Archive for the ‘S24O’ Category

A winter S24O

Friday, December 24th, 2010

It is cold in Ottawa during the winter time. We aren’t so adventurous as our friends Friedel and Andrew who cycle and camp out on snow days. Instead, we trade in our bikes for cross-country skis.  We often head to Gatineau Park, since it’s nearby, and has hundreds of kilometres of ski trails.

This year we decided to try out yurt camping – Becky booked us an overnight in the Taylor Lake Yurt up in Gatineau Park. Getting there required a 6 km ski involving a few rolling hills.  Not much distance, but we were carrying extra food, clothing and overnight gear, which added to the challenge.

Having never stayed in a yurt, we didn’t really know what to expect. When we arrived, what we discovered was luxury camping, although perhaps we shouldn’t really call it camping. Our yurt had a wood stove for heating – with a nice glass window so we could see how the coals were burning in the middle of the night, a propane stovetop for cooking, pots and pans, bunk beds, a fridge, and a picnic table. To top it off, there was a sky light in the centre of the ceiling, so we could see the stars at night and the trees above us during the day.

We enjoyed the ski up to the yurt, and upon arrival, quickly dropped off our heavy gear and went out for a bit more of a ski in the remaining few minutes of daylight.  By the time we got back to the yurt, we were happy to have our headlamps!

It took us much longer than we had hoped to get the fire going. At first, it just wouldn’t seem to stay lit. We were shivering and wondering what we were doing wrong. Fortunately, they had some directions on the wood storage box which explained that we should be using pencil sized kindling.  Our previous kindling was too big and we didn’t have enough of it. Scott went back outside to chop some smaller kindling, and with smaller kindling in hand, it only took Becky one additional match to get the firing going.  Clearly our Scout/Guide skills are a bit rusty!

While the yurt was warming up, our stomachs started growling so we enjoyed some baguette and brie while our dinner was cooking. It took about 90 minutes for the yurt to get warm – longer than Becky expected. We often go for a ski up to the cabins in Gatineau park, but there always seems to have been someone there before us to start the fire and warm the cabin – we have never entered a cold cabin!

Unfortunately, the struggle with the fire meant that Becky spent much of the night nervous about the fire going out. She was glad for the glass on the wood stove that allowed her to see how the fire was burning each time she awoke in the night. She got up several times to throw a log on the fire, ensuring that it didn’t go out in the night. The beds were quite comfortable, and Scott slept solidly all night.

In the morning, we took advantage of the sunny skies, and went for a short ski without our overnight gear. Unfortunately, Becky seem to be having some issues. She fell early on, then again whilst descending a hill. Eventually, she gave Scott her light backpack. She was not feeling quite right, so we headed back to the yurt. Once inside, Becky took off her ski boots to discover she had a US Quarter under her insole. No wonder her balance was off! It must have fallen from the shelf in the front hall and rested nicely under her heel for the ski up – once it got dislodged it moved to below her toes. Then it totally threw off her balance – at least that is the excuse she is using!

We stayed in the yurt right up to the last minute. A half hour before checkout time, the safety patrol arrived by snowmobile to ensure everyone was OK. It was quite funny to watch as the driver took off his helmet and exchanged it for a Santa hat. He came in to check that we were OK, then proceeded on his rounds. We suspect they do a survey of all cabins and yurts before the cleaning crew arrive. If we were unable to get out on our own, the patrol could have given us a ride on their snowmobile (or the sled they were towing).

It was a spectacular day for a ski home – sunny, blue skies and fast snow.  A wonderful early Christmas present!

Our first S24O

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

What the heck is an S24O you ask? It’s a short overnight bike tour (S240 stands for Sub 24-hour Overnight) for those of us who can’t get away for anything longer. Since you are not gone for long, you don’t need to bring too much stuff and you need less time to prepare. Once your bike is kitted out, you can easily do an S24O on a weekend and still have time for the Sunday afternoon BBQ with friends. Russ Roca describes it well in his blog post here.

For our first S24O, we decided to go south to Manotick and the Rideau Canal, about 65 km each way. Preparation took longer than it should because all our all our gear was spread about the basement and the kitchen. Becky took advantage of having a kitchen and did all the prep work for dinner and breakfast – what a change from expedition cycling!

We finally managed to get our gear all packed up and were ready to go by 2:30 pm. We looked into the sky to see some pretty scary clouds and questioned our sanity. It was all very reminiscent of our first day touring, leaving late in the afternoon with thunderclouds in the sky. Fortunately, the clouds seem to be moving out of our away. Each time we approached one, it moved before we got too close, making for a beautiful ride on traffic free back roads.

On our route out we followed a bike route from the Eastern Ontario Recreation Map. We highly recommend this map for anyone riding from Kingston or Cornwall to Ottawa as it shows many different rural routes where you can enjoy the countryside with very little traffic. We didn’t use the map for the route home, and we regretted it.  The recommended route was much quieter and more relaxing.

Following along the canal, we took advantage of a policy that allows those arriving on bicycles to camp at the lock stations for minimal cost. We stopped and enjoyed dinner at the Burritt’s Rapids lock station, then continued on to Lower Nicholsons where we camped for the night, all for the princely sum of $4.90 per person.

We arrived an hour and a half before sunset, but as the sun was sinking the mosquitoes came out. Anyone working at the locks might not realize just how bad the mosquitoes can be, as the lock staff had all left before they came out to feast.  We quickly set up the tent and crawled in.  Once it got dark, the fireflies provided us with a show, lighting up in the field and trees in front of our tent. It was so nice to be camping out under the stars again!

Morning came early, as Scott had to be home by 1 pm for a meeting. Becky crawled out of the tent shortly after 6 a.m. and immediately became breakfast for the mosquitoes. The remnants of  mosquito coil we had bought in Malaysia, which did us well all last summer, seemed to have lost it’s potency. The mosquitoes were not all affected by it. Fortunately, Becky packed some DEET, so we were able to eat breakfast without getting too annoyed. By the time we packed up, all the mosquitoes had gone away – melted in the morning sun.

Our trip home turned out to be a physical challenge. Normally, 65 km would not have been a problem; however, that day Mother Nature decided to give us a 20km/hr headwind. We pushed ourselves and barely made it home in time. In the end Scott got to his meeting a little late, since a shower and a big lunch were necessary first.

Overall, it was a great trip and we’ll definitely do it again!

Getting ready for breakfast at the picnic table at Lower Nicholson Locks.
Our tent – home sweet home!
Scott approaching a nest (top of pole) complete with baby birds.
66 km to Nicholsons Lock, 65 km home.