Martin in Gatineau Park

Martin in Gatineau Park

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Friday 26 February 2016 – Parc Omega

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Today, Sue and Helen and I enjoyed a visit to Parc Omega.

It’s a wildlife park in Quebec, where we observed some of the local fauna who don’t hibernate. They were mostly very friendly. And lovers of carrots.

We took lots of pictures, a few of which are shown below. The musk ox and moose pictures (and others) are on Sue’s camera but may be added into a slideshow when we get home.

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We have an early start tomorrow, so that’s all for now after a lovely blue sky day and temperatures below minus 10C. What a contrast to yesterday’s rain! The weather here in Ottawa is all over the place…

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Thursday 25 February 2016 – An Ottawa Day

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A rainy day in Ottawa.

Sue and Helen took a trip to the Nordic Spa in Chelsea, dropping me off en route in town. It was raining, and very slushy. The National Gallery seemed a sensible place to hang out. I spent a most satisfying morning there.

The top picture shows the sculpture by the front door, with the gallery building behind it. The picture below was taken from the coffee shop towards Parliament buildings.

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You don’t really expect to find a flower bed in an art gallery.

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Looking the other way from the same balcony, here’s the coffee shop and the window through which I took the earlier picture.

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A room ‘full’ of abstract art lived up to its name.

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After looking at paintings all morning, I adjourned for lunch. Here’s a self explanatory view through the cafeteria window.

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I chose, perhaps foolishly, to walk home. it’s about a two and a half hour stroll – 14 km, the first 10 km of which is beside the Rideau Canal, the ‘Longest Skating Rink in the World’. This year it looks to have had a very short season. It’s soggy and wet and very much out of bounds.

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Both the road and the pavement were flooded by melting snow. Workmen were sorting the road out (we had earlier had to turn back when driving into Ottawa) but the pavement was inundated. It was an unpleasant march through three inches of slush for much of the way home. My Scarpa boots kept the water out, but the slush and salt mixture probably did them no good at all.

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Today’s pictures are courtesy of the Samsung S5 as I forgot to take a camera, but I think the monochromatic results would have been very similar with a proper camera.

Right, Helen’s at the cooker, Sue’s knocking up the G&Ts, Ken’s in the wine cellar, and I’m off to give those boots a good wash.

Wednesday 24 February 2016 – Pink Lake from Gamelin

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We awoke to temperatures just below freezing, with snow flurries – forecast to turn to rain later. So Sue and I decided on a morning ski from Gamelin, near the centre of Ottawa. There are no cabins in this section of the park, so it lends itself to a quick half day outing. Very few pictures were taken as snow fell during the entire two and a half hours that we were out, but the skiing conditions were superb for Sue’s birthday outing.

She says thanks for all the good wishes btw, and is pictured above enjoying herself on trail 15. That one can be quite exciting in icy conditions, but in today’s fresh snow it was easy and gentle.

This year we are noticing winter cycling routes being marked for the first time. The fat tyred bikes, of which we have seen none, seem to be sharing the snowshoers’ trails. I don’t know what the snowshoers think of that, but I do think the idea is a good one and I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of these brave cyclists with their super fat tyred machines in the future.

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Our route took us nicely on a tour of the eastern end of Gatineau Park, as follows:

Gamelin (P3) > Gatineau Parkway > #5 > #15 > Lac Pink > Gatineau Parkway > #26 > #5 > Gatineau Parkway > Gamelin – 17km with about 300 metres ascent, taking rather less than two and a half hours.

The route ends soon after the parkway crosses a bridge over a main road, from where there’s normally a good view of the centre of Ottawa. Here it is today, as Sue speeds across the bridge.

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So today’s images aren’t exactly stunning. Unlike Alison’s recent ‘roadside’ shot taken on the west coast of Scotland. I’m sure she won’t mind me inserting it here, together with her commentary:

I posted this photo to "Scotland from the Roadside" yesterday and it got lots of likes, shares and comments. The admin for the group asked if it could be used as the group's banner picture! I'm thrilled to bits.

Alison

Well done Alison, that’s a great picture.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Tuesday 23 February 2016 – Kingsmere to Fortune

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Temperature about minus 10C today, minus 18C with wind chill, so relatively warm under a cloudy sky. Helen joined us for a ski from Kingsmere (P7) but she soon turned back as she didn’t like the firm going. She then drove to Fortune (P10), having agreed to meet Sue and me for lunch in Huron Cabin.

Trail 30 from Kingsmere heads uphill to join Ridge Road (trail 1) at the top of Penguin Hill, one of the steepest trails in the park and one which we will be unlikely to brave in the current firm conditions. We didn’t therefore descend Penguin, preferring to stay on Ridge Road to Keogan Cabin. The undulating trail was smooth, with a crisp surface that made control quite easy. We zoomed past Keogan and paused outside Shilly-Shally Cabin, one of the smallest in the park. Sue is pictured outside it on the grey day that wasn’t conducive to photography. Inside, a group was getting the fire going; all these cabins are equipped with excellent wood burning stoves.

I wrote all about this cabin back in 2012, should anyone be interested – here.

We continued up Ridge Road, over the Khyber Pass and past Huron Cabin to join yesterday’s route at the Burma Road junction. The Ridge Road/trail 1B loop that we skied yesterday was soon behind us and we passed Champlain Lookout before heading along Champlain Parkway to join Helen for lunch in Huron Cabin.

Everyone was speaking English here today; yesterday it was a French language zone. The fire was roaring and our butties soon toasted.

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Helen set off back to P10 well ahead of us, so Sue took the opportunity for a nap before following her down the 5 km Parkway route that took us a little over 20 minutes on the fast downhill track.

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This short outing clocked up 18 km with 300 metres ascent, and took around 3 hours including stops. A fine little trip on an otherwise highly relaxing day.
P7 > #30 > #1 > #1B > Champlain Parkway > Huron Cabin > Champlain Parkway > Fortune Parkway > P10.

Remember, this is our annual ‘beach holiday’. There are books to be read….
The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins
Curtain Call – Anthony Quinn
The Joy of Hillwalking – Ralph Storer
Tiny Sunbirds Far Away – Christie Watson
The Tea Planter’s Wife – Dinah Jefferies

I have enjoyed or am enjoying all of these and more. Some of them are courtesy of a Book Club that Sue has joined.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Monday 22 February 2016 – Huron Cabin and a Parkway Circuit

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Sue and I took the Impreza to car park P10, at the bottom of Fortune Parkway, for an enjoyable 30 km circuit on a blue sky day in temperatures of minus 10C plus a bit of wind chill – just warm enough for me to avoid getting cold hands, which makes a huge difference to the enjoyment.

We warmed up on the 2 km ascent to the turn up trail 3, aka The Burma Road. This is one of our favourites, but it was very poorly groomed today. Apparently there have been lots of complaints about the standard of grooming of this trail this year. It was full of holes and quite icy and seemed to have been (incorrectly) used as a hiking trail. Quite challenging, but we made it up to Ridge Road without falling over.

The following two pictures were taken at the bottom of the icy Burma Road hill, which I’m glad we didn’t have to descend. (It was hard enough to ascend!)

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After an easy ski along Ridge Road to the turn to Western Cabin, we took the short, undulating, and well groomed track 1B to join the Champlain Parkway near the lookout over the St Lawrence plains and the Eardley escarpment.

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Huron Cabin, pictured above, was reached shortly before 1pm, after 12 km and two hours of skiing, via the Etienne lookout, trail 3 and Ridge Road.

The stove was humming – our sandwiches, normal cheese and ham butties, but buttered on the outside and wrapped in foil, toasted in no time at all. Skis were re-waxed as the frozen surface of the trails seemed to have cleansed them of the earlier application.

The afternoon was spent on the Parkway circuit back to P10 – 18 km in about two hours, despite a bout of laziness on Sue’s part and the total loss of all our re-applied light blue wax. Perhaps we should have used blue. Anyway, the downhill sections were pretty quick; my Garmin Gadget recorded one kilometre in two and a half minutes, so we must have been going at well over 20 mph* for part of that – whizzing down the icy tracks it felt a bit like being an out of control freight train with no brakes. Exhilarating, but a bit scary when the tracks had jinks and lumps in them.

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Today’s excellent 30 km route with about 600 metres ascent:

P10 > Fortune Parkway > #3 > #1 > #1B > Champlain Parkway > #3 > #1 > Huron Cabin > Champlain Parkway > Gatineau Parkway > #32 > P10.

Meanwhile, Ken had returned from the 160 km Canadian Ski Marathon having completed all five sections on the first day, albeit the second section was by bus. Apparently a grooming machine (like the one pictured on trail 36 a few days ago) had lost its tracks and got stuck on the second section. About 200 skiers got past it and found themselves wallowing in knee deep snow for the rest of the section. The section was then closed and skiers were bussed to the start of section 3. But the buses were all in the wrong place, and it was pouring with rain. Ken got a bus after an hour’s wait, but others were delayed by up to three hours. Many people just gave up. Out of about 400 skiers who planned to make it to the ‘Gold Camp’ – where the elite hang out overnight on bales of straw – at least a third didn’t make it. Next day many skiers found it impossible to get their waxing correct in the warm, wet conditions. Ken managed a couple of sections before realising he wouldn’t make the cut off, so he cut his losses and headed to the post event banquet. Others really did bust a gut to try to finish the course, and were totally shattered by the end. I’m sure that ‘stories’ abound on social media sites if you care to look for them, but it seems to me that our decision not to take part in the event this year (and perhaps ever again) was a wise one.

* Garmin shows a maximum speed of 34.9 kph (22 mph).

Monday, 22 February 2016

Friday 19 to Sunday 21 February 2016 - A Trip to the Adirondacks

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Friday dawned grey in Ottawa. We left town via Sail, a shop that sells all things outdoors. I inspected electric gloves and came away bemused by the array of choices. I love to hate such shops, where tacky stuff lines up with quality items but there's no real way of knowing which is which. Maybe it's all quality stuff - I'm sure Sail would argue that case - but I find the choice so overwhelming that I have to make a quick exit.

About a four hour drive from Ottawa is Lake Placid, in the Adirondack mountain region where about fifty summits rise above 4000 feet, which is occasionally above the tree line.

Nearly half way along the route, beyond Cornwall and the St Lawrence river, the US border officials politely detained us for 30 minutes whilst they established that we were not a threat to security. Apart from paying $14 each for an 'ESTA' certificate we now had to pay a further $6 each for the privilege of another stamp in our passports. Hopefully certain other (safer) countries won't regard these stamps with the same suspicion as the US regards theirs.

Before the border, we had passed the bridge that used to take traffic over the St Lawrence. A different route is now used for large vessels, so the old bridge has been replaced by a much lower toll bridge. The old structure is slowly being demolished; the roadway used to be on the very top of the supports pictured below.

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After a snack in a 'Dodgy Donut' shop in a run down town called Malone, we continued on past grimy houses clad with washboard, or metal for the posher residences, wending our way slowly towards Lake Placid, and the delights of a Spruce Lodge town house. Very nice it was too.

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A trip to a supermarket saw to our immediate needs, and Susan and Roy rolled in from Glastonbury (Connecticut) to make up our complement of five.

Meanwhile, Ken was enjoying the camaraderie of the 'Gold dorm' before starting the 160 km Canadian Ski Marathon (CSM) on which we've reported before.

A pleasant evening was spent catching up with Susan and Roy and discussing options for the morrow. There's hardly any snow here, so inclusion of our skiing gear was wildly optimistic!

Saturday

Overnight snow raised our hopes, but only very briefly. Only a couple of centimetres had fallen. Not enough.

Helen had a relaxing agenda involving a shopping trip for Ken. The rest of us went to Adirondacks Loj car park for the short ascent of Mount Jo, 2876 feet.

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Microspikes and Yaktrax were appropriate footwear for the steep ascent over ice that was clad with the small amount of soft overnight snow.

Here we all are on the rocky summit with views to some of the higher peaks to the south.

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We’d ascended by the steeper ‘Short Route’, and now we descended by the ‘Long Route’, which also had steep sections laced with ice.

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Lower down, the path follows the course of a stream. In summer the path would be beside the stream, but now it simply careers down the frozen waterway, presenting a minor challenge for the Microspikes.

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Heart Lake lies at the bottom of the hill, looking like a small frozen sea today.

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Adirondacks Loj (sic) provided a cosy place to eat our butties and watch the drizzle increase outside. After a walk of just 5.5 km in the morning we were tempted by an afternoon walk in the woods up to Marcy Dam – an 8 km there and back trip.

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It rained. Here are Sue and Roy on the reservoir, seen from the dam. People coming down from the summits reported full winter conditions. We were happy to turn back into the relative shelter of the woods.

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After another sociable evening at Spruce Lodge, where two roast chickens and a pile of roast vegetables fuelled us, we awoke to a rainy Sunday.

Susan and Roy managed a three and a half hour walk up to the Porter and Cascade summits (well done them), whilst the rest of us drove back to Ottawa for lunch. We didn’t feel that we were missing too much in the limited visibility, though we understand S and R did get some views on their descent.

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Mooney’s Bay provided scope for the three of us to get some exercise in the sunshine, a five minute drive from home, but the skiing conditions, after a Saturday of rain and +7C temperatures, were fairly desperate, with standing water in the tracks and very messy wax being needed to get any grip at all. Helen’s waxless skis were definitely the best option for today.

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Later, Ken arrived home after completing just seven of the ten CSM stages. More of that later, as I’m now under pressure to finish this entry on a sunny Monday morning, wax the skis, and get off to Gatineau Park, where today’s conditions may be ok.