To get there I knew that I would need a pair of good boots. My old pair of hikers had long since given up and I have been getting by with my approach shoes. They are great shoes but not appropriate for this trip. Typically people ski into Lac Richard but being mid April the trails varied from pavement, to hard ice, to slushy, to mud and gravel.
So keeping dry feet was on my mind. Off to MEC. After taking back a pair of Soloman Quests that were too small and trying on half dozen others I settled on the Zamberlan Vioz GT GORE-TEX Backpacking Boots. The only trouble was it was Thursday and at this point I would have to break them on the trip.
Packing for the trip was tricky as Cynthia and I usually do canoe trips. Unlike hiking over a long distance you can drag an enormous load over a 1 km portage with out too much trouble. So on canoe trips I bring easily 10 kilos in camera gear alone. Cutting weight for this trip was a necessity. First to go was the excess camera gear. I held myself to one camera, one lens, two batteries and a small Joby tripod. With only one lens I took my 15mm fisheye f/2.8 so I could shoot in the yurt but this meant no wildlife photos and no framing of specific parts of the landscape. I really wanted to take my 70-200 f2.8 L but it is 1.3 kilos of glass. Anyway, the following is a list of animals we saw but I did not photograph: a beaver, a quail or some other large ground bird, a white rabbit and a few chipmunks.
Since the yurt had bunk beds with foam pads we could eliminate our sleeping pads. That was an easy decision. The yurt is advertised with wood stove for heating and cooking but I figured it would be nice to have my small Colman single burner stove anyway. After all you can boil water faster on the camp stove then by making a fire. This turned out to be a good decision as we could not get the wood stove hot enough to get a rolling boil. I was surprised by this fact. Even if we had got it that hot it would have made the yurt unbearably hot. So in my mind a stove was a must for our menu.
I like to eat well while I'm camping and I'll suffer more weight to do so.
- Dinner: Stir fry chicken with carrots, broccoli, rice, onions and cashews. I pre-bbq the chicken and precooked the rice.
- Breakfast: Eggs, bacon (precooked) and cheese on a English muffin with a side of oranges.
- Lunch: Apples. We ate such a big breakfast we mostly skipped lunch which we ate on Sunday instead.
- Dinner: Spaghetti with meat sauce. The meat sauce was packed frozen.
- Breakfast: Cucumber with cheese and bacon on an English muffin with a side of oatmeal.
- Lunch: Peanut butter on rye with a side of oranges.
Total weight ... hmm ... 6 kilos maybe, it doesn't matter because it was worth it. We did all our cooking on the camp stove with a single tank of fuel and warmed things on the wood stove. We also took tea and coffee. Our packs weighted in at (with our camel packs) 44 lbs for me and 29lbs for Cynthia. This includes our pots, dishes, sleeping bags, one change of clothes, coats, candles, headlamps, other stuff and a card game called Dominion-Intrigue. At 44 lbs, my pack seemed on the heavy side. Although we were going to eat well.
The plan was to meet at Mike and Amanda's and depart for Gatineau Park for 2:30 pm. With a one hour drive to P19 that gave us just under 5 hours of daylight to make the 13 km to Lac Richard. This seemed reasonable. Unfortunately Mike was delayed by work so we make the decision to continued as planned and Mike will hike out on Saturday. As it turned out Mike manages to get out off work and by making good time on the highway leaves P19 only one hour after us.
Leaving P19, Amanda, Cynthia and I marched down trail 50, a snow covered road with some bare spots, along Lac Philippe. The snow is hard packed and the hills are gentle. By the time we hit trail 55 onto Lac Taylor we have hit our stride and we shave off the kilometers a good clip. Trail 55 was snow covered gravel road that was mostly bare and rather soft as it rounds Lac Renaud. There is a nice bench on Lac Renaud but there is no time to stop here.
Once we hit Lac Taylor, 6 kms in, our packs are definitely noticeable. On the upside, my feet are fine and still happy in my new boots. We opt for a 10 min break at a picnic table before moving onto trail 56, an intermediate trail. Trail 56 out of Lac Taylor was softer snow so Cynthia and I dawned our poles to make the hills easier. As you leave Lac Taylor and its campsites behind the trail starts a long climb for almost 1.5 km up past Lac de la Vase. Most of the trail is snow and ice with a mud section here and there.
At the top of the climb we are rewarded with a sign post that marks Lac Richard's Yurt at 5 km. Here trail 56 turns from intermediate (blue square) to advance (black diamond). This means bigger hills ahead. At the top of the first hill I look back to catch my breath and wait for Amanda and Cynthia and what do I see? Wow it's Mike, head down and pushing it up the hill, he had made up the 1 hour difference! With the four of us together there was a new sense of energy and relief that if we got stuck in the dark at least we were together. The rest of the black diamond section descends down to Lac Kidder.
The end of Lac Kidder is marked by a sign post which states the Lac Richard yurt is 2 kms ahead. It did not look like 2 km on the map and we told ourselves it must be more like 1.6 km. I'm sure the distance on the sign is rounded up, maybe not. I think this is the longest 2 kms I have ever walked. With the sunsetting and constant climbing it seemed like the yurt should be just over the next hill but it wasn't. Then there was a bridge and another hill that went on forever until you hit Lac Richard. The finally obstacle is a beaver dam at the end of Lac Richard.
With our light gone we entered the yurt and got down to business. The first priority was to remove damp clothes and get the wood stove going. As the sun drop below the trees, the temperature quickly drop as well. Next up was a late dinner, it was now around 8 pm. Cynthia and I started our meal on the wood stove but quickly revered to the camp stove to speed up the process. To keep warm I restocked the wood stove twice after going to sleep. The first time was around 3:40 am and the second about three hours later. For the most part we were toasty warm.
Saturday was a late morning and I don't thing we ate breakfast before 10 am. We lounged about for awhile and actually had some surprise visitors who did not realize this yurt was by permit only. I guess the big sign that says "No Entry" without a valid permit needs to be bigger. Anyway, it was all forgotten with a few rounds of Dominion and a hike to explore the surrounding hillsides.
Our spaghetti dinner that night hit the spot. Again, well worth the weight of the meal sauce. With the dishes done it was an epic evening of Dominion with Cynthia dominating almost every game.
Morning came early on Sunday. By 9:30 am, breakfast was eaten, dishes were washed, gear was packed, coffee drank and we had hit the trails. With a lighter load (39 lbs and Cynthia's pack at 21 lbs , weight them later at home) I felt good going into the hike. A little Advil helped too. That hard 2 km uphill was now a nice 2km downhill; a good way to start off the day.
I felt strong on the climb from Lac Kidder to Lac de la Vase and after that is it all down hill to Lac Taylor. When you know where you are going and see the landmarks go by, it really helps you stay motivated. We ate lunch at Lac Taylor and departed at 12:30 pm. With easy hiking ahead I packed my poles for the final walk to P19. The final 6 km took about an hour.