for wrapping up warm.

16021411kensue

It’s traditional to snack on ‘BeaverTails’ when skating on the canal. These are flavoured pastries, our favourite being cinnamon and sugar. By the time we had queued up, we were sufficiently cold to need to indulge in a bit of speed eating, so photos of the actual BeaverTails (which is exactly what they look like) will have to wait.

16021412beaver

I walked and the others skated back to where Ken’s car was parked next to the Dow’s Lake extension to the ice rink. Somehow I managed to arrive first, and I was relieved to see them not too far behind me on this icy cold day.

16021413dowslake116021415dowslake3

In between all this activity, Helen and Sue had been baking a cake. It was Ken’s birthday today. Just two years to go before retirement for him.

The kitchen had, during the manufacturing process, been designated a ‘no go’ zone due to a minor explosion of sugar. Surely they were making a cake, not a bomb! But I was allowed to record the results of their efforts, as portrayed below.

16021416cake116021418cake3

Careful! It’s about to explode!

16021419cake4

I dread to think what’s in the turquoise icing…

16021421cake6

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Saturday 13 February 2016 – Down by the Riverside

16021307rideauriver2

It was too cold to ski, so we enjoyed a short stroll by the River Rideau, accessed from our doorstep. Few pictures (2) were taken as frostbite was a serious risk if gloves were removed for more than a few seconds.

It was a lovely sunny day though.

16021308rideauriver3

The underground car park at the National Gallery of Canada enabled us to avoid the frost and visit the gallery, a favourite spot. We drove alongside the Rideau Canal, the longest skating rink in the world, to get there. There were a few hardy souls on the ice.

The gallery building is magnificent, and the Monet exhibition was interesting.

16021309natgal116021310natgal2

We also visited the rooms housing the work of the Group of Seven, a group of Canadian landscape artists whose work between 1920 and 1933 has earned them much acclaim. It’s good to see the originals of some of the prints in Ken and Helen’s house.

Here’s more on the Monet Exhibition:

16021311natgal3

About the Exhibition

Claude Monet (1840–1926), one of the most renowned and beloved French Impressionist painters, is celebrated for his seemingly fleeting impressions of the natural world. While he has been hailed as the plein-air painter par excellence, his art is not, however, as spontaneous as it may first appear.

Monet: A Bridge to Modernity is the first monographic exhibition in Canada devoted to the artist in almost two decades. Here, the National Gallery of Canada brings together twelve seminal works from collections around the world that highlight Monet’s methodical approach through his innovative experiments with the motif of the bridge. He did not simply paint what he saw; rather, he was an astute and deliberate artist who used this motif as a laboratory for working out his painterly technique and aesthetic ideas.

Monet painted these works during his stay in Argenteuil, a bustling suburb of Paris where he settled in late 1871 after his self-imposed exile in London and Holland during the Franco-Prussian War (1870–71). Upon his arrival in the small town Monet became fascinated with the local highway and railway bridges, repeatedly returning to this subject. In his important early work Le pont de bois (1872), currently on long-term loan to the Gallery, he depicts the highway bridge under repair following the destruction wrought by the war – a tribute to France’s return to order. With a cropped view and flattened perspective reminiscent of Japanese woodblock prints, Monet frames the river basin with the wooden structure of the bridge and the scaffolding, effectively creating a picture within a picture frame. This daring composition, in which the artist demonstrates a conscious interest in “picture-making,” became the point of departure for similar explorations of the bridge theme, each with a different viewpoint, technique, colour and brushwork. What resulted were paintings of startling modernity that cemented Monet’s status as one of the leaders of the nineteenth-century French avant-garde.

This focus exhibition casts new light on Le pont de bois as it delves into the historic, sociological and artistic context of the early years of Impressionism in the early 1870s. The twelve paintings on view are accompanied by a collection of nineteenth-century photographs, illustrations, guide books, Japanese prints and postcards. A truly immersive experience, Monet: A Bridge to Modernity provides a fresh view of some of the Impressionist’s most treasured works from a pivotal period in his career.

Monet’s talent… in my opinion is very serious and very pure… it is a highly conscious art, based upon observation and derived from a completely new feeling; it is poetry through the harmony of true colours…

Camille Pissarro, 1873

Claude Monet, The Bridge at Argenteuil, 1874, oil on canvas, 89.8 × 81.4 cm. Neue Pinakothek, Munich. 1912 Tschudi Contribution. Photo © Neue Pinakothek / Art Resource, NY

Claude Monet: The Argenteuil Years

Monet’s stay in Argenteuil, from late 1871 to 1878, marked a critical period in his career. Thirty-one-years-old, newly married and with a young son, he returned to France after the Franco-Prussian War and settled in the Parisian suburb near the banks of the Seine, embarking on a period of intense creativity during which he developed his powers of observation and visual analysis and refined his distinctive approach to landscape painting. In his first year at Argenteuil, Monet produced almost as many works as he did in the three years prior, painting the town’s busy streets and buildings, vine-covered hillsides, his own family in their rented house and garden, and the rippling Seine with its modern bridges. Until the end of 1873 the dealer Paul Durand-Ruel purchased Monet’s works nearly as fast as he could paint them, granting the artist a measure of financial success for the first time in his career.

Monet’s colleagues, including Alfred Sisley, Édouard Manet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, would often join him in Argenteuil, painting together and benefitting from one another in the process. Monet also played an important role in organizing the first of eight exhibitions of the “Société anonyme des artistes, peintres, sculpteurs, graveurs, etc.” in April 1874 in Paris, where the artist’s Impression Sunrise (1872) garnered much attention. Monet’s paintings of the Argenteuil bridges, executed during these momentous years surrounding the birth of the Impressionist movement, are among the most experimental and innovative compositions in his early career.

monet

Claude Monet, The Port at Argenteuil, c. 1872, oil on canvas, 60 × 80.5 cm. Musée d’Orsay, Paris. Photo: Hervé Lewandowski. © RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY