Sunday, November 23, 2008

Snowstorms and shopping sprees

Last Friday we drove down to Syracuse for a little weekend getaway and some cross border shopping.

On the way down we stopped at Gander Mountain in the Salmon Run Mall in Watertown for some outdoor deals. After a quick bite to eat and a pit stop we hopped back in the van and continued on down to the famous Carousel Mall in Syracuse. This was more of a recon mission than a shopping spree.

Friday's supper was a return visit to Smokey Bones for pulled pork and beef brisket sandwiches. It was just as good as we remembered it from our summer trip to Cape Cod. This time however our drive to the restaurant was through a winter snowstorm rather than a hot summer night after a day at the beach.

Saturday we woke up early and headed straight down to the hotel's breakfast buffet. The real hit here was the make-your-own Belgian waffle machine. Sweet.

Snowstorm in Syracuse
Taken from our hotel room window.

Bellies full we trudged through the snow to the buried van, brushed it off, and headed west to the Waterloo Premium Outlets for more deals and steals. As luck would have it, one of my co-workers was out here the week earlier and knew all about how to score the Dutch money (aka coupons). In the end this turned out to be priceless information as it gave us another 10-30% off the sale prices that were already 50% off or more. We walked out of one store with an 80% discount and I swear Paula shouted "Start the car!!" and ran for the parking lot. Even with the drop in our dollar this trip was well worth it.

Snow down south

When we finally arrived back at the hotel for a pre-supper swim we found one freshly made bed and one messy bed with a little note. "We can't make the bed because has stuff." Too funny.

Note from the maid

As is always the case, the kids loved the hotel part of the trip and especially the pool and hot tub that we had all to ourselves.

Swim time

Oh and I nearly forgot... somebody had a birthday not too long ago. Happy birthday Sara!

Happy Birthday

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Last GAT hike of 2008


Gatineau Park: Lac Hatchet (5 km)
Parking: N45 34.764 W76 05.502
Lac Hatchet: N45 34.896 W76 06.743

Mike, Ken, and I decided to take this day to hike what may very well end up being our last hike in Gatineau park before it's time to slap on the skis and slide on the white stuff. This time we decided to explore one of the more remote trails in the north west end of the park along the Eardley Escarpment. The first and last time I was hiking on this trail was last May. As you can see from my blog, it was much greener and alive looking back in the spring in comparison to today's rusty browns and dull greys.

May 2008
Green forest
Look forest, no leaves
November 2008

Today was a day to relax and reminisce about all the great hikes we collectively managed to squeeze into what seems to be an ever shrinking hiking season. We even took a moment to present Kenmore with his 46er prize that Mike, Dave, and I created for him to celebrate his accomplishment. Now every time he dons his new t-shirt he will think of the Adirondacks, his friends and hiking partners, and ... umm, Bigfoot (did you spot him in the right corner of the shirt?).

Kenmore accepts his 46er prize

Some time around noon we found a rocky spot with a great view of the Ottawa River and sat down to enjoy some lunch and a pint. There was a light dusting of snow in the air but it didn't amount to anything that would actually stick. Soon enough though this whole area will be blanketed in snow. (exciting, isn't it?)

Group shot
Lunch time Gnarly root

After lunch we hiked in to Lac Hatchet where we stopped at at a rocky point overlooking the lake and a beaver house. Ken and I enjoyed another pint while Mike wandered around snapping photos for one of the many calendars he plans to print up for his friends and family this Christmas. This year he seems to be working a few different themes. Personally, I'm holding out for the "Views from the 2 foot tall hiker" calendar.

Mike tries for an new angle

Slowly we started to make our way back to the car. After a few more stops and pauses to enjoy the view I started to realize that what we were really doing was postponing the inevitable. The end of the hike, the day, and another season.

View of the Ottawa River

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The Acid Tower, Gataneau Park

The acid tower (Gatineau Park, QC)
Originally taken April 2003

P11 parking (O'Brien): N45 31.619 W75 51.855
Approximate length of hike: 7 km

Ok ok, before I get into it, yes, I forgot my camera at home today. No photos for the blog - other than those of the area taken on previous hikes.

I woke up this morning thinking it was going to be another rain day but alas the sun started shining thus prompting me to double check the day's forecast. Surprise. It had changed (again) and now called for something resembling dry. So I told the kids to pack up and we were soon heading off for lunch and a hike in Gatineau Park. Sweet.

Our plan was very similar to last weekend's: hike, eat lunch, hike some more. And that we did. And as luck would have it, we even managed to score some sunshine during our lunch break.

On the way out we stopped at the Gatineau Park Visitor Centre for the first time ever. Small but very nice. Worth a visit - especially if you have kids.

From there we started our quest for a poutine in Chelsea. The first place we stopped (my usual post x-c ski stop) was closed, second didn't serve french fries of any kind, which left us with the last place in town. The Chelsea Pub. Bingo! We split a large and I washed my share down with a side of Boreale Rousse.

Exercise + food + good times = Mission complete. Cheers to that!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Annual fall hike on the Wolf Trail

Wolf Trail, Gatineau

P13 parking (Blanchett): N45 32.604 W75 54.582
Wolf Trail, Gatineau Park: 10 km

It's that time of the year again. In between fall and winter when the weather is known to take some crazy shifts from snow and toques to sunshine and shorts. Lately we've been experiencing the latter with the temperature reaching the high teens. Prime time for a hike - especially given that the next 5 days are calling for rain and cold.

Needless to say, it was all the excuse I needed to switch my Friday off for today and head out to the Gatineau hills for a hike. Alas I was alone as neither Mike nor Ken nor even Dave were willing to leave the excitement of their office cubicles. They must have really great jobs. ;)

The morning fog along the Ottawa Parkway was as thick as I've ever seen it but the moment I hit Gatineau Park I saw nothing but blue skies and sunshine.

Small pond along the Wolf Trail

I had hiked about 2 km along the trail when I had to stop and change into a t-shirt (the shorts were already on). 10am and it was already a warm 17°C. I certainly wasn't complaining but I was already looking forward to the cool refreshments I had packed to help wash down my lunch.


I arrived at one of my favourite Gatineau benches and sat down for a whole 3 seconds before a gaggle of elderly gentlemen swarmed me with chatter, padded seats, and granola bars. I quickly finished my snack, said my hellos and goodbyes, and left the bench and the view to them. It wasn't exactly a huge sacrifice though as I knew there were other views just a little further along the trail.

Crossing signs

At Ridge Road I met up with a fellow hiker who had decided to take a mental health day and prescribe himself a dose of sunshine in the GAT. As fate would have it his name was Mike. He mentioned that he was heading to a nice lookout along the Tawadina Trail which sounded to me like the perfect lunch spot so I tagged along.


After lunch we started back down the trail towards P13. At some point Mike and I parted ways as he mentioned that he was pressed for time as part of his day's duties were to cook supper for the gang back home. Of course the other possibility is that maybe he just wasn't interested in my suggested side trip of bushwhacking up a steep hill to look for a box full of trinkets. Either way, I thanked him for the company and he thanked me for the lunch time beer. Cheers Mike, I hope the Gatineau hills cured you in time to get back to work tomorrow.

After a couple more short side trips for some newly planted geocaches, I arrived back at the parking lot just in time to whip back home, pick up the kids, and cook supper myself. Another great day under the sun.

Tawadina lookout
Tawadina lookout

Sunday, November 02, 2008

A GAT hike to cure for what ails ya

Cheers from the creek bed

P11 parking (O'Brien): N45 31.619 W75 51.855
Discovery Trail, Gatineau Park: 7.6 km

Both kids have been sick for a few days now. Saturday we decided to spend the better part of the afternoon at a drop-in clinic having them "officially" diagnosed with a barking cough and a fever. They were both prescribed some medicine and one of them even got a puffer (her bark is noticeably worse).

Well this morning I decided that today seemed like the perfect day to take one of these sick children off of mommy's hands and give them a dose of outdoor medicine. For me it's a cure-all to tackle whatever life wants to throw at you. Guaranteed.

Old boathouse on Meech Lake
Snowed in boathouse

Sara and I managed to hit the trail early thanks to the spinning back of the clocks last night. When we left the lot there were only a couple of other cars besides our own. We hiked in enjoying the blue skies and sunshine stopping only momentarily here and there to try to capture the morning's beauty on camera.

Looking for frozen frogs
Winter's closing in Wolf tracks... or dog

The hike was quiet on the way in but as soon as we turned around to head back to the O'Brien parking lot the traffic picked up considerably. Not surprising given the great fall weather.

At one point we found a sunny log to sit on off the trail where we could enjoy a lunch and a Halloween snack (and for one of us, a pint). We were surprised at how many fellow hikers walked by and didn't once spot us only 20 feet off the trail. Too busy chatting and soaking in the rays to notice us I suppose.

Discovery Trail, Gataineau Park
boathouse on Meech
Click photo for a larger image.

After lunch we hopped back on the trail and were soon greeted by a high school class heading into the woods for the night. Some looked excited, many looked indifferent, and one was smoking ganja. Well, whatever helps you get through the cold chilly nights.

By the time we finally arrived back at the parking lot we'd seen over 40 people and 9 dogs (are dogs even allowed in Gatineau Park?). Seems we weren't the only ones looking for a cure.