The temperatures had cooled off somewhat, although not far below the freezing mark. All ponds and lakes were like skating rinks and were fast to travel down (although it was mostly pole action that made one go forwards) It was a good workout for the arms. Once off the ice the snow in the bush was mostly solid as a rock, although the not so cold temperatures had not tightened up the snow deeper down, so occasional breaking through was an issue. The urge to just glide down a slope was supressed by this "breaking-through-risk”.
Elaine Robbins, Markus and I went back up to the Hardy Lake Area today, and skied a route, again, south of the highway, but this time further east. We crossed Thorne Lake and continued through the few marshes to the east, crossing our tracks from yesterday. I was curious in exploring the crack/gully I could see to the west while driving past on the highway. It looked very interesting, and in fact was quite spectacular. We meandered along a rock plateau on the north side of it, getting glimpses of the deep, narrow gully below.
We came across some tracks that Elaine was sure were fisher, and before long came across the remains of a porcupine. We often see fisher, or signs of them when out in the bush around Muskoka. Most small and medium sized animals don’t stand a chance out in the bush if they meet a fisher. They seem more abundant now than in the past, maybe that why all we see are squirrels, who are fast and can get up in the trees in an instant.
We eventually came close to the highway where we now had to look for a route down into the gully, and across it to the south side where we would then climb up onto another high rock plateau. The climb down was a bit challenging, but once down I could see a narrow passageway along the bottom, beside the small steam. It looked absolutely beautiful, and we couldn’t pass it up. The narrow “ledge” of snow provided a great route between the stream and the cliffs to our right. Eventually, however, the stream had a bend in it, pushing water against the cliff creating a five foot section that was impassible. Hmmm, there was a spot where the snow banks were close enough to maybe straddle the stream and stretch across, and there were adequate trees close by to use for support. No problem we all got across with out too much difficulty or protests :)
Now we had to find a way up the other side and continue west-southwest until we hit the next group of ponds. Ths snow had finally begun, hopefully giving us adequate coating to make conditions less slick. Once up, we meandered around this plateau, eventually when it came to an end, descending into the next group of ponds. We followed these, eventually arriving at the top end of Pigeon Lake. The snow, was now accumulating, although still just a trace. It did make a huge difference in our progress, we now had “kick” on the ponds and marshes, and the bush wasn’t as trecherous.
We crossed the top of Pigeon Lake and turned north, now beginning our return portion of the ski loop. We followed a valley through the forest to the “L” shaped pond skied on yesterday. We soon came across our tracks from yesterday, but could not ski in them as they were solid as a rock … no chance of any glide as the bindings got caught up on the sides of the track. Face-plants were a real risk ... There was plenty of skiable terrain around, so we just avoided our tracks. Soon we were back on the same small lake as yesterday, and from here took the usual route through the various ponds back to the highway and the car.
Great ski day, and improving conditions with the light snow falling. More snow is in the forecast for the remainder of the week, and if we could eventually see some sun, off-trail conditions will be perfect!
A link to pictures, a video, and map of the route