Monday, December 19, 2011

Taylor Lake Yurt

Time to make adjustments

Year two in the annual Gatineau Park sleepover. In contrast to last year's xc ski adventure this year's snowless December left us with little choice but to hike it in. While Ken and I were slightly discouraged by the lack of snow, Dave was secretly smiling as this would allow him to haul in his camp guitar or maybe he was simply relieved that he would be avoiding the bruises after another xc ski adventure. Either way, we were all equally excited to escape the workforce (note I didn't say family) and head into the backwoods for some time off the grid.

Three skiers forced to hike in mid-December Taylor Lake yurt
Hiking in to Taylor Lake Kenmore pumps some water from Taylor Lake

We arrived at Taylor Lake to find it frozen black. Not a splash of snow on top of the smooth icy surface. Unfortunately (or should I say fortunately) we didn't have our blades with us so we opted to play safe and not venture out beyond the point of no return.

Inside the Taylor Lake yurt Inside the Taylor Lake yurt

The rest of the night was spent cooking and eating, listening to Dave rock on the camp guitar, and watching an episode of An Idiot Abroad and Louis CK's latest stand-up (available as a $5 download here).

Morning brought the fluffy white stuff. Luckily (at this point) it was only a couple of inches and nothing that would cause a problem for us hiking out. Cheers to the GAT sleepover until next year.

Heading home Cage for bilingual bears
Dave cautiously approaches the icicle wall Zartimus relaxing in the Taylor Lake yurt

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

BvT's birth announcement

Birth announcement

My wife stumble across this in the basement a couple of days ago. I don't think I've ever seen it before. Good timing seeing as today is the day. Cheers BvT.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Rideau and Cataraqui Trail tour

Cave ghosts

November 11th, time again for our annual hike/adventure boosting the streak to 7 years and counting (see blog links below). This year our crew was whittled down to just Ken and I, the core of the group if you will. Dave was unable to join us as he had another long running streak to keep alive (keep an eye on his blog where I'm sure he'll post the pics and GoPro video soon) and Mike stayed home to rake and fix his internet connection (boo).

Anyhow, our goal today was to explore a small cave that lies close to the Cataraqui Trail south of Westport, Ontario. Along the way we decided to hit a few of the various caches in the area that have popped up over the last 3 years. The section of the Rideau Trail in the Foley Mountain Conservation Area was our first stop of many. This area is well worth the visit as it home to some nice hiking trails, picnic areas, a small secluded beach, and a great lookout area overlooking the town of Westport and the Upper Rideau Lake.

Rideau Trail STOP - You've gone too far!
Fall couple takes a break Yellow-spotted salamander

Next stop, the cave. We arrived close to noon as planned so we packed up the stove for the soup, our sandwiches, and a couple of beverages. Last to go in our packs was our headlamps (helmets and knee pads being luxury items that "real spelunkers" don't bother with). The Cataraqui Trail is an old abandoned rail-bed that is now a great hike or bike trail in the summer and ski or snowshoe trail in the winter. Access is also granted to snowmobilers but not ATVers likely due to the fact that ATVs tend to cause a lot of trail damage in comparison to sleds on a thick bed of snow.

As we crossed the swamp to the narrows we could hear the rush of running water. As the sound got louder and louder, my enthusiasm started to waver slightly as I envisioned soaking wet feet knowing well that the option of turning back was something neither Ken nor I would consider. At last, we arrived to find a healthy flow but nothing that an off-duty engineer couldn't solve with a couple of strategically tossed rocks. It worked like a charm and before long we had crossed the underground creek at the mouth of the cave and were working our way inward. Once inside, we clambered up the rock pile and then wormed our way through the narrow entrance to the next chamber. It opened up to an area large enough to allow us to sit down and check out our surroundings. Very cool. There were small limestone stelleracktites, aka drippy things, hanging down from the ceiling and humongous black spiders in nearly all the corners. The far end opened to another smaller chamber but it appeared to be filled with water so we could go no further. After snapping a few pics, we headed back out for our reward; hot soup and cold pints of Pollenator from the Long Trail Brewing Co. Cheers to a successful mission.

Crossing the cave stream Spelunking
Lunch at the cave's mouth Pollenator from Long Trail Brewing Co.

After a relaxing lunch, we made our way back to the main road where we spotted nearly 30 wild turkeys at the side of the ditch. With some effort (read, my camera was stuck on the 10 sec. timer mode) I snapped a couple of pics while Ken tried to herd them up for a photo shoot. While they didn't turn tail back in my direction, some of them did manage to fly a few metres which is not something you see too often from large dodo like creatures. And before you ask, no I didn't manage to get a photo of them in flight which only confirms that I would not be the guy to bring on a Bigfoot sighting expedition.

Herd of turkeys Lake view
Cataraqui Trail Night caching on the Cataraqui Trail

Here's a quick review of our Annual Remembrance Day hikes over the last few years.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Walking through Washington

An Honest Man

Last week I found myself in Washington on a business trip and decided to take advantage by soaking in some of the touristy spots. The first night was spent walking up and down M Street through Georgetown. The area was hopping but that was no surprise given that Georgetown University is nearby. Lots of young bodies grazing the late night shops, coffee holes, and watering holes. Surprisingly there were few actually English/Irish style pubs on our route but we made due with a good old American sports bar.

No Firearms School Zone and Fallout Shelter
Vietnam War Memorial (the wall) World War II Memorial

The next night found me strolling the grounds surrounding the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (the Wall), the World War II Memorial, and then back to my hotel before the witching hour. Though I felt safe enough throughout my night's journey it was obvious that as the last rays of sunlight descended there was a changing of the guard as the day's inhabitants headed home in their fancy business suits making way for an assortment of zombie like characters pushing shopping carts and babyless strollers. Out of my element, I darted back to the Starbucks near my hotel where I fed off their free wifi and coffee before retiring for the night.

IMG_3861 IMG_3848

IMG_3867 IMG_3863

On my last day I spent the morning walking the alphabet streets until 10am when all the museums opened. Now the beauty about Washington is that they have this area called the National Mall that runs east of the Washington Monument and is home to several Smithsonian museums. Oh, and they're free once you clear the metal detector. This indoor adventure had turned out to be a great plan as the weather had changed from sun to a little rain. I managed to make a whirlwind tour of both the Air and Space Museum and the Natural History Museum. Both deserved better than my speedy walkabout but that said, I did manage to squeeze in an IMAX show of the Grand Canyon. Before long I was back at the hotel packing up and checking out before my 2pm late checkout. With suitcase in tow I decided to hop on the Metro to Arlington Cemetery to visit the grave of JFK and the tomb of the Unknown Soldier (of which apparently there are plenty). A great plan, if only in concept. As it turned out the streets of Arlington Cemetery aren't exactly ideal for pulling a small luggage bag with hard plastic wheels. I must of passed 50 signs reading, "Silence and Respect" followed by awkward glances from school kids and war veterans alike. Oh well, obviously I wasn't loud enough to wake the dead.

Silence and Respect JFK's grave

Arlington Cemetery crossroads Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Washington Monument JFK grave

Map of downtown Washington DC:
Washington, DC

Monday, October 10, 2011

Thanksgiving weekend

Luke with the girls

This year's Thanksgiving felt like turkey in July thanks to temperatures breaking the 30 degree mark. It made for a very outdoors type weekend - hell, we even carved the turkey on the back deck and set up one of the dinner tables outside. At one point in the weekend I was even searching for some sunscreen. Anyhow, no complaints here...

Apple picking Amber
Danger Wind
Carving the ham Baby bunny

Saturday morning was spent picking and peeling apples. After a total of 4 hours of peeling the girls were ready for a break so we hopped in the van and took a trip out to Campbellford. We arrived in the touristy little town along the Trent Severn Canal (this month seems to be canal month) with no real idea of what we were going to do but by the time we crossed over the town bridge we'd made a plan. First the Church-Key Brewery (priorities eh), then Dooher's Bakery, then the World's Finest Chocolate outlet. A well rounded adventure before heading back to bbq up some Pino's Italian sausage (that's to a friend that picked them up in Kitchener for us, thanks Kev).

Campbellford Take off eh!
Church-Key Brewery Church-Key Brewery

Monday we had a little visit from Uncle Twiggy and his wee ones. We took them for a stroll on the property and Sara managed to catch a tiny baby bunny for the kids to hold. Some left over turkey, a chocolate sandwich, and a Bud or two and they were headed for home. And we were not long after. Good times.

Baby bunny The bumble bee story