Monday, August 16, 2010

Hicking to Lac Mohawk and back to the Jewish General Hospital

Last week-end (August 13 to 15) we wanted to go back to Parc National du Mont-Tremblant, but rain was announced for Saturday and Sunday.

So instead, Saturday was spent in Montreal, first driving Nedy (V's boyfriend) to the airport, and then hiking up the Mont-Royal (the closest to an escape in nature in downtown Montreal), hitting Santropol for a soup and finally watching the "Curious Case of Benjamin Button" comfortably at home. The previous night (Friday) we had brought V at the Jewish General Hospital for her tonsillitis, so we had gone to bed at around 4:30 AM, something I am having trouble with nowadays, especially when I still wake-up early the morning after. A chill night was needed Saturday night, and that is what I got.

Sunday, Car. (P's French girl friend) was still down for doing some hiking (originally we planned to meet up with her to hike-up Mont Tremblant on Sunday). To avoid the rain, she suggested going to the Eastern Townships instead. P and I were in, and at 11:15 AM we had left our apartment and were on the road to Sutton.

At around 12:30 AM we were at the base chalet of the Sutton Ski slopes. We paid the 5$ charge per person to the Parc Sutton organization, spent another 5$ on a trail map and started hiking up the ski slopes.

At first, I thought we might do a monster of a hike: a full loop to one of the tops of the mountain and then turn down to Lac Mohawk and loop back to the base chalet. But after a painful 30 minutes up the steep ski slopes themselves, exposed to the sun in the middle of the wide slopes, the girls discovered that I was actually taking them the long way around, confiscated the map from me and said that they wanted to go the straight way to Lac Mohawk.

To correct the situation I found a way which I thought was connecting to the trail for the lake. It was another ski slope, but now we were going down. Fear and doubt crept-up in my mind: what if we were just going back down to the base chalet, the girls would kill me. After a while going down and the suspicions growing to fear in my mind, we were saved as we found the trail going directly to the lake.

This time we were really on a good hike: this was a real small trail (not a ski slope), going not too steeply up, right through the beautiful woods of the Sutton region. Bright green ferns on the ground, moss covered rocks, little streams and brooks, rotting tree trunks, small multicolored mushrooms (orange and red and plain gray) and tall lively trees.

The hike was still long and somewhat difficult; at least it was tiring. Unfortunately, we still had cell phone reception, so our escape from civilization wasn't complete. To top it all, V called us from Montreal to say that her tonsillitis was back in strength and getting rapidly worse.

We eventually reached Lac Mohawk, where we picnicked on a large flat rock, entering into the lake from the sore. P and I had a tasty chiabata bread with tomatoes and cream of Boursin. The Boursin cream was a whole incident on it own, because P thought it was going to be real Boursin cheese (a tasty French hard cheese), whereas what we ended-up eating was a cream of Boursin, something that is supposed to be used for cooking. It was very similar in taste and consistency to cream-cheese, except that I liked it better than cream-cheese.

After having amazingly sweet Quebec strawberries for dessert while sitting on a rock and bathing my feet in the cold water, we took off, back on the same trail we came from. The way back was much quicker and easier; I couldn't believe how ward it was to cover that trail on the way to the lake, as it now seemed easy and short.

On the way back, V called again, feeling even worse. P told her to call a taxi and go to the hospital without us, which V did.

We hurried back to Montreal after a quick pit stop at Le Cafetier in Sutton. We went to the hospital, whee V was already admitted in the emergency Red Zone. The doctor drained the puss from her tonsils, gave her IV medications and then some drugs to relieve the pain. She spent the night in the corridor, relaxing and we picked her up this morning before heading to work.

I was really impressed by the work that the people from Parc Sutton do. While hiking I imagined that all the land we were going though was owned by the park and was protected. Today I learned on the Parc Sutton website that this is actually just a group that manages the trails and the park, which is actually not a real park but a collection of (probably) protected land and private land. So unfortunately, my dream that the whole area we went through was protected is now vanished, but I am still very happy with the work if these great people. Congrats to them.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Saving Parc Oxygène

There is this little green area created by residents of the Milton neighborhood that is being threatened of becoming yet another building (it's like an alleyway between Hitchison and Par, north of Prince Arthur). The park is called Parc Oxygène by the residents, which are also its creators and supporters. The problem is that the land is actually privately owned and the owner wants to sell it to a developer. The city should have bought the land a long time ago and make it into an official green zone. The plot is pretty small, so this fight might seem (or maybe it is) funny to some people, but I kind of understand the residents of Hutchinson street fighting for their park: they are doing it because of all the effort they have put into this land over the years. It's like the small park we have on the corner of Knox and Hibernia; some environmentally conscious and motivated residents are putting their sweat into this park. Where it to be threatened, I would also try to protect it.

Here is an article about Parc Oxygene. Lets hope the residents win the protection of their park somehow.

PS: I wrote a little note on the page to show my support and to show the city that we care about these issues.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Outdoor week-ends: Mont-Tremblant and the Abercorn Climb

This past week-end (July 31st - August 1st) we went canoe-camping at le Parc National du Mont-Tremblant. It was my first time ever camping there and I was surprised to see how well the activities and the park were organized. You just show up at the reception building at one of the 3 entrances of the park, and they give you all the info on where to go and how to proceed about booking or starting your adventures.

We went to the La Diable entrance of the camp and reserved a night of canoe-camping at lac de la Savane (spot number 12). Then we proceeded to Centre de Services du Lac-Monroe, where we got the equipment we needed for our night of canoe-camping (the safety vests, the paddles and a special orange plastic watter-tight container with a cord inside and the key for unlocking the canoe). We also reserved a ride down the la Diable river with a canoe for the following day. We took a canoe because I had forgotten what the difference between canoe and kayak; it might have been more fun and easier had we taken the lighter kayaks.

After this organizational work was done, we went to do some mountain biking in the trails east of Lac Monroe. The trails were beautiful, fairly easy, with no big ups and downs. But the forest was very wild and very untouched, and there were no other bikers there (all and all we saw just one more couple biking and 4 people hiking).

After the mountain bike, we went for some more provisions at the depaneur of the service center, and we hit the road towards lac de la Savane. It must have been around 4:30. The drive was quite long and beautiful: a lot of turning on a narrow road surrounded by trees and rocks. And then the road turns into a long dirt-road, I was a bit affraid for the woobly bike-rack at the back of the car.

We got to the parking lot for the canoe-camping at Lac de la Savane (funny, that's the name of the metro station at which I get off for work), parked the car and took the canoe. The canoe ride to the camping spot was longer than expected, probably because there are no indications really on how far you are from where you want to go and the lake was pretty big. 2 boats with 3 Arabic guys in them told us where our spots was. We unpacked our stuff, built the tent and prepared if for the night. We then went for a small trip on the lack, to do an "abordage" of this small island in the middle of the lake, The island ended up being so densely populated with vegetation that we couldn't even get on it, we just stayed around it in the water.

We went back to our camp and it started getting darker. I threw in the water the bear trap that the 2 teens from Laval (our neighbors) had left there. Then we made a fire and ate sausages and marshmallow bought from the depaneur at the service center. I had way too much meat, I couldn't eat it anymore. We chilled with the 2 kids from Laval, who tried to scare us at some point by pretending to be a bear. It was getting really cold. We went to bed and slept fully clothed in our sleeping bags. I had the smaller one and froze to death during the night, I had to put my large beach towel on my legs to warm-up even more. I heard some noises during the night which I assumed were wolves howling.

In the morning, the sun was super strong and woke us up. We took a little swim in the now (relatively) cold watter. We packed our camp and canoed back to the car. It was 11:45 when we got to the car and we were supposed to be at the service center at noon for our canoe trip down the river for 12:30. We ended-up there at 12:45 and took the 1 PM bus to the start of the canoe trip.

The trip was grueling, long and tiring. The mid-day sun was straight on our heads, we paddled for 3 hours. The combination of freezing during the night, interrupted sleep and then physical effort with the sun over my head just drained me. I had a major heat-stroke, but at least we made the end of the canoe trip on time for 5 o'clock.

I was feeling too sick to drive back. But the trip was rewarding and spending 2 days in the wild was so refreshing. We made dinner and food for the whole week, I fought with the insects on my apple tree and I slept like a baby.

The inspiration to do this came from the week-end before (July 23-25), when I went to the cottage with R and K. We biked both Saturday and Sunday with R, while K chilled at the cottage with my parents. We also ate like animals all 3 days, so I think I did more eating than biking; we made BBQ and amazing salads for every meal we had. Saturday I managed to do the whole Abercorn climb without stopping or getting off my bike. It was the first time I ever did this; it was R's 2nd time. On Sunday we wen't to do the trail around Bromont with my friend from German Class, Chris. R broke the speeds of his bike in the last 2 min of the ride. The trail at Bromont is fun, with some challenging ups and downs.

I will try to make this a recurring tradition, try to get out of Montreal as much as I can during the week-ends, and do activities in nature. Hopefully next week-end we'll go somewhere again.

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