20 (+2) Loopy Hikers at St Adolphe d’Howard
There was a nice blanket of snow on the ground on Sun morning, it just was too thin to allow for any ski trails to open. We thought that the P’tit train du nord might open up some kms, but we checked and, no, not yet. So hiking was the order of the day. But hiking was not such a poor compromise when you had a day like the one we did at St Adolphe d’Howard.
Twenty of us gathered at the centre d’accueil shortly after 10 am under cloudy skies. The temperature that was steady at about -3 C and there was no wind, so conditions were quite comfortable. As we paid our $5 trail fee, we consulted on our route with the attendant. Our plan was to take trails 2 and 3, which consist of two loops connected by an intermediary trail. So if you can picture it, the outline of our itinerary would look roughly like this: –O–O, where the first “O” is trail 2 and the second “O” is trail 3. We would start on a single path (the first “–” part) and then connect to the first loop (trail 2). We would do the longer part of that first loop and then traverse the connecting path to the second loop (trail 3). We would go around that loop and then come back along the “–” to the first loop and do the shorter part of it and then back to the starting point Got it? Oh never mind, it’s not important. Anyway, the attendant advised us that due to some new construction there was a break in trail 3 (the second loop) and we would not be able to get all the way around it. But we decided to start with our original plan and see what would happen.
We set out at 10:25 am. There was about 4 inches of snow on the ground, which was enough to make some of the climbs and descents a bit slippery but not enough to make the regular walking along the trail overly difficult. On the first straight bit of our route (the first “–” of our –O–O plan) we had the idea of taking a detour on an offshoot path called trail B. But we managed to miss the connections to that trail and we were soon at the start of the first loop (trail 2). We did the longer part of the trail 2 loop and then took the connecting path (the second “–” of the –O–O) to trail 3. This all proceeded well enough, although with the looping and intersecting trails, several stops were made while the master navigator (Keith) and your reporter compared plots on their respective GPS devices and translated them to our position on the trail map. These careful deliberations took time and some of the more unruly members of our group used snowballs to communicate their eagerness to get moving. But the navigating was spot on and nary a misstep was made on this day.
Undaunted by the attendant’s warnings, we decided to follow trail 3, i.e. the second “O”. About 2/3 of the way along, we suddenly heard a voice shouting to us from the distance asking us if we were the Beaver Tails and what trail we were on. We responded the best we could but we could not ascertain who was talking to us before the voice fell silent. It was a mystery! We forged on, and soon came to the break in the trail we had been warned about. The trail ended at the site of an architecturally distinctive house under construction. No one was around so we simply traversed the site and picked up the trail on the other side.
We completed trail 3 and then retraced our steps on the connecting path (“–“!) to trail 2. We took the shorter (but steeper and more scenic) part of the loop back to the first straight bit of our path. On this last part, Keith and I finally succeeded in finding the connection to the elusive trail B. But we had somehow both ended up at the back of the pack and most of the group was too far ahead to be alerted. We all returned about 2 hr 40 min after we started. Everyone was accounted for and we avoided any encounters with quicksand-filled bogs this week.
Back at the centre d’accueil, the attendant said a couple identifying themselves as Beaver Tails had arrived late and had set out to find us. Based on his description of the couple, we surmised that the mystery voices on trail 3 had belonged to Jacques and Winnie, later confirmed by email. The second loop is not perfectly round and there is one spot where two parts of the loop pass within shouting distance of each other. But they did the full hike in the end and were due full credit for their effort. So even though we never saw them, our official participation count on this day was deemed to be 22 hikers.
Following the hike, we eschewed our usual Tims for a small and charming café in the village that Keith and Bob had remembered from our last hike there 2 years ago. The 17 of us who went filled most of the seats in the near-empty establishment. The soup, danishes and coffee made for great post-hike fare.
You can find a link to a GPS plot of our walk on the web site. From the home page, click on “Reports”. And don’t forget to check out the photos. Access them from the home page Click on the slideshow icon in the upper right hand part of the screen. If you are curious who took a particular photo, click on the photo during the slideshow to get a pop up identifying the photographer. In particular, look for a special collection of five photos from Arthur where he provides a close up and intimate look at some of the foods that fuel Beaver Tails.