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A week of snow and cold means our first ski day of the season. A couple weeks ago I purchased a pair of cross-country skis and boots so that @renee and I can take advantage of the many ski trails around Montreal. It is very nice to be back on the snow!
I am looking forward to slip-sliding around the city. This will be the first season that I can put my running shoes in storage instead of filling the soles full of machine screws...
Being half way between Montreal and Quebec city, this park gets a lot of traffic, and this weekend was no exception. There were a ton of people out on the trail. Thankfully things thinned out a bit once we got beyond the first junction, but we certainly saw people all the time. Interestingly, many (if not more than half) of the people we encountered were asian - a demographic I don't usually see very often on the trail.
The trail we selected was about 13 km long and only had about 785 m of elevation gain. It was basically a nice loop through rolling terrain around several small lakes and the occasional beaver dam. The weather was perfect and the trail was quite nice, though we missed most of the beautiful fall colours. A week sooner would have been fabulous for leaf peeping.
This year the Canadian federal government gave out free national parks passes in celebration of Canada's 150th anniversary of Confederation. The passes expire at the end of December, and we have hardly had a chance to use it yet. Today we decided to do a day hike at a national park half-way between Montreal and Quebec City called Park national de la Mauricie. It is a park that has a lot of lakes and hiking/ski trails (sadly nothing suitable for backpacking). Apparently they allow winter backcountry tent camping, so perhaps Renee and I will have to find some winter sleeping bags to take advantage this opportunity, not too far from home.
See the map for this journal for a GPS track of our route.
On the home stretch, back down the mountain at the end of a great day of hiking at Mont Orford. I was happy to have @celine (in this photo, wearing the purple sweater) with me this time, though I didn't see her for most of the day. Fairly early on in the hike she bounded off after the advanced group, and we didn't connect again until the last stretch of trail.
The plan for the day was to do most of the climbing at the beginning, followed by a ridge walk, with the possibility to bag another peak at the end if people had enough energy. Putting the majority of the climbing at the beginning was a way to do a bit of a shakedown to determine who might have some problems, so we could make adjustments to groups and/or route.
We stopped at the first view point, about 1/3 up the climb and at that point determined we would break up into three groups. One group (beginner) would go back down and take a relatively flat path along the base of the mountain. A second group (intermediate) would continue up and along the ridge to our destination. The third group (advanced) would do the same ridge walk, but bag another peak at the end. I was one of the instructors in the intermediate group.
My takeaway, after having done two of these trips now is that it is really easy to take for granted all I have learned and experienced through hiking and backpacking. What feels like a short easy jaunt for me can be a difficult and trying time for a teenager. Most of them don't spend any time in the outdoors on a regular basis. The fun (for me) slightly exposed rocky sections made some kids genuinely nervous. The undulating trail along the ridge frustrated some of them, who assumed a ridge walk is flat. Spending a day, without headphones, was a challenge for a few.
After all these years, I am still convinced that the #onedayaweek protocol should be a part of every child's upbringing. There is just so much to learn and experience from our natural environment.
Today I helped lead the second hike with the Vanier College outdoor ed program. Our first hike, a few weeks ago to Mont Saint-Hilaire was a warm-up for todays hike at Mont Orford. The weather was about as close to perfect hiking weather as one could ask for - cool temperatures with some clouds, and not too much wind.