Gatineau Adventure Weekend

Thumbnail: Park map

From the vis­i­tor cen­tre we check the relief map for our trail. As I’m sign­ing in, Heather G notices my date of birth is in the 80s. I’m the only one, and they joke about how young I am — espe­cial­ly com­pared to Benoît, who’s a six­ties baby — but it nev­er feels like we’re far apart in heart and mind.

Thumbnail: Parking lot

We car­pool to the clos­est lot, and strap on our packs for the hike to the cab­in.

Thumbnail: Pathway there

The trail is fair­ly easy, and paved most of the way. It’s a very wel­come detail when you’re car­ry­ing sleep­ing gear, rain gear, extra clothes, eating/cooking imple­ments, cam­era equip­ment, sev­er­al days worth of food, enough water to keep you hydrat­ed on the way there, and your pack is over 25% of your body weight.

Thumbnail: Checking the map

A quar­ter way in, and I’m already shed­ding clothes as my body warms from the walk, even as the wind blows late-win­ter cold. Even though peo­ple offered to help me car­ry things, I’m deter­mined to bring as much as I can by myself.

Thumbnail: Small pond

Thumbnail: Growth 1

Thumbnail: Stream

The sounds of nature sur­round us. Frogs mate-call­ing, crick­ets chirp­ing, and wood­peck­ers sound­ing off in the trees above.

Thumbnail: Cabin

Thumbnail: Heather stretching

After two hours, we arrive at our quaint lit­tle cab­in, the only one on a lake in Gatineau Park. There’s a shed of fire­wood in the back, and an axe with which to split it. A lit­tle solar pan­el on top pow­ers a smoke detec­tor, car­bon monox­ide detec­tor, and emer­gency com­mu­ni­ca­tion sys­tem.

Thumbnail: Cabin interior

The cab­in has six bunks with mat­tress­es, and a cozy wood-burn­ing stove that serves as both fur­nace and kitchen. It’s clean and well-main­tained, with it’s own set of pots and pans (also very wel­come when you’re hik­ing in). Even though we’ve booked the cab­in for the week­end, it’s still open to the pub­lic between 4pm–10pm, and vis­i­tors come and go from all direc­tions, shar­ing tables with us, and exchang­ing sto­ries.

Thumbnail: Sergey's Hammock

Sergey sets up his ham­mock before dark. Even with the lux­u­ry of a shel­ter, he does­n’t feel like it’s camp­ing unless he’s sleep­ing out­side.

Thumbnail: Nachos

For a pre-din­ner snack, Roberta melts cheese over beans and lime nachos on the stove. I’m not sure what I appre­ci­ate more; the warm snack, or the fact that she car­ried bags of gua­camole, sal­sa, con­tain­ers of sour cream, and avo­ca­dos for us to enjoy.

Thumbnail: Cutting vegetables

Soon after, we feast on borscht, French bread, and chick­en and beef faji­tas. Benoît even packed 2L of red Peller Estates wine, as well as sev­er­al won­der­ful cheeses. There’s no arti­fi­cial light any­where, and as the sun sets, and we eat by can­dle­light.

Thumbnail: Painting with light 4

Thumbnail: Painting with light 2

Thumbnail: Painting with light 3

Thumbnail: Painting with light 1

Only a faint, pale glow com­ing from the city lights up the hori­zon. Otherwise, it’s pitch black; per­fect con­di­tions for star gaz­ing or astropho­tog­ra­phy, if it was­n’t for the heavy cloud cov­er.

I think of a pho­tog­ra­phy tech­nique called paint­ing with light I’ve seen but nev­er used. After a few test shots, every­one’s excit­ed to dance and pose and paint the air with our flash­lights as the snow falls around us.

We stop putting logs in the fur­nace well before bed­time, but the remain­ing fire keeps the cab­in hot. A lit­tle too hot. In the morn­ing, we dis­cov­er that we’ve all shed as much of our cloth­ing as pos­si­ble and opened the win­dows. Roberta even moved to a low­er bunk to get away from the heat.

In a fit of heat induced mad­ness, Dahlya put anoth­er log in the stove to keep the fire going at some point in the night, and did­n’t real­ize the con­se­quence with what she had done until the morn­ing, but every­one’s in good spir­its nonethe­less with the day­light com­ing in bright and clear.

Thumbnail: Growth 2

Thumbnail: Caterpillar

Thumbnail: Growth 3

Before every­one has wok­en up, I take a short walk down the trail to look for inter­est­ing sub­jects, but spring has just start­ed, and there’s noth­ing around but fun­gus and wet soil. It’s so still and serene here, I won­der if the fun­gus start­ed grow­ing on the branch­es before or after they fall.

Thumbnail: Oatmeal

Thumbnail: Cutting fruit

Thumbnail: Bowl of oatmeal

There’s too much food, and we eat as much as we can to light­en our packs for the hike back. The fresh air and exer­cise has no prob­lem keep­ing our appetites healthy.

Thumbnail: Benoit and oatmeal

It’s always inter­est­ing to see the inno­va­tions used for camp­ing. Pots with curved han­dles that fold against the sides to stay com­pact. Insulating mat­tress­es that can fold up dou­ble as chairs. Combination uten­sils. Carbon fibre trekking poles. Little details that were giv­en lots of thought, and appre­ci­at­ed great­ly by those who make use of them.

Thumbnail: Sergey fishes

Sergey fish­es by the lake. He even goes skin­ning dip­ping with Heather G, which strikes me as par­tic­u­lar­ly bold when we’re all wear­ing toques and it’s so cold that some of us have put on every piece of cloth­ing we brought.

Thumbnail: Fungus

We draw water from the lake through a fil­ter, which turns the insect-infest­ed, pale-yel­low water clear and drink­able.

Thumbnail: Jeff and Heather — Tai Chi 1

Thumbnail: Jeff and Heather — Tai Chi 2

Heather G’s always want­ed to try Tai Chi, so I give her a short les­son. As a group, we try uproot­ing, and take turns try­ing to move each oth­er with tech­nique instead of force.

Thumbnail: Plant cropped

I’ve only brought two lens­es with me — my bare essen­tial 16–35mm and 24–70mm — because I could­n’t spare any extra weight or space in my pack, but a part of me wish­es I had packed my macro lens when­ev­er I see the tiny details in the veg­e­ta­tion.

Thumbnail: Salad

Thumbnail: Honey chocolate cake

Through much of the week­end, the wind blows cold, but every now and then the sun comes out and bathes us in warmth. We spend as much time as we can out­side, with our com­pa­ny and con­ver­sa­tions keep­ing us enter­tained. It’s a serene week­end, with civ­i­liza­tion and cell phone ser­vice far away.

Thumbnail: Jeff with pack

I’m using the same pack I had in Scouts, which was about 15 years ago. I sus­pect I haven’t grown much since I was 15. It was in those two years that I learned how to dis­trib­ute the weight in my pack, what to eat, what to bring, and how to sur­vive out­doors.

Thumbnail: Group shot

Before leav­ing, we sweep the floors, clean the pots, do every­thing we can to leave the cab­in the same way we found it, as the group before us has done.

Thumbnail: Fork in the road

We make good time on the way back. A steady pace is set, with con­ver­sa­tion tak­ing our minds off the pass­ing time, and we cut our time almost in half. I can feel the mus­cles in my feet, legs, and arms tight­en with sore­ness, and I’m sure I’ll feel it much more the day after. It’ll be good to be so exhaust­ed; a won­der­ful reminder that I should appre­ci­ate every chance I get to do this, because I don’t do it often enough.


  1. These pho­tos and the feel­ing that comes through them between the peo­ple reminds me of hik­ing in New Zealand and makes me want to do this too: pack all you need in one pack — with­out excess but with treats, with peo­ple you love and, trite as it sounds, get away from all the trap­pings of mod­ern dai­ly life.

    • That’s exact­ly what I love about it. Being self-suf­fi­cient, and lit­er­al­ly liv­ing out of a pack, is a great feel­ing.

  2. I haven’t gone hik­ing — camp­ing in FOREVER. I don’t even have any stuff *sigh* I guess it’s my parental duty to get on this.

    • I think the fact that you have a child to intro­duce to all these won­ders of nature would make them even more glo­ri­ous.

  3. I love your pho­tos… I went to the desert near Las Vegas last week­end and shot some pho­tos I think you’d be proud of. Would love to hear your input.

    • Yeah! Shoot me an e‑mail to a link, or send me some of them.

  4. Thanks so much for these.… reminds me too that I haven’t camped in ages, and the great stuff I saw there.

    Will send you my Yosemite sto­ry if you’re inter­est­ed, too long to relate here.

    • Yes to this too…I’ve always want­ed to go there.

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