Thursday, December 22, 2016

Late Fall High Falls Hike

We didn't spend enough time in the park this year. The planning is already starting for next year though. In the meantime, we went for a hike in the park before the snow flew on November 19, 2016.

We stopped for breakfast at the gas station in Cobden. The place is always hopping so I figured the breakfast was good. It was meh and not cheap. It won't be part of any future plans.

We stopped at the Sand Lake gate to voluntarily drop off our vehicle fee for the day. The park office was closed for the season.

We decided to do the short hike up to the top of Barron Canyon. When we arrived there was a carload of people heading out on the trail. We took our time, gave them a good 10-15 minutes head start. As a result, we had the trail to ourselves.

As you can see, it was a lovely day for this portion of the hike.

By the time we got back to the parking lot, the first group was gone and a second group was preparing for the hike. 

We got back into the car and headed out to the cheater trail in to High Falls. I wasn't feeling up to the 20 km round trip and access was not available from Achray anyways. We did drive down the access road and met a locked gate probably a couple of kilometers from the trailhead. We turned around and went back to the parking lot for the cheater trail. The trailhead is just past access point A38 as shown in Jeff's map below:
Map portion from Jeff's maps
It's a 5 km trail one way, still challenging enough. I had my hiking poles and my small daypack. LT had bought a new backpack just for this trip. He got to carry the lunch. My crossbody bag is pretty tiny (yes, it was a strategic move).
Starting out on the trail
The woods were eerily quiet as we walked along the trail. It wasn't a bad temperature for hiking, we both had layers on. 
The portion of Stratton Lake near the falls
Once we got to the High Falls area, we hiked around to the part of the falls where the water starts down the natural waterslides. I had never been in that area before. Usually we're there with all the other people and we generally avoid the busy parts. 

Top of the natural waterslide

The natural waterslide that is so popular

We then wove our way down to the spot at the top of the highest waterfall and got settled in to have lunch. I had brought my day hammock and LT had his chair. 

The new backpack

Mmmmm lunch

Hanging by the top of the falls

The skies were getting darker by the moment. We hung out for probably an hour or so. Enjoyed our lunch, had a rest, then packed up and headed back down the trail.

I'm really surpised we didn't see any wildlife. I was anxiously hoping to finally spot a grey jay. It had just been nominated to represent Canada as our national bird. I had brought some black niger sunflower seeds to feed any birds we could spot, but we didn't even hear birdsong.

The woods got darker and darker as we got closer to the car. About 20 minutes away from the trailhead, we ran into the first people we'd seen on this trail all day. Three people and a rambunctious dog, which someone thankfully held onto as he was offleash. It was almost 4 o'clock and had started raining lightly. There's no way this group would make it to the falls before darkness fell. And by now the hiking wasn't much fun in the dampness. The only positive point was the lack of biting insects. 

It was a miserable, long drive home. It rained almost the whole way. Another year in the park finished for us. We didn't anticipate a repeat of last year's December paddling adventure

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Boldly going where I haven't gone 2

July 29, 2016 - Lac La Peche, Quebec

Preparation                                     Day 1

I slept pretty good. I have to say, I must be more accustomed to hammock sleeping because I found the ground VERY hard. I had borrowed LT's wider air mattress, lending mine to Liz. I also found I was cooler than I expected to be. The temperature probably went down to 15 degrees Celsius. But with all the windows open to the breeze, that probably didn't help. And it was a breezy morning. Breezier than yesterday.

I got up a bit before Liz, probably shortly after 7 a.m. I took the bear bag down.
The lumberjacks buzzed by in their motorboat around 7 a.m. They stopped in our bay, trying to see if we were up and about so they could come ashore and start up their chainsaws. 

I boiled the kettle, making myself a cup of tea. Today's breakfast was blueberry pancakes with butter, maple syrup and pre-cooked bacon.
Nom, nom, nom, nom....
We took our time eating breakfast then it was time to pack up all the gear and get ready to paddle back to the car. Liz and I carefully packed all the bags and did a walk around to ensure we didn't leave anything behind. The canoe was carefully loaded, and Liz got in first. It was pretty easy to get in and out of the canoe with the shallow beachy area we had to work with. 

Meanwhile the lumberjacks had landed nearby and were sharpening their chainsaws to get ready and do some tree cutting. We saw various trees marked for cutting on our campsite with a fluorescent orange X. Also there was another staffer coming ashore with a load of firewood all chopped up and ready to go. It would have been very embarrassing at this point to tip the canoe with all these witnesses!

But we didn't and it only took us 40 minutes to get back to our starting point. It was now 11:10. We strapped the canoe on the car, after Liz took a turn carrying it on her shoulders to the car. Now I was an old pro at crawling under the car to secure the tie-down straps.

I took a quick dip at the beach, there is a day-use beach here, but I was sharing it with a gaggle of Canadian geese. Their feces was all over the place, you had to walk with your head down.

We drove to Masham where we stopped for poutine and pop at Carlo's chip truck. He's got quite the business there. 

Liz was kind enough to help me unload the canoe at LT's place on the way home so that I wouldn't have to drive over there later again today to get his help to take it off after he got home from work.

I have to say, Liz did great for her first canoe camping experience! However, it was a lot of prep and work for just one night. I would probably not do a one-night trip again. By the time Liz is ready for another trip, she'll also be ready for more than one night too.

And this was a very good experience for me where I could show myself that I am able to do many of the tasks that LT does. Well, except hang the bug shelter high enough. Of course there was no portaging on this trip, I'll never match those skills!

Swan? Crane? No, it's Jonathan Livingston Seagull!

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Boldly going where I haven't gone 1

July 28, 2016 - Lac La Peche, Quebec

Preparation                                     Day 2

There would be no rush to leave today. However I did have to be at LT's by 7:15 to pick up the canoe. I set my alarm and was up and there on time. As mentioned, I would be taking on all the tasks that LT does and I started off my day by doing something I have rarely done, lying on the ground on my back to hook the canoe tie down straps to the car's undercarriage. LT was in his work attire and I didn't think it'd be fair to expect him to do it. I did use one of the lifejackets to lie on because I'm a sissy like that.
Car parked and ready to go at my apartment
The second task I never do is drive the car with the canoe on it. We usually take my car when we go tripping, but LT does all the driving. This is probably the only time I have an advantage, being so much shorter, it's easier for me to see out the front windshield.

I picked Liz up shortly after 9. We made a stop at the Tim Horton's in Wakefield, coffee for Liz, tea for me. We continued on and were at the check-in around 10:30. We were the only party checking in today. That didn't mean there weren't already people camping. There were people on our spot who should be leaving by 11:30. It was suggested that we not try to get to the spot before 12:30. He gave us a map and showed us where the site could be found.

I asked about bear sightings so far this summer and there had been none. And BTW, he said, there's a food hanging station. What???? This was one LT task I was not looking forward to. And I had a station to use? No tree branch to find? Wow, this was going to be easy. So easy, stupid me, I left the ziploc bag with the paracord and the pulley in the car because - hey, I don't need that! When in fact I still needed the paracord. Oops.

We took our time unloading the canoe off the car, repacking some of the bags before putting all the gear into the canoe. Here is Liz waiting for me to get in the canoe.

"Are you in yet?"
The canoe is pointed in the direction that we're not going. We needed to do a hard left coming off the beach. It's a nice big lake though. And again, another LT task I'm doing here, sitting in the back and steering. Not my forte, but I did it.

There were a couple of motorboats being used by staff. There were a team of guys cutting down trees at campsites. I was a bit nervous when the boats would go by and create a wake for us. Liz was awesome in the canoe, very stable, a constant paddler and she never, ever complained about being tired of paddling.

It took us 45 minutes to get to our site. As we rounded the pennisula we ran into a group of about 4 or 5 canoes loaded with people and gear. I asked the first canoe if they were coming off site 6A and they confirmed that they were. Perfect!

Here's where the campsite placement differs from anywhere else I've seen. As we got closer to the shore, all we saw was a sign saying "6" with a tent underneath it. No letters. Hmmmm. It was a lovely landing, a sandy put in, with stairs going up to the path. 

We landed and got out to check things out. It turns out the campsites are in clusters, each one in our area very easily visible from the other. There were 4 in total, 6A to 6D. We had 6A, closest to the water. 
Best parking spot for 6!
We looked around and there wasn't anyone else there. We had the whole area to ourselves. And as I had been told there wasn't anyone else checking in today, no one else would be arriving. Nice!

Something I didn't notice in the paperwork was that firewood is supplied to the campsites. I've never seen this before either. This was great, I didn't think there'd be much deadwood to scrape together for a fire.
Help yourself!
I think Liz was a bit confused over my excitement over this next item:
The Food Hanging Station!
It was a bit hard to photograph. Along the top bar there are hooks on both sides. If you look closely you'll see the long bar hanging down closer to the right side. That's the pole you can use to help hang your food bag. From the looks of it, the chipmunk problem is probably greater than any other animal. And that we could cope with. Those guys are as cute as pie. Well until you catch them red-handed.
We set up the tent, unpacked the gear, set up the bug tent, which we never used because there was only one large fly that had adopted us. Here is where I discovered that LT's height is a requirement to get the bug shelter hung at the right height. 

We stopped at this point and ate the lunches we brought. I had some hummus with carrots, Liz brought bagels with her hummus. 

Another discovery, all these sites were served by a modern outhouse. Granted it was probably stinkier than a fresh air thunderbox, but with everyone having a line of sight to each other, the privacy was required. Also we shared this outhouse with the 3 campsites in the 7 cluster. They were around the other side of our pennisula.

The next LT task was to go out in the canoe and fill the dirty bag with lake water. Liz and I would be in an empty canoe, less stable. And the dirty bag holds about 12+ litres of water, which would weigh about 25 pounds. As Liz slowly paddled forward, I held the bag underwater, then struggled to get it closed before lifting it into the canoe. I had planned on possibly dragging it behind the canoe in the water tied up with an extra yellow rope we had, but that wasn't necessary. And Liz expertly balanced the canoe while I did the lifting. I did get her to carry it up from the canoe to the campsite for me. 
There are probably 8 litres in it now
I set up my relaxation hammock and after a bit I took a break in it. No bug netting needed.
Before supper we went for a paddle up to the top of the portion of the lake that we were on. If you look at the map on the previous post you'll see it's almost Y-shaped. And we were on the left upper section of the Y.

There were a couple of abandoned cottages on a tiny island near the top. I'd have to check out when I got home if there were roads into that area. There were also a couple of buildings on the shore nearby, also abandoned. I imagine that these were here before the Gatineau Park took possession of the land and the cottages were probably allowed to stay for a portion of time, which has now passed.

My father was telling me a story of how he'd come up to this lake as a young man to visit some people that farmed on it. He had come with his brother and his brother's girlfriend to pick blackberries that were very abundant. However black snakes were also abundant and he said he had to check every berry to make sure he wasn't grabbing the head of a snake. Ewwww! I was able to tell Liz the story as she loves frogs and snakes, it wouldn't bother her. I was mostly curious about the history of the lake and how it'd been used in the past.

Dinner was lasagna with banana bread pudding for dessert. I made a fire, although we weren't using it to cook with. I had brought LT's saw, which was handy in cutting some smaller branches we found on the ground to use for kindling. I didn't have a hatchet. Fires are part of LT's task list too. Probably because he enjoys making them. 

My not-too-shabby fire
The Gatineau Park has some pretty nice grills as part of their fire pits. They are a separate part of the pit, along the back, with a metal ring if you want to put charcoal in, and the grill has two handles that look like you can handle them if the grill is hot, with 4 settings of how high the grill is from the fire.
I had seen the same setup at the Lac Phillippe campground the previous week when I visited my sister and her family there.

To set up the bear bag I ended up using an extra yellow nylon rope that LT has stuffed in our safety kit for the canoe. I tied it to my extra large caribiner and that worked perfectly.

We wandered around on the flat rocks at the waterfront. And the sunset was spectacular.

Shortly after 9 we decided to go hang out in the tent. It's so big compared to what I'm used to having during canoe camping, we probably could have had lawn chairs inside!
My bed for the night
And last, but not least for today, something I have never done, is sleep without the fly on the tent! This tent has a lot of windows. It felt pretty warm when that decision was made. I woke up at 12:30 a.m. and had to go to the bathroom. When I lay back down on my mattress, I could see up through the big window on the back of the domed tent and see stars twinkling through the treetops. I would not be worried about any bears tonight.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Boldly going where I haven't gone before...preparation

July 28 and 29, 2016 - Lac La Peche, Quebec

LT and I make a pretty good team. We are used to travelling with each other. We each have our own tasks we do while canoe camping. He's a foot taller than me, so he gets all the jobs that are high up (like tying the center line for the bug shelter). And he's much stronger than me, he does all the heavy lifting.

This summer I happen to be a bit more flexible for when I can go camping and he's less flexible because of, well, life. So I decided to ask a friend to go on an overnight trip with me to Lac La Peche. This trip was about going somewhere I'd never gone camping and taking on tasks I'd never done because LT is always there to do them for me.

This lake is fairly close by, just under an hour's drive from home. It's in the Gatineau Park. It does not have any car camping, like at Lac Phillippe. You can make the reservations online. It even has pictures you can check out of the campsites before you select one. All the camping sites are canoe-in sites. There are no hike-in sites. 

Here's a link to the website:

Here's what the map of sites looks like:
Map from the Gatineau Park website
The online reservation system works pretty good. I did change our reservation from Monday night to Thursday night due to weather, which cost an extra $11.50. But that was money well spent to ensure a more pleasant experience.

My friend, Liz, had never been canoe camping before and I thought this trip would be a good introduction, mainly because I wasn't going to make her portage. When I checked with her for gear, she was able to get a sleeping bag. Other than that, I would provide all the gear and she would bring her own lunch and snacks. She came over to my place a couple of times so we could talk about what to expect for the trip. I talked with her about what food I'd supply, I showed her most of my gear. I have two regular tents (not lightweight or small). We set up both of them in the park behind my place to see which one we'd bring. And to check that I had all the gear needed for either tent. We chose the newer one.
Set up at the campsite
I would have to drive over to LT's before he left for work on Thursday and pick up the canoe. Then our adventure would start!

Day 1                                            Day 2

Monday, July 18, 2016

Hiking the Luskville Falls Trail

Last week I was able to schedule a hike with my friend, Liz. She had been on part of the trail many years ago so some of the trail was familiar to her. I had last hiked it about a year ago, okay, maybe 2 years ago. Even still there's been a few changes to the trail, predominantly trail maintenance.

They've put down stone dust in the parking lot, built a large map billboard with a roof, added boardwalks over potentially muddy spots in the trail and even added a couple of ladders. 

I've been here on a busy weekend day in the fall, there were cars parked on the entrance road, so many people hiking! They almost could have enlarged the parking lot. Today it was busy enough and we were often bumping into others on the trail. Everyone is friendly and says hello.

To get to this trail, you need to take highway 148 West out of Aylmer. You get to the turnoff when you are close to Luskville. Turn right on the road right where the old town hall sits, "Hotel de Ville".

There are outhouses at the parking lot with some picnic tables.

It's a high climb, 300 meters up in the first 800 meters distance of the trail. There was lots of huffing and puffing going on!
The stream flowing down a rock face
More rock face
Some of the trail
Looking down the trail
My hiking buddy, Liz
The trail is about 2.5 km from the parking lot to the fire tower. There's a second trail for a portion of the hike if you want to take a different route. However it was closed for us today. I guess they're working on "improving" it.
The last lookout before heading in the woods to get to the peak
The apex of the trail
Close up
At the fire tower the trail connects with the #1 trail for Gatineau Park. However it's a long, long way to get anywhere close to civilization on that side of the mountain. I think it's mainly used by mountain bikers.

On the way down, we stopped by the stream for a break. I took my hiking boots off and enjoyed the cold stream on my feet, mmmmmmm.
Chilling the piggies
I found it easier to climb, much harder to go down the rocky trail. I had my hiking poles and the next day my arms were more sore than my legs. However, during the hike we were both suffering from spaghetti legs. I hope the next time I ask Liz to come for a hike, she'll join me. I promise there won't be so much of an uphill climb! She was a great sport and I've talked her into joining me on a backcountry canoe trip in a week or so. Stay tuned for that adventure!

P.S. some pictures are courtesy of Liz, thanks!