Saturday, January 30, 2010

Skating with ghosts

Ghost skaters

Another night skating at Ben Franklin. Still cold but not cold enough to scare mom away this time as she donned several layers of fleece and Gortex and joined us for our late night skate.

Ghost skater Ghost skaters Ghost skaters

A fun evening topped off with a round of hot cocoa and a couple of shots of my homemade Dutch licorice vodka (ok that was just for Papa bear).

Note: I googled and discovered that this "Dutch licorice vodka" has already been invented by the Finns in the 90s. They called it "Salmari or Salmiakki Koskenkorva" complete with it's own urban legend about a teenager suffering a heart attack after drinking it. You learn something every day albeit some things are more useful than others (I'll let you decide which category this tidbit falls in).

Cheers... or as the Finns would say, Kippis!

Friday, January 29, 2010

A Kanata Lakes ski in -33

Feather or frost?

Ski: Kanata Nordic Ski Club (ski trail conditions)
Skate: Outdoor ice rinks in Ottawa

The day was forecast to be killer cold. Our original Gatineau ski plan was downgraded to an afternoon on the Kanata Lakes' trails in order to let the morning warm up. Decision made, the kids and I waited until after lunch before heading out and despite a shining sun it didn't warm up a single degree from the early morning. Oh well, we wouldn't be able to call ourselves Canadian if we let a little nip in the air slow us down.

Technically the temperature reached -21°C today, which is cold enough, but it was the strong winds that were the real hazard as they pushed up the wind chill effect to -33. We could feel it slicing through us and gnawing on our exposed faces whenever we found ourselves out in the open skiing across the meadows and along hydro lines. But in the woods we were well protected and it felt more like the warm -21 it was meant to be.

Buddled up A short climb

The trick to not only surviving such cold weather but to actually enjoy it is all in the way you dress. Two words, lay and ers - or more specifically, fleece and Gortex. I thank them both along with my LIFA long johns. Unlike the touque-less teens I see standing at the bus stops in cotton hoodies on my way to work, this family knows how to gear up for winter weather.

Creek crossing Kanata Lakes skiing

And if skiing in -33 wasn't foolhardy enough, later in the evening I took the kids for an hour and a half skate on the Ben Franklin ice rink (their idea, not mine). By then it had reached -35 and unlike the ski trails there were no more trees to hide behind.

For the record, we didn't see another soul on the ski trails this afternoon and nobody joined us on the ice later in the evening either. So if you're looking for solitude, let the thermometer be your guide.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sun's nice but we want snow!

Sunny trails

P15: N45 19.359 W75 43.648
Link to online map of trails in the Greenbelt.

Another weekend with no fresh snow. And to top it off they're calling for rain tomorrow. This is January, is it not?

Between Saturday morning Futsal and Sunday afternoon's OHL game (free tickets eh) our windows of opportunity were small and few. That said, we still managed to get out both Saturday and Sunday for a short ski in the Ottawa Greenbelt. Ok, technically it was to help our daughter put together a short video for her school project on Sara Renner the xc skier who will soon be competing in her third straight Winter Olympics. We had fun (mostly). Check it out...

The trails were icy and fast and with no new snow to freshen them up, they were littered with many small twigs and pine needles. It was nothing to serious though and we remain hopeful that the winter of 2010 is not over yet.

IMG_9080 IMG_9105
IMG_9119 Sunny trails

We end this with a message to Mother Nature...

Get the point?

Enough already. BRING ON THE WHITE STUFF!!!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Skiing on shards of glace


Gatineau Park: P12 to McKinstry (20 km)
P12 Meech Lake: N45 32.221 W75 53.968
McKinstry: N45 33.218 W75 58.387
Click here for a map showing the trails from P12 to McKinstry Cabin.

It was raining when I left home and I was starting to think that my co-workers had the right idea when they bailed to today's planned ski in Gatineau Park. However for me the deciding factor was, well... umm... a bad day on the trails is better than a good day in the office. (seriously, you had to see that one coming)

As I made my way to the park I decided to cancel my plans to hit Lusk Cabin and decided to try one of the other trails a little closer to home. P12, Meech Lake . As I left the empty parking lot I was happy to discover that the trails were groomed this very morning. Then about 15 minutes down said trail, or more appropriately "up", I started to notice the sound of the falling ice covered branches getting louder. Soon the trail was littered in shards of fallen ice and broken twigs. Below is a picture of one of the ice chunks and it was by no means the largest piece I could find.

Luckily it didn't slow me down too much (after all, just how slow can one man ski?) and after stopping to snap a pic or two (never under tree cover) I continued on my way to McKinstry.

Fog on the trail Shards of glace

At the junction where trail 24 meets trail 1, I stopped and had a quick chat with an old lad who was applying a thick layer of wax to his skis. Apparently he was having great difficulty with the fallen ice shards scrapping off all his ski wax (luckily I chose my waxless skis this morning). He also mentioned that he'd already had a couple of tumbles thanks to an ugly groove that the snowmobile made in the middle of the trail (in a rather unfriendly zigzag manner I might add). I made a mental note of this and thanked him as I turned towards the last leg to McKinstry.

By the time I hit the top of Wolf Hill I knew I was going to be the first to visit McKinstry which meant that I'd also have to start up the woodstove myself if I wanted a toasty sandwich. Oh well, no free rides today.

IMG_6224 IMG_6208 IMG_6229

As I had suspected, McKinstry was empty save for a cold woodstove. I quickly set to work and choppety-chop I had a roaring fire in no time. Not waiting for the surface of the stove to heat up, I threw my tinfoil wrapped sandwich inside to toast last night's BBQ chicken topped with garlic sauce and cheese. Washing it down with a splash of Heineken, it was quite tasty and well worth the effort.

One of the two skiers that stopped in to warm up by my fire was Bill McGee (yes, that started off the "Me and Bobby McGee" song in my head which then slowly changed to "Me and Billy McGee" by the time I made it back to the parking lot). Anyhow, he turned out to be an interesting fellow talking about his years of hiking and skiing through the park. Cheers to the history lessons Billy.

On the way back I managed to keep up with Billy until Wolf Hill at which point I left him behind as he decided to snap off the skis and walk down. A good call too as it wasn't long after that I succumbed to the snowmobile groove and took my first tumble of the year. Doh!

Billy McGee Steep Hill to P12

The last steep hill takes you right into the P12 parking lot and if you're not careful you'll could find yourself using the side of somebody's Subaru as a stopping device. About 3 or 4 years ago I nearly cleaned out a little girl and her table of hot chocolate that she was selling. I felt so bad that I actually bought one - sorry I did too, as it was neither hot nor chocolaty. Lesson learned.

NOTE: It's pure coincidence I assure you, but this is year 3 of what is now my annual January visit to McKinstry Hut. Guess I'll have to put it on next year's calendar.
McKinstry 2008
McKinstry 2009

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Summer snakes

Sara with water snake

I was cleaning up the kids' cameras and stumbled across some summertime photos that Emma took of Sara with one of the many ("many" as in 41) snakes she caught during our camping trip in Algonquin Park. This one was a Northern Water Snake and a very colourful one at that.

Sara with water snake Sara with water snake

How appropriate that the last photo shows Sara's "Snow Boarding" shirt given that it's winter. Let's hope that the forecast for a rise in temperature this weekend doesn't cause too much damage to our plans to go xc skiing.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Lazy ski and crazy forts

Skiing the Ottawa Greenbelt

This weekend we returned to the Saturday morning Futsal schedule. Although both the kids' teams seemed to be at the bottom end of a Christmas sugar crash they still managed to pull off a win and a tie. And to top it off both Sara and Emma managed to each score a goal. Well done girls.

By the time Sunday rolled a round we realized that we didn't have as much "free" time as we had originally hoped for. This resulted in a downgrade on our morning ski trip - Gatineau out, Greenbelt in. You just can't beat proximity though we would all like to see a few more hills dropped in the Ottawa Valley. Now which political party was that? Rhino?

Once home the kids then proceeded to take advantage of the cold weather to pimp up the snowfort in the front yard. Using some imagination, a few buckets of water, and a shovel they quickly created a small network of tunnels. It's no Quebec Hôtel de Glace, but I'm sure with a proper roof and some well placed advertising we could rent it out for afternoon sleepovers.

Tunnels Snowfort

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Fresh holiday snow

Skiing the Ottawa Greenbelt

We spent the better part of the holidays visiting friends and family. It was definitely time well spent but it also meant that we had to do a fair bit of driving in some less than ideal conditions. Luckily we had four new winter tires and four new iPod Touches to help see us through the ice and snow. Thank you Santa.

Every year I load the van with our skis alongside the Christmas presents and extra layers of winter clothing. This year my intention was to revisit the trails in the Kawarthas, trails I haven't skied in 15 years, but once again the weather took a turn for the worst. Rain, rain, and freezing rain kept the skis buried in the van until we returned to Ottawa where we were welcomed with a fresh snowfall making for a winter wonderland.

After a day of rest and tidying up in Ottawa we again hopped back in the van, this time to visit our friends in Burnstown. The deciding factor that convinced me to get back behind the wheel was the lure of some adults only skiing on the local Burnstown trails. It was a great plan. The bough breaking blanket of snow on the trees made for some spectacular winter scenery. After about an hour and a half, we returned to base camp where the kids quickly jumped on their toboggans and zoomed down the hills for the remainder of the afternoon.

Burnstown ski trails Burnstown ski trails

Finally just before returning to work and school we managed to squeeze in another family ski on the nearby Greenbelt trails. Though not professionally groomed like the Gatineau trails they are respected by the local hikers and snowshoers and left relatively intact. We had just received a few centimetres of snow the night before so everything was still fluffy fresh with many of the trails still waiting to be broken. It was a great family outing to end the holidays.

Skiing the Ottawa Greenbelt Just the tips Skiing the Ottawa Greenbelt

Lastly, I leave you all with a photo of our wee friend Maddie and her most awesome sleeping cap. I already have plans to make one for my Gatineau ski adventures. I'm hoping it will help me ski fast fast like a bunny. ;)

Cool hat