Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019

Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019
On the Archduke's Path in Mallorca

Saturday 30 January 2010

Saturday 30 January 2010 – A Blue Sky Day…

It’s always a good title - ‘A Blue Sky Day’, and it certainly was just that today.

It was cold again – about the same as yesterday – around minus 20C plus wind chill.  So we set off late, to P6 – the MacKenzie-King car park.  This gives easy access to the Champlain Parkway, a wide, undulating, well groomed ski trail that after about 10 km reaches the Champlain Lookout.

Today we hastened on from the Lookout to Huron Cabin for lunch – it was surprisingly quiet for a Saturday in the middle of the skiing season.  I think the cold weather puts off the vast majority of people.  But it didn’t put off this Man with Three Hats.

Man with Three hats

The Chickadees were actively rummaging around in the seeds, though I still can’t get a good picture of one.  This is my best effort to date.


The return to P6 was quite speedy until Helen demanded “more wax!”, so a pit stop was made on the sunny trail.  But you soon cool down at –20C!

Re-waxing skis on the trail

Tonight it’s the Canoe Club’s annual Skating Party – a Canoe Club get together in their enforced close season.  They go skating whilst I wander along the banks of the canal – skating being neither of my talents!  Then we adjourn to Catherine’s house for a sumptuous feast to which everyone contributes a dish.  I’ve contributed the cream on top of a trifle!  Here are some ‘likely suspects’ enjoying last year’s party.

At the Canoe Club Skating Party, 2009

Friday 29 January 2010

Friday 29 January 2010 – Brass Monkey Weather

On Monday it was +9C in Ottawa.  Today it was –20C.  Taking account of wind chill, say –30 to –35C in Gatineau Park.

Both Ken and Helen skilfully averted their attention to the cold, by going to work. 

Having dropped Helen off, returned home for breakfast, dallied with washing, blogging, etc, I was left with a free day.

So I went skiing.  P7 at Kingsmere is about 30 minutes away.  It really was minus 20 with a cutting wind at the start of trail 30.  But that could be the least of my problems, according to this rather prominent sign.

'Marginal Ski Conditions

It was nearly 11 am and I was the only visitor at this popular place.  The Impreza looked very lonely in the huge car park - and there’s another similar sized one across the road – they can get full, but not today!

P7 parking lot

Not many photos were taken today, as I wore heavy duty gloves to protect my delicate digits.  The steep hill out of Kingsmere helped to warm them, but it wasn’t until I passed the small Shilly Shally cabin some 40 minutes later that I felt happy to pause for long enough to take a photo.

Shilly Shally Cabin

It’s my hands that struggle in these cold conditions; feet are fine with a single pair of socks; legs are very cosy in long johns, trousers and overtrousers; and my upper body is more than warm enough in a long sleeved t-shirt and a ‘Vapour Rise’ smock.  My three hats are more than sufficient to keep my head warm.

Anyway, now with nicely warmed hands I stormed along the freshly groomed Ridge Road.  There was nobody else about on this brilliantly sunny day, so my shadow would have to do as foreground…

Lonely Ridge Road

At the turn to Western Cabin, I headed down the still ungroomed trail 1B, then on to Huron for lunch, where someone had kindly lit the fire and a lady called Jackie provided good company for half an hour.

The chickadees (birds) were very cheerful here today, but I failed to get a presentable picture.  My thermometer, at the end of the day, turned out to be a more obliging subject, even if it had been in the sun and was giving an optimistically warm reading.

 Minus 16?

This was a lovely two and a half hour ski – about 20 km – in lovely conditions once you got used to the cold.  I’ve not seen the Park so quiet on such a sunny day – the locals do seem rather averse to going out in cold weather.  Sadly, mine is Hobson’s Choice, as I’m only here for a short time and have already been ‘rained off’ on two days.

It’s another dinner party tonight, this time with Michael and Sayuri – hurrah!

Thursday 28 January 2010 – Meals on Wheels

Helen on the Parkway in a snow flurry by P9

Sue and I are very familiar with the ‘Meals on Wheels’ concept as we frequently entertain our friends at their houses, so that the children can have normal bedtimes (and perhaps not cause chaos in our own small house!).

I suspect that Tim’s motives were different.  Perhaps it was a reluctance to expose his bachelor pad kitchen to ‘outsiders’.  Anyway, “Would you like me to cook dinner for you and Ken, and Martin, and Sophie.  I do a nice Boeuf Bourguignonne” was his opening gambit to Helen.  Whilst her brain was still processing this unexpected offer, Tim extended it by adding “can I bring it round to your place, where the ambience is much better.”

“Tim doesn’t want to clean his kitchen” observed Helen (or was that me?) after the generous offer – who could refuse it, as Tim is renowned for this dish – had been accepted.

That was earlier in the week, and today was the appointed day for Tim’s ‘Meals on Wheels’ service.

Delicious it was, too.  Thank you, Tim.

 Tim and his superb Boeuf Bourguignonne

Helen wasn’t completely upstaged, as can be seen…

Helen's magnificent pavlova

Earlier in the day, Helen and I had enjoyed a short ski from P8 to P9 and back.  It started sunny, but by the half way point, pictured at the head of this posting, snow flurries were depositing a bit more much needed snow.

Tim Horton (for those readers in the UK - this is a different Tim to ‘Meals on Wheels’ Tim) provided lunch, then Helen went to a ‘Visitation’.

The mother of one of H’s work colleagues sadly died earlier in the week. In these parts they have a different system to the one in the UK.  It is accepted practice to embalm the body and put it on display in a large room on the undertaker’s premises.  The undertaker rents out numerous such rooms.  For one day the family are in attendance in this room to greet those who wish to mourn the family’s loss.  That’s commonly done within a couple of two hour slots - ‘Visitations’ - during which relatives and friends come to pay their respects (and view the embalmed body in its best suit of clothes).

The funeral normally takes place – by burial or cremation (yes, it seems a lot of effort to embalm a body, only for it to be cremated a couple of days later!) – on the  following day.  It is attended mainly by family and close friends, but many of those going to one or other of the Visitations will not attend the funeral, where lengthy eulogies may be expected.

Just thought you might be interested!

Thursday 28 January 2010

Wednesday 27 January 2010 – A Bimble in Gatineau Park

A routine sort of day really – I dropped H off at work then it was back home for breakfast and ski waxing before the short drive to P10 (Parking Lot 10), to start skiing at 10.15.

Warning signs at the bottom of Fortune Parkway indicated dangerous conditions, so I simply headed up the Parkways to Champlain Lookout, then on along Ridge Road to the path (#) 24 turn off to Meech.

The wide boulevard that is Fortune Parkway - ski trail in winter, busy road in summer

The parkways had been groomed, but not #24.  However, it looked easy enough as there had been about 10 cm of soft new snow up here at 400 metres, so I headed experimentally down the ungroomed trail.  It was easy, especially on one sharp downhill corner which often catches me out!

Back onto Ridge Road for a while, then #1B, not groomed but easy, and ‘black diamond’ trail 9 which returned me to Ridge Road, along which I continued to Huron Cabin for lunch.

Here’s the start of the ungroomed trail 9.  No bikes allowed, I see!

Trail 9 at its junction with trail 1B

Huron Cabin is one of the older cabins in the park, and is heavily used due to its proximity to easy trails.  Notice the bird feeder on the left.

Huron cabin - quiet and overcast on 27/1/10

The birds and red squirrels were tucking in voraciously to the copious supplies of food in the feeder.  All cabins have such feeders outside, and it’s great to watch the wildlife at close quarters – Blue Jays, Chickadee, Nuthatches, Hairy Woodpeckers – were all present today.

Here’s a Blue Jay and a red squirrel in reluctant harmony.

 Blue Jay / Red Squirrel

The Hairy Woodpeckers get everywhere.  They are the medium size of woodpecker seen here, Pilates being (much) bigger, and Downy being smaller.

 Hairy Woodpecker outside Huron Cabin

From Huron, the five or so km back down to P10 took only around 25 minutes, though the trail was actually slower than on Saturday, the fresh snow having successfully neutralised the icy conditions caused by Monday’s rain.

I was back home by 2 o’clock, feeling satisfactorily well exercised.

It has been suggested that this blog should be renamed ‘Postcard TO Timperley’.  Mark has a fair point, and as Sue returns to Timperley from her sojourn in Egypt on Thursday, this will in effect become a postcard to her back at base.  We are all missing your presence over here, Sue, and hope the sun is shining in Timperley for your return.

Wednesday 27 January 2010

Tuesday 26 January 2010 – The Canadian War Museum

Helen and I entertained ourselves today by visiting this museum.  It’s only a couple of miles away but this was H’s first visit, apart from social functions held in the basement amongst an array of tanks and armoured vehicles.

The museum traces activities on Canadian battlegrounds up to 1885 –’First Peoples’ Warfare; New Alliances; Clash of Empires; The Battle for Canada; The American Revolution; The War of 1812; and Conflict and Confederation.  Then it moves on to conflicts on ‘foreign soil’ in which Canada, as part of the British Commonwealth, was involved.  There are sections covering the Boer War, WW1 and WW2, with particular emphasis on areas of significant Canadian involvement, such as Vimy.

Then there’s a large section covering The Cold War, Korea, NATO, etc, up to the present time.

It was very difficult to take it all in in a morning, but the exhibits were well presented, with lots of places to rest and watch short informative videos.

This ship’s wheel, from HMCS Rainbow, was huge and magnificent.

HMCS Rainbow's ship's wheel

Primitive forms of communication used in WW1 were documented.

Wartime messenger

A magnificent armour plated Mercedes Benz used by Hitler at parades in the 1930’s had somehow found its way to Ottawa.

A parade car used by Hitler

Beyond the main galleries is the ‘Regeneration Hall’, where you stand on a high balcony and look across to narrow windows in the ‘fin’ of the War Museum building, to the Peace Tower beyond, high above the centre of Ottawa.  On the floor of the hall is the Statue of Hope, one of twenty plaster sculptures made by Walter Allward around 1925-30 as part of his design for the Vimy Memorial in France.

Looking past the Statue of Hope to the Peace Tower

Seventeen of the twenty evocative plaster sculptures are housed in this hall.  Here are some more.

Some of Walter Allward's plaster sculptures

Before leaving, we popped into the current ‘exhibition’.  It was on ‘Camouflage’, and apart from lots of military sorts of exhibits (like a bikini that looked as if it had been dragged off Ursula Andress on a James Bond set) there were some really rather amusing items such as the one below.

An exhibit in the camouflage exhibition

And believe it or not ‘Where’s Waldo’ had a special place on a coffee table in the exhibition room (yes, the museum is child friendly throughout), so this one is for you, JJ, to try to find Waldo (or should that be ‘Wally’?).

Where's Waldo

I think you may have to magnify your screen, JJ.

Tuesday 26 January 2010

Monday 25 January 2010 – Rain, a Film Show, and some Chance Encounters

Ken tends Sunday's BBQ

Here’s Ken, aka ‘summitboy’, tending assiduously to Sunday’s excellent BBQ.  At the time it was still around –10C, but then…

…it warmed to nearer +10C, and rained heavily.

A sorry sight

This was bad news for any thoughts of skiing.  So Ken went to work and Helen and I went shopping.


I’ve now replaced the bum bag that seems to have transferred ownership within our household.

I’ve never seen it as warm, or rain so much, on any of our many winter trips to Ottawa, and I’ve certainly never seen the following message, which seems to me rather unprecedented for this time of year.

This is a first for me

Ah well, just as well I regard this trip as the closest I get to a ‘Beach Holiday’!

It was not however a day of total leisure, as after tea we tripped into town to watch seven films selected from the 2009 Banff Mountain Film Festival.  It’s at least the third time I’ve been to this function - the ‘World Tour’, and this year’s films, for me, had the edge over previous years, not being entirely adrenaline driven, although six out of the seven had a fair dose of that attribute.  Luckily, the longest of the films, tracing a family’s journey across Canada, mainly by canoe, to meet a legendary adventurer and author – Farley Mowat – was the exception.  A beautifully crafted film by Leanne Allison called ‘Finding Farley’. Click here for the trailer.

Chance Encounters

Coming back to the same place year after year means you meet people you’ve encountered before.

On Saturday it was Judy, at lunchtime in Huron Cabin.  We had met at last year’s skating party.  She is contemplating a trekking trip to Europe and was considering the Tour of Mont Blanc (TMB).  I think we can help there, with this, and I was able to assure her that a hired guide is not necessary and tell her that in truth there are many less crowded, and equally scenic, routes to choose from in preference to the TMB.

On Sunday we passed a ‘Phil’ near Herridge Cabin.  He probably knew we would be there.

And today we encountered Linda, with whom many happy hours of skiing have been spent, sitting in the row behind us at the film show.  She assured me that on Saturday and Sunday I had experienced the best skiing conditions of the season to date.  It has to be said, they were superb.  So aren’t I lucky!


Finally, a doubting Thomas (or should that be a Philip?) has questioned the efficacy of our ermine sighting.  If you click here and scroll down the page to Ermine Photo, you will see corroboration of the sighting!  Of an ‘ermine’.

Sunday 24 January 2010

Sunday 24 January 2010 – Lac Philippe

Helen and Ken at the head of Lac Philippe on 24 January 2010 “Where’s Martin?” someone asked.  Yes John, I spent hours and hours trying to find Willie with my children, so I wouldn’t want to waste anyone else’s valuable time doing that – though I do seem to recall it being quite fun.

I’m staying in Ottawa with my good friends and hosts, Ken and Helen, pictured above at the end of Lac Philippe on today’s 22 km ski in Gatineau Park to Healey Cabin and back.

Freezing rain was forecast later so we got going fairly early and were on trail 50 by soon after 9 o’ clock.  It was cool but clear – probably around minus 5-10C plus a bit of wind chill.  Anyway, it took about 40 minutes for my hands to warm up properly.

We reached Healey Cabin, on the site of which the Healey family farmed until 1955, at 10.40.  It was a little early for elevenses.  So we had lunch.

Healey Cabin

The ski back to P19 (Parking Lot No 19) was very pleasant (especially with now toasty hands), and we returned in the company of day visitors and heavily laden folk going home from their weekend based in one of the cabins or yurts hereabouts where you can stay overnight.

It gradually clouded over, so the early start was justified, but by late afternoon (now) the freezing rain had still not arrived.  Weather forecasts here are nearly as accurate as those we get in the UK.  Enough said!

Today’s highlight was the sight of an ermine, a type of weaselMustela erminea, going about its business quite oblivious of us.  It crossed the track ahead, shot up a tree and into a hole, then a while later reappeared, shot down the tree and on its way across the snow.  It was too quick for my limited camera skills, so I’m afraid you’ll have to make do with this blurry image.

An ermine hurrying down a tree trunk

Saturday 23 January 2010 – A Trip to the Champlain Lookout

Ice laden trees in Gatineau Park

No John, this isn’t Egypt, it’s back to weather that’s a reminder of Timperley during the first week of 2010.

Today’s conditions were perfect for a three hour (17 km) slide up Fortune Parkway to Gossips’ Corner and on up the Khyber Pass to Huron Cabin, before heading on to the Western turn and returning to Huron via 1B and the Champlain Lookout.

Poser at Champlain Lookout

It was an easy slither in the sun down the Parkway back to the car, then a visit to the Royal Canadian Mint to inspect some of the medals that will be presented at the forthcoming Winter Olympics.

Very impressive they were too.

Admiring some Olympic medals