Moose on the Loose

While I was out skiing this afternoon I saw a moose on the trail. This was the first time in several years I'd run across anything larger than a mink while outside doing anything. I took a couple pictures, but I wouldn't get close enough for them to turn out. I'd just come out on a large open bog and had no protection if it decided to charge, so I kept my distance.


Time is Short, but the Snow Still Deep

In many places in Canada they have long lost the snow they had this winter, but the way we got dumped on it might be July before the last of it is gone. Well, maybe the end of April anyway. There seems to be over a meter remaining in most place as we near the end of the first week of spring. This is not a terrible thing though, it means that I can continue to XC ski for a bit longer.

Today it was so warm (0° C) and sunny that it would be a shame to waste it doing anything else. I strapped on my day pack, with snowshoes attached just in case, and headed out. It was around 1330 and I had about an hour before the kids got out of school and the number of snowmobiles on the go took a big jump, so I took to the railbed with is groomed for them first.

Not knowing how many days like this I'd get, I decided to take some detours and try some new areas. The first deviation was to jump over to the pole line instead of going down to the railbed. There appeared to be only the one snowmobile track here, and it was hard and full of alders, so I put my so-called touring skis to the test and tried the untouched snow. I was surprised at how well I was able to travel on top of it. There was only a slight depression in the surfaces behind me. This was fun for a while, but soon the trees became too thick, and I followed the snowmobile track back to the railbed.

Things were normal here as I headed up to the bog just before reaching the industrial park. I continued to go over the less travelled areas until reaching the point where I usually head back to the pond. Instead, I turned left and continued over the bog to a rock where I had stopped for a rest the previous winter while out snowshowing with Parker. Here I removed my skis and pack, and rested a few minutes while taking a few sips of Gateraide.

I decided to keep going this direction and play things by ear. Reaching the point where the trail heads into the woods, I took a right and went over clear snow to another bog where I found a bunch of snowmobile tracks which took me back to where I branched off, and I continued on to the pond.

The pond was in terrible shape for skiing. The snowmobilers travelled over it a couple days before when it was around +7, and the slush was now refrozen into icy lumps and valleys.
The going was slow and I had to constantly make adjustment for the terrain. After a few minutes I was at the other side and in the municipal park. From here I followed the road until it hit the trail to the left which lead to an old road that used to run up behind the town. I tried to find a way to access it while on my mountain bike the previous summer, but couldn't see a good way to get on it. Things are sometimes easier in the winter.

There is a good view looking over the town and the harbour from the highest point, and just past that is the trail which leads back of the lookout and on to the pond again. There must be a half dozen trail heading off in various directions from the pond, so it is a great place to start and end ski trips. Mine ended with another rough crossing to the snowcovered parking area. There I removed my skis and walked the rest of the way home. It had been a wonderful 3.5 hours out enjoying nature.


Junction and Back

Once in a while I would meet some other skiers while on the trails, and we would chat for a couple minutes. During one of those conversations I learned that others shared my goal of skiing up to the junction and back - a return trip of about 22km from the industrial park. I estimated that this could take up to 8 hours, depending on how many and how long the breaks.

Not one to just talk about things, I decided that March 20th, the first day of spring, would be a great time to do it. I let a few people know about my plans, and posted it on the ski club's website in case anyone wanted to join me, but there were no confirmations. I was on my own again. Oh well...

Originally, I planned to leave at 0900 sharp with the group, and have a lunch in the chalet at Notre Dame Park, but since it was just me there was no rush and I could travel at my own time. It was closer to 0930 by the time I finished a good breakfast and had the car loaded up - dog and all. Then it took a while to find a parking spot. With all the snow there are few places left. By 0950, however, I was on the trail.

Conditions were really good, although it was overcast all day with a light SE wind blowing. This helped to bring the snowmobiles out in force. I wouldn't doubt that 100 passed me on their way to cabins and Mt. Peyton. So much for fresh air. Regardless, I made good time and arrived at the junction shortly before noon. I skied around the loop to head back home and looked for a good place to stop for lunch.

I pulled off to the side of the trail at a cabin intersection (Farrs?), took off my pack, pulled out a cold peanut butter sandwhich and colder bottle of milk, and ate while watching the snowmobiles whiz past. 10 or 15 minutes is long enough to be still in these temperatures, so it was soon time to hit the trail again to warm up.

To train for this event I'd increased my ski excursions from 2 to 3 hours and then up to 4 hours, but that was really pushing it. I was unsure if I could go 5 or 6 hours, if that was what this trip actually took. It would have if I left from the pond like I normally do and gone all the way to the chalet, but going from the industrial park saved me about an hour. This meant I was back at the car again in around 4.5 hours. I'd achieved another goal. Been there, done that. Those other people can just keep talking.


Raid Avalon 2 Completed

I made it through the second Raid Avalon adventure race. It took me about twice as long as the other teams who finished, but after nearly 10.5 hours I crossed the finish line. Much of the excess time can be blamed on equipment. I had waxless traditional skis rather than skate skis, my bike had summer road/hard trail tires rather than studded winter tires, and I had an old pair of wooden snowshoes rather than the modern type. With the right gear I could have easily trimmed at least an hour off my time, and probably 2.

Speaking of trimming, I am not in the best of shape. According to the charts, I could stand to lose 20 or 30 lbs. I don't move overly fast at the best of times, and maintaining a high rate of speed, especially in the cold of winter, is difficult with my mild asthma. Then there was the fact that I was racing alone against 2 teams of 4, 1 team of 3, and 1 other single. Anyway, I knew all this going in and hadn't expected to be anything but last. My goals were to finish, and hopefully not be more than 2 hours behind the leaders. I managed the first part.

The race itself started out with cross-country skiing, interrupted halfway through by an Australian (attached on the back) rappel down a steep slope. That was followed by a bicycle ride through slush, mud and ice covered roads. From there the route went up a long, steep hill, through the dense woods, and over bogs. The final stretch involved crossing over the frozen harbour, and then down the road to the finish line. All kinds of weather was experienced too, but the worst was the 30 to 70km NW wind which blew in my face, and impeeded progress, whenever I was away from any shelter from hills or trees.

The organizers, volunteers and other racers treated me very well, and I was congratulated on my accomplishment time and again. I don't feel, however, that I achieved any more than the others racers who took part. I was just slower, but well, I guess there is something to be said for having done it without the benefit of a full team. Perhaps I'll have one for the next race. Wanna join me?