Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Soirée retrouvailles!

Hier soir, plusieurs participants à notre fin de semaine en chalet en fin février se sont rassembler pour une soirée de retrouvailles, bonne bouffe et photos. C'était un vrai plaisir de se revoir, et de si bien manger! Merci à tous les participants!

La "paëlla de Charlène", préparée en collaboration!

Souper des bénévoles

La semaine dernière, quelques uns de nos bénévoles de cet hiver ont participé à un souper de remerciement. Merci infiniment chers bénévoles! Vous rendez ce programme possible et bien agréable!!

Friday, 24 March 2017

Skiing Lodge to Lodge in Maine’s 100-Mile Wilderness

West Branch Pond Camps by Frédéric Ménagé

As part of my continuing quest to try different hut to hut cross-country ski trips, I turned my attention to the possibilities in the United States. I came across several winter camping and lean-to options, as well as snowshoe-accessible self-serve camps, but the kind of ski-in huts I was seeking seemed few and far between. Curiously, the two best bets I found were in Maine, not far from each other. Maine Huts and Trails, located along the Dead River, operates one set of lodges. Another set of lodges in the 100-Mile Wilderness, south-west of Baxter State Park and the famed Katahdin Peak, are run by the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC). Both networks involve lodge to lodge cross-country skiing, with more services and trail grooming than I was accustomed to.

After some deliberation, in early March 2017, my husband and I decided to start with the 100-Mile Wilderness, about a 7 hour drive east from Montreal. We crossed the border near Jackman and bumped and lurched our way along the very remote-feeling Old Canada Road.

There are 4 lodges and 32 miles of lodge to lodge trails along this network, as well as numerous side trails. The northern-most lodge, Medawisla, will reopen in summer 2017 after lengthy renovations. We started at West Branch Pond Camps (WBPC), the only privately-owned lodge in the network, run by Erik Stirling. We were able to drive right to WBPC along Frenchtown Road, a dirt road that was in good condition. This proved to be fortunate, as the southern access via AMC’s winter parking (east of Greenville) was apparently in rough shape after a recent thaw.

Courtesy of AMC

We called Erik from Greenville to let him know we were nearby; Greenville is the nearest town with cell reception. Erik greeted us and showed us around the superbly located camp, right on a lake surrounded by hills. The camp consists of a cluster of charmingly old log cabins which house guests, as well as a main dining building. The camp has been in Erik’s family since the early 1900s, and the art of hospitality has clearly been perfected over the generations here. Erik had our wood-stove heated cabin calibrated to a perfectly cozy temperature, complete with water heating in a kettle on the stove. 

Our cabin overlooked the lake, and had rocking chairs, simple beds, packs of hot chocolate mix, and many back-copies of the surprisingly erudite “Appalachia” review of conservation and mountaineering. A generator provided light for a few hours every evening. There is a real bathroom with electricity and water and a shower, a far cry from the raunchy outhouses we are used to during hut to hut trips in Quebec, which have inspired us to concoct horrifying new terms such as “poo-cicle” and “poo-lagmite”.[1]

In winter, all of the lodges are full-serve, meaning that 3 meals are provided. We had been accustomed to carrying and cooking our own food, so we generally bring simple, lightweight fare, devoid of fruits and vegetables. Erik cooked us up a copious, delicious home-cooked meal that included many local and organic ingredients, and fresh-baked biscuits and dessert. While we worried we might have trouble returning to our old simple hut lifestyle, it was such a lovely treat and extremely relaxing (and much less preparation) to just sit back and eat all this wonderful food.

It’s of course quite a bit more expensive than our usual arrangements; a lodge stay costs between $110 and $150 US per person per night depending on the lodge, versus perhaps $35 Canadian each for a night and access fee in a Quebec provincial park (SÉPAQ) hut (plus whatever food one might bring). We booked all our lodges through the AMC. Becoming a member gave us a slight discount, particularly since we stayed a few nights in AMC lodges.

It’s also possible to pay for baggage transfer through a separate company, which is somewhat pricey as well. Since we weren’t carrying food, we opted to lug our bags around. Most of the lodges do not provide linen, so we brought sleeping bags, along with our clothing and the usual safety gear.

Erik describes himself as an “old-school” lodge owner. Along with his uncle Chuck, he takes care of all of the home-made cooking, grocery shopping, cabin maintenance, cleaning, ski trail grooming, shuttling bags to the next lodge, booking and greeting guests and chatting with them about topics ranging from natural history to world politics. The lodge can host groups of 20 people+! When we came through we were the only guests; the season was winding down and the crusty snow conditions had further slowed down reservations.

The next morning we headed out on light backcountry skis with some trepidation because of the truly horrendous snow conditions. A deep freeze after multiple rainfalls during this strange winter had resulted in a solid crust. Fortunately, between Erik’s and the AMC’s grooming efforts, the groomed (but mostly not tracked) trail was fast, but perfectly skiable. There were still at least 2 feet of snow on the ground here. We were grateful for our metal edges. We skied along smaller trails within the WBPC network before arriving on the wider main trail, which is an old logging road. Lodges are between 6 and 9 miles apart each. Typically, there are at least two possible routes to get between lodges. We were the only skiers along this stretch between WBPC and the next lodge, Little Lyford.

The AMC developed this lodge-to-lodge ski network fairly recently, acquiring lodges within the past 15 years, and forging a partnership with WBPC. In addition, the AMC arranged an innovative land-management agreement with logging companies in this area: land preservation and recreation happen in sensitive environments such as hilltops and wetlands, whereas logging is reserved for the more resilient valley environments. Interestingly, a number of years ago, the nearby Appalachian Trail was moved up onto the higher ridges and a bit further away from the lodges and valleys. Through-hikers now pass through the protected, fragile alpine-like environments.

It took us about 4 hours to reach Little Lyford. After a long climb, we looked back and were rewarded with views of snow-capped Katahdin. Lunch consisted of sandwiches we made from ingredients laid out at WBPC along with snacks. As we zoomed down the last long hill, we finally started seeing other guests and knew we were approaching Little Lyford.

Little Lyford is clearly a favourite lodge for many. The collection of little cabins and buildings are located in a protected valley, not on a picturesque lake, but away from the wind. There are numerous fun side trips such as a climb up Indian Mountain, or a walk out to Gulf Hagas, a famed series of waterfalls. And there is a wood-fired sauna! All of the many guests staying here had skied in from the winter parking lot, and were making Little Lyford their base camp. Surprisingly, none of the other guests we met during our stay were attempting any kind of lodge to lodge skiing.

Little Lyford. Photo by Dennis Walsh.

Wanting to take advantage of the sunny weather, we dropped off our bags and went for a quick walk out to the first waterfalls of Gulf Hagas, taking care not to slip on the crust. Upon our return, a hearty supper was served at long tables where we chatted with other guests. A small library with couches and nature & outdoor guidebooks upstairs of the dining hall provided the evening’s entertainment.

The next morning we hurried to leave the hut. Overnight flurries had left a precious centimeter or so of fresh snow, but threatened to turn into rain later in the day. We enjoyed the improved skiing all the way to Gorman Chairback Lodge, with only a drop or two of rain after all. Another rather lovely view greeted us: the lodge is right on a lake surrounded by towering old growth pine trees. Many of the cabins of this renovated camp also date back to the early 1900s. A generous donation from L.L. Bean provided linens and much of the furniture. The brand new lodge includes a large dining area, fireplace/library area, sauna and games room. We once again found ourselves the only guests at this large establishment; the poor weather forecast had apparently scared away a group of 16. Before calling it a day, we went for a quick walk across the frozen lake and along the Henderson Brook.

Inside Gorman Chairback Lodge's "library" cabin. Photo by Herb Swanson.

The next morning we lingered by the fireplace reading tales of Antarctic explorers and tree guidebooks until the rain abated around noon. We headed out in the warm weather, our skis gripping well to the softer snow. We took an ungroomed trail, picked our way around some open water holes, and lunched in a yurt-shelter. We returned to Little Lyford that evening, and then back to WBPC for a final night in the network, a last ski in the direction of Medawisla Lodge and a final goodbye to this particular trip.

View of Mount Kahtadin while skiing towards Medawisla Lodge. Photo by Frédéric Ménagé.

I’m left with the pleasant images of rolling hills and mixed forest landscapes of the Maine wilderness, feeling more rested than after any other vacation. I’m grateful for the diligent grooming, enabling us to ski every day despite non-ideal conditions, and for the incredible hospitality and service we received, among the best I’ve ever experienced. Personally, I can’t decide which lodge is my favourite.  And there are many more trails still to explore in this network.

Practical Information:

West Branch Pond Camps: http://westbranchpondcamps.com/
Little Lyford Lodge and Cabins (and winter trail map): https://www.outdoors.org/lodging-camping/lodges/lyford/
Appalachian Mountain Club Maine Woods office in Greenville: 207-695-3085
AMC lodge reservations: 603-466-2727

If you liked this article, you might also enjoy:

[1] I apologize for the overly graphic reference, but it occurs to me that I’ve been secretly hoping to be able to use those two words in an article for some time now. I also realized during this trip that another of my life-long dreams is to operate a cross-country ski groomer. That will be a project for another winter. 

On en profite jusqu'au dernier flocon!

Sortie en raquette sur le mont-Royal, 23 mars, 2017. Il reste encore de la neige, croûtée en ce moment, mais on en profite jusqu'à la fin!

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Rando FR/AN, parc Angrignon et des Rapides! FR/EN walk at Angrignon and Des Rapides Parks!

Please scroll down for English

Marchons du parc Angrignon, avec ses boisés et son étang, jusqu’au magnifique parc des Rapides sur le bord du fleuve! Pendant la randonnée, nous allons faire un échange linguistique français-anglais, pique-niquer, et discuter des enjeux des cours d’eau à Montréal. Environ 5 km de marche.

Quand : Samedi 27 mai de 10h à 14h environ.  
La marche terminera au parc des Rapides à Lasalle.
Coût : 10$ (5$ si nouvel arrivant à faible revenu), plus taxes pour les inscriptions jusqu'au 24 mai. Par la suite, 15$ plus taxes (prix régulier)/8$ plus taxes si nouvel arrivant à faible revenu.
Inscriptions: Places limitées! En ligne - https://www.amilia.com/store/fr/armp/shop/activities/1298481   ou au 3555 St-Urbain. Questions? 514.872.0566 ou pleinair@miltonpark.org  

Cette activité est organisée en collaboration avec la Maison de l’amitié, avec le soutien de Mountain Equipment Co-op. Merci également à la Ville de Montréal pour son soutien.


Let’s meet at parc Angrignon, walk through the forest and by the pond, all the way to the spectacular parc des Rapides by the St. Lawrence! During this urban hike, we will also do a French-English language exchange, have a picnic, and discuss water conservation issues in Montreal. We will walk a distance of around 5 km and end up in Lasalle.

Date: Saturday May 27 from 10 am – 2 pm (approximate end time)
The walk will end in Lasalle near Parc des rapides.
Cost: $10 ($5 if low-income newcomer to Canada), plus taxes, if you register by May 24. After that, the regular price is $15 plus taxes ($8 plus taxes if low-income newcomer to Canada).
Register: Space is limited! Register at 3555 St-Urbain or online here - https://www.amilia.com/store/fr/armp/shop/activities/1298481  Questions? Call 514.872.0566 or pleinair@miltonpark.org

This activity is organised in partnership with the Maison de l’amitié, with the support of Mountain Equipment Co-op. Thanks also to the City of Montreal for its support!

Initiation au kayak en piscine le 29 avril – Intro to kayaking in a pool

Please scroll down for English

Venez essayer le kayak – dans une piscine chauffée! En collaboration avec le club de canoë-kayak d'eau-vive de Montréal, nous vous proposons une initiation aux bases de kayak de rivière, qu'on va apprivoiser en piscine à la Piscine Jean-Claude Malépart (métro Frontenac) samedi 29 avril de 15h à 19h. On va apprendre : c’est quoi le kayak d’eau-vive (versus le kayak de mer ou le canot), rentrer et sortir du kayak, quoi faire si on est à l’envers dans le kayak, les coups de pagaie de base. Le kayak de rivière s’apprend dans l’eau calme ou en piscine au départ. Voici un article qui explique pourquoi le kayak est si génial! Il faut être à l’aise dans l’eau.

Le coût est de 15$ (5$ si nouvel arrivant à faible revenu) plus taxes incluant tout le matériel. Ce prix abordable ce printemps est possible grâce à un partenariat avec Génération Plein air de MEC, qui vise à encourager les jeunes (et moins jeunes) à sortir en plein air !

Inscriptions - https://www.amilia.com/store/fr/armp/shop/activities/1298480 ou au 3555 St-Urbain. Questions? 514.872.0566 ou pleinair@miltonpark.org. Places limitées, n’attendez pas!

Cette activité est organisée en collaboration avec la Maison de l’amitié, avec le soutien de Mountain Equipment Co-op. Merci également à la Ville de Montréal pour son soutien.

Come try kayaking – in a nice heated pool! We’re offering a one-time intro to river kayaking course in partnership with Montreal’s kayaking club. It will be at the Malépart Pool (Frontenac metro station) on Saturday April 29 from 3 - 7 pm. We’ll be learning: what whitewater kayaking is (as opposed to sea kayaking or canoeing), getting in and out of the kayak, what to do if you flip over, and basic paddle strokes. It’s always necessary to start learning river kayaking in calm water or in a pool. Here is an article explaining why kayaking is so amazing!

The cost is $15 ($5 for low-income newcomers to Canada) plus tax, including all the gear. Our sincere thanks to MEC’s Outdoor Nation Program for providing support, allowing us to offer you this activity at an extremely affordable price this time!
Limited space – reserve your spot online here https://www.amilia.com/store/fr/armp/shop/activities/1298480 or in person at 3555 St-Urbain. Questions? 514.872.0566 or pleinair@miltonpark.org.

This activity is organised in partnership with the Maison de l’amitié, with the support of Mountain Equipment Co-op. Thanks also to the City of Montreal for its support!

À vélo au fil de l’eau – Biking Along Montreal’s Waterfront!

Please scroll down for English

Découvrez Montréal à vélo… au fil de l’eau! Des sorties hebdomadaires les lundis soirs pour bouger, explorer les paysages, quartiers et pistes cyclables de Montréal le long de ses nombreuses berges, et rencontrer du monde!

ET, en juillet et début août, fêtons nos peuples fondateurs! Visitons des sites importants à Montréal à vélo et apprenons leur histoire et le rôle des peuples autochtones et explorateurs français.

Calendrier préliminaire des sorties (ce qui pourrait être modifié sans préavis) :

24 avril – le port de Montréal via le parc Maisonneuve
1 mai – le boulevard Maisonneuve et canal de Lachine
8 mai – le fleuve vu du haut du mont-Royal
15 mai – Laval par le pont Perry
22 mai – pas de sortie (congé)
29 mai - île Ste-Hélène et circuit Gilles-Villeneuve
5 juin – Longueuil par le pont Jacques Cartier
12 juin – Île des sœurs

19 juin – Île de la Visitation
26 juin – pas de sortie (congé)

3 juillet – pas de sortie (congé)
10 juillet – Parc René-Lévesque via le canal de Lachine et pique-nique* (sortie plus longue)
17 juillet - Parc des rapides et l'histoire de la vague "Big John"
24 juillet – Parc Bellerive et discussion du site archéologique aux îles de Boucherville
31 juillet – Parc Angrignon et le site de la paix au Vieux-Port en chemin
7 août – Longueuil via le pont Jacques Cartier et les travailleurs Mohawk qui ont construit tant de ponts!
14 août – Complexe environnemental St-Michel
21 août - Parc Bellerive + sociale, détails à confirmer

Autres infos :
-          Il faut amener votre propre vélo et casque. Les sorties sont possibles en Bixi mais ça demande plus d’effort physique. J’ai un ou deux casques à prêter sur réservation.
-          Il faut savoir pédaler. Nous avançons à un rythme « convivial » (pas effréné).
-          Les distances varieront entre 15 et 30 km.
-          Le lieu de rendez-vous sera au coin de Rachel et Brébeuf à 18h, beau temps, mauvais temps. On décidera sur place s’il faut reporter une sortie (par exemple en cas de pluie diluvienne ou vents très forts). Si oui, la sortie de remplacement aura lieu un mardi ou mercredi soir ou en fin de session.
-          Nous terminons la sortie au même endroit entre 20h et 21h selon le trajet.

Coût : 15$ pour les 7 sorties à partir du 19 juin les lundis soirs, plus taxes et une carte de membre annuelle de 10$ à l’Association récréative Milton-Parc. Ce prix abordable en 2017 est possible grâce à un partenariat avec Génération Plein air de MEC, qui vise à encourager les jeunes (et moins jeunes) à sortir en plein air !

Inscriptions : auprès de l’Association récréative Milton-Parc, 3555 St-Urbain (métro Sherbrooke) ou https://www.amilia.com/store/fr/armp/shop/activities/1308713. Questions ? 514-872-0566 ou pleinair@miltonpark.org

Cette activité est organisée en collaboration avec Mountain Equipment Co-op. Merci à la Maison de l’amitié et la Ville de Montréal pour leur soutien.

Montreal’s Waterfront by Bike!

Discover Montreal’s extensive waterfront by bike this spring! Join us for a series of after-work bike rides on Monday evenings to get some exercise and fresh air, explore Montreal’s water-based landscapes, neighbourhoods and bike paths, and meet new people! 

And in July and early August, ou’ll get to learn more about key sites and founding peoples of Montreal!  

Preliminary Schedule of Rides
Please note that this schedule could change without notice.

April 24 – Port of Montreal via Parc Maisonneuve
May 1 – Maisonneuve Boulevard and Lachine Canal
May 8 – The St. Lawrence seen from the top of Mount Royal
May 15 - Laval via the Perry Bridge
May 22 – no outing (Monday is a holiday)
May 29 – Île Ste-Hélène and the Gilles-Villeneuve racetrack
June 5 – Longueuil via the Jacques Cartier Bridge
June 12 - Nun’s Island

June 19 – Île de la Visitation
June 24 – No outing (holiday)

July 3 – no outing

July 10 – Parc René-Lévesque via the Lachine Canal and picnic* (longer outing)

July 17 – Parc des rapides and learn more about Big John!

July 24 – Parc Bellerive and learn more about the archeological site on the Boucherville Islands!
July 31 – Parc Angrignon and learn more about the peace signing site in Old Montreal along the way!
August 7 – Longueuil via the Jacques-Cartier bridge and learn more about how Mohawk residents of Kahnawake built so many bridges!
August 14 - Complexe environnemental St-Michel
August 21 - Parc Bellerive and social outing, details tbd

-          You will need to bring your own bike and helmet. The outings are mostly feasible by Bixi (though more tiring). You should already know how to bike. I have a couple of helmets to lend if you reserve in advance.
-          Distances will vary from 15 – 30 km. We bike at a “normal” pace (not too fast).
-          Meet at 6 pm at the corner of Rachel and Brébeuf, rain or shine. In case of very bad weather, we’ll meet and decide onsite whether to ride or not. If we need to postpone an outing, it could be rescheduled to a Tuesday or Wednesday evening or at the end of the session. We’ll return to the same place at 8 or 9 pm depending on the length of the outing.

Cost: $15 for the 7 Monday evening outings starting June 19th, plus taxes and an annual $10 membership card to the Association récréative Milton-Parc. Our sincere thanks to MEC’s Outdoor Nation Program for providing support, allowing us to offer you this activity at an extremely affordable price in 2017! Outdoor Nation aims to encourage young people (and the young at heart) to get active outdoors.

Registrations: Milton Park Recreation Association, 3555 St. Urbain (métro Sherbrooke) or https://www.amilia.com/store/fr/armp/shop/activities/1308713. Questions? 514.872.0566 or pleinair@miltonpark.org

This activity is organised in partnership with Mountain Equipment Co-op. Thanks also to the Maison de l’amitié and the City of Montreal for their support!