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.
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.
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!
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.