Saturday, January 30, 2010

Trip Reports on Canadian Canoe Routes

In collaboration with Canadian Canoe Routes, my trip reports have been added to their already impressive inventory.

Thanks to Allan Jacobs for his efforts in getting this done!

Georgian Bay

Chikanishing; Killarney, Philip Edward Island area
Chikanishing; Philip Edward Island circumnavigation
Dillon`s Cove; McCoy Islands, Mink Islands and Franklin Island

British Columbia Coastal Routes

Broken Group Islands

Quebec Routes

Saguenay River

Blue Sea Lake
Grant Lake
Gatineau River
Meech Lake
Thirty-One Mile Lake

Lac la Pêche

For an index of previous trip reports on my blog, see the following post.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Additional Snowshoe Trail Reports

In collaboration with GuideGatineau, I've been contributing to their Gatineau Park Snowshoe Reports blog.

Here are samples of reports that I've recently submitted for trails in the Gatineau Park

Trail #74 Jan 24
Trail #72 Jan 23rd
Trail #70 Jan 20th (including trail map)
Trails #60-61 Jan 19th
Trail #62 Jan 13th (including pictures)
Trail #74 Jan 9th (including trail map)

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Liguori Shelter - Sentier des Caps

The infamous Sentier des Caps trail is part of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve (more details here) in the beautiful area of Charlevoix.

This trail 40-km (25-mile) was voted in 2001 as the "#1 snowshoeing destination in Quebec" and the "2nd prettiest winter destination in Quebec" according to the trail's web site. Click here to see a map of the entire trail.

We drove up to the Massif sector of the trail (click here for map of this sector only), near the stunningly beautiful Massif ski resort. It took a bit more than 1 hour from Quebec City to get there.

We chose to snowshoe on trail #A since it's 3kms (2 miles) long and leads to a nice shelter called Liguori that offers an incredible view. I'll show you the view now (click on picture to see full size) expecting that you'll be interested in knowing more about this trail afterward.

From the parking lot next to the visitor center, a combined trail soon splits into two trails, one for cross-country skiers and the other one (Trail A) is reserved for snowshoeing.

Signage is extensive on this trail and the height of some of the marker is a good indication of how much snow typically falls at Petite Riviere St-Francois and Saint-Tite des Caps area (337 cms or 133 inches per year). In general, this year's snow accumulation has been lower than usual, however Le Massif is reporting a surprising accumulation so far of 325 cms.

The trail wanders through gently rolling terrain and through tightly knit forest of young and not so young trees, including a surprisingly large sample of birch trees. Along the way to the shelter, there are a number of places where you can get a good view of the surrounding area.

There are two tables inside, each with a view by the windows and large enough to sit 12 comfortably next to a fire stove. The 2nd story is meant for overnight campers only.

Trail conditions were good and it took us about 3 hours to complete the return trip (not including time to rest and eat in the shelter).

While about twice as far from Quebec City than the Sentier des Moulins, this area offers greater snow accumulation and a more stunning views. I would recommend both destinations to anyone in this area.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Trail #62 - Wolf Trail

You can access trail #62 from P13 near Blanchet beach on Meech Lake.

Conditions were OK tonight on Trail #62 (Wolf Trail) from the parking lot to the beaver dam and back. I hesitate to state that conditions were good simply because the snow was packed for the full width of the trail (and not simply two snowshoes wide).

The picture below was taken at the first bridge along the trail (before the trail splits into the Blanchet/Wolf loop). It clearly shows the width of the packed snow.

Below you may recognize the pond behind the beaver dam.

An finally, the trail as we turned back at the beaver dam.

This part of the trail provides a good challenge on the way up, thanks to the difference in elevation. All stream crossings were easy to negotiate. Coming back down was obviously easier and quicker. While it takes a bit longer to drive out to trail #62 you can start snowshoeing as soon as you exit your vehicle. The drive to get to trails #60 and #61 is shorter, but you have to walk a good 10 minutes between the parking lot and the trail head. Timing wise, it's a bit of a toss-up. At least this portion of trail #62 provides a good alternative to trails #60 and #61 if you are looking for some variety in your snowshoeing expeditions.

There was minimal trail damage from the last freezing rain episode, with the exception of one large tree that's fallen across the trail. There is an easy path around it and is nothing to worry about.

Total time to cover this section of Wolf's Trail: 60 minutes.

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Monday, January 11, 2010

Gatineau Park Snowshoeing Condition Report - Trails #60 and #61

Quick post to let you know that late afternoon/early evening conditions were good on trails #60 and #61. Snow was just a bit sticky due to warmer than usual air temperatures (-2 deg C).

It sure beats being in Jacksonville Florida where they're forecasting the same temperature there tonight (and down to -4 deg C last night)!

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Saturday, January 09, 2010

New Snowshoeing Trail #74 in Gatineau Park

As mentioned in an earlier post, the NCC has opened up some new snowshoeing trails in the Gatineau Park this year. Today was our first opportunity to try Trail #74 in the Lac Philippe area, near Sainte-Cécile de Masham, just west of Wakefield.

Looking at the map of the Gatineau Park, it's not obvious where the trail starts, but you can tell that it's not quite connected to the main parking lot (P19).

If you keep your eyes open (we didn't) when you get to P19, you'll see a blue and white sign indicating that Trail #74 is to the right. If you follow the road leading up to the first-aid center, you'll find a rather large parking lot at the trail-head. There you will see another blue and white sign (we saw this one) showing you the way.

It felt really good to be on this trail. Let me say that again in case you missed it: it felt really good to be on this trail. In the wilderness, among the trees, through the valleys and over the hilltops, under a crisp blue sky with barely any wind. The NCC has really given us a gem with this new trail. The scenery was very nice along the entire trail.

The distance from P19 to the Renaud shelter is about 3-1/2 km (2 miles). About 200 meters (200 yards) before you reach the shelter, you come to a trail intersection. From there, the Philippe cabin is 300 meters away (300 yards) along an unnumbered trail that leads to Trail #73.

As you (carefully) cross over cross-country trail #55, your met with a great view to your right.

Within a minute or so, you reach the Renaud shelter equipped with a half-dozen large pine tables and benches, a counter top for food preparation and a wood stove to dry your clothing and to warm up your food. The shelter is also equipped with an emergency radio.

It took us about 2-1/2 hours to get to the shelter and to return to P19. Snow conditions were semi-packed, with plenty of powder for anyone venturing off the trail. Signage was exceptionally good from start to finish.

I won't hesitate to come back to this trail again this winter and I highly recommend it to others.

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Thursday, January 07, 2010

Rideau Canal About To Open To Skaters

The NCC has begun clearing the snow covering the ice on the Rideau Canal.

A sure sign that the canal is about to be opened to skaters!

Care to guess what date it will open???


Wednesday, January 06, 2010

First Outing on New Snowshoe Trail #63 in Gatineau Park

For the 2009-2010 season, the National Capital Commission has opened new trail #63 in the Kingsmere area. The trail-head is at parking lot P6, next to the MacKenzie King estate. During the winter season, access is via Chelsea to Kingsmere, then along Swamp and Barnes roads. The last part (along Barnes Rd) is rather narrow and caution is required when meeting oncoming vehicles.

There are two ways of reaching the trail from P6. We left the parking lot from the North-West corner and veered right to follow the park road past a few gates and a number of buildings before finally reaching the start of the trail. While one or two people had been on the trail before us, we enjoyed rather pristine conditions.

Signage isn't always obvious. At one point we had to cross a park road and veer left quite a bit before finding the trail again on the other side of the road. Despite a large number of signs, there were a number of other locations along the trail where it wasn't obvious where to go next.

We were evidently outnumbered by the deer and hare in the area based on the quantity of fresh prints (and other deposits) in the snow.

We were surprised by the extent of ice deposits still left on the trees since the ice storm on Boxing Day.

A fair number of trees and branches were down (or leaning heavily) but there were very few obstructing the trail.

This tree came particularly close to damaging one of the ruins on the estate.

Roughly one third of the trail is dedicated to snowshoeing, the other two thirds are shared with hikers as part of the Waterfall trail (shown as a solid light-orange line on the map). That meant we had a mixture of snow, starting with lots of light powder, ending with plenty of hard-packed conditions. The trail exit brought us directly to the South-West corner of P6.

Overall, a rather short and easy trail near the downtown core, but with only a small portion reserved for snowshoeing. The mixture of ice on the branches and the light from our headlamps made this a rather scenic outing.

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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Pictures From Tonight's Outing on Snowshoe Trails #60 and #61

What's great about these trails is that they're a 12 minute drive from home and take about 1 hour to complete. Requiring a total of only 1-1/2 hours, it's easy to fit this into an evening after work.

Conditions were similar to last night, except the snow was a bit stickier. Some freezing drizzle in the area may have been a contributing factor.

Here are a couple of pictures from tonight's outing.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Snowshoe Trail Report - Trails #60 & 61

Tonight the conditions on these trails were better than in my previous post. There's been a fairly constant sprinkling of fresh powder on (and off) the trails making things more pleasant. Some trees and branches are lying a bit lower than usual, thanks to a coating of ice from the recent episode of freezing rain in the area. This added to the novelty of tonight's outing, without causing any major inconveniences (some small & easy detours around one of two spots). While the reflection off the clouds provided some illumination thanks to the Camp Fortune ski trails, a headlamp was useful to avoid small branches at eye-level.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Sentiers des moulins (Mill Trail)

This location offers a good network of cross-country and snowshoe trails in the Lac Beauport area near Quebec City. Looking at their trail map I decided to snowshoe up to the Lac Beauport and Stoneham (ski resort) lookouts, followed by a quick stop at the Tourbillon cabin.

In general the trails were well marked. As you can tell by the elevation curves on the map, this was a good physical challenge. To avoid any doubt, the picture below proves that I made it up to the top, as shown by the "you are here" ("vous êtes içi") indication in the picture below.

The trails were really nice, with a great combination of lookouts, dense forest, good snow coverage and varied terrain.

Unfortunately, the trail map doesn't show all of the roads and snowmobile trails, which led to some confusion as to my progress around this loop (despite my navigation skills and having a compass with me). In the end it all worked out, but I would have preferred having a all of the details on the trail map.

I may be spoiled by the quality of the shelters in the Gatineau Park, but I found the Tourbillon cabin to be somewhat disappointing. Thankfully, I had no need to stay there for more than a few minutes and was on my way after taking a few quick pictures. Their web site shows many other cabin/shelter options, some look quite nice and comfortable.

All in all, despite a few opportunities for improvements, I really enjoyed snowshoeing in this area and would not hesitate to recommend it to others. I look forward to going back their myself.

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Parc national Jacques Cartier

This national park is operated by the SEPAQ. A popular canoeing and camping location in the summer time, it offers an 35 miles (55km) of cross-country trails along with a network of 5 snowshoe trails totaling about 12-1/2 miles (20km). It's located about 40 minutes north of Quebec City, along highway 175.

Immediately after paying for the park entry fees, there is a small parking lot. If you keep driving a bit further, you may be lucky to find room at the secondary parking lot closer to the trail-head.

While the trail C is considered a "must see" because of it's spectacular mountain side views, we opted for the less challenging loops A and B, with a short stop at the Relais cabin for lunch in a comfortable and heated cabin.

The best viewpoints in my opinion are on the river, as long as you pick a frozen section and not one where the current prevents the ice from forming.

There is a campground about 3km from the park entrance. As you can see, the accumulation of snow is reasonably good given the limited number of snowstorms that we've had this year (and the rain & freezing rain only a few days before this outing).

Below are pictures of two of the cabins in the park: Grand Kernan and Moyen Kernan. These cabins are available year round (reservations required).

The trails were well marked and the free trail map was reasonably detailed. There were only a couple of times that we strayed off the intended path on this outing, without ever losing sight of our location and intended direction. The scenic beauty of this park and the great snow conditions make this a snowshoeing destination worth considering.

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Chalets Mats des équerres

During the holiday period, we had the pleasure of renting the
Le Sous-Bois cabin at les chalets Mats des équerres

It's located about 30 minutes from Quebec City, north of St-Gabriel-de-Valcartier. Our two room cabin easily accommodated four people.

Despite a significant rain & freezing rain event the previous day, I ventured out on my snowshoes to cover some of the hiking trails on the
169 acres ancestral estate. An icy crust made the outing more challenging than expected, but it was pleasant nonetheless.

We really enjoyed our stay at this location. The service was friendly and professional, the cabin was spotless and the area was near the city but still provided us with the remote wilderness we wanted.

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