.: Ski XCOttawa.ca :: Skiing in Ottawa and Gatineau Park

Rockin' Training Camp - November 16-26, 2001 at Foret Montmorency, QC
By:  Anna-Spring Doerfler   (2001/11/27)


Part 1: Going On an Expotition

""We are all going on an Expedition," said Christopher Robin, as he got up and brushed himself.
"Going on an Expotition?" said Pooh eagerly. " I don't think I've ever been on one of those. Where are we going to on this Expotition?"
"Expedition, silly old Bear. It's got an 'x' in it"
"Oh!" said Pooh. "I know." But he didn't really.
"We're going to discover the North Pole."
"Oh!" said Pooh again. " What is the North Pole?" he asked.
"It's just a thing you discover," said Christopher Robin carelessly, not being quite sure himself.
"Oh! I see," said Pooh. " Are bears any good at discovering it?"
"Of course they are. And Rabbit and Kanga and all of you. It's an Expedition. That's what an Expedition means. A long line of everybody. You'd better tell the others to get ready, while I see if my gun's all right. And we must all bring Provisions."
"Bring what?"
"Things to eat."
" Oh!" said Pooh happily. "I thought you said Provisions. I'll go and tell them." And he stumped off. (A.A. Milne)"

Six-thirty in the morning. Yawning, but eager, they congregate in front of Pavol's house, three cars sagging from the excessive weight; so much that David's mud flap drags on the pavement as he banks a turn. No, they do not skimp out on the provisions. Not only do they bring food and vitamins, but also they have heard that there might be snow at the "North Pole", so they brought their skis. Not knowing how much snow there might be, they bring all their skis, waxes, wax benches. Not knowing how cold it might be, they seem to have thought of everything from their shorts to their down jackets. Yes, they are ready to leave on an expotition.

They drive and drive, in a long line of everybody, following directions someone had given them. There are many discussions as to what the "North Pole" might consist of. No one else heading in that direction is bringing skis. "Do you really think there will be snow ?", each asks in turn and then answers for himself this great philosophical question. There are some differences of opinion which are debated along the way. They drive through Montreal. The grass is very green. They drive through Quebec City, the grass is green. Someone mentions that the "North Pole" is only forty-five minutes away, also noting that the locals call it "la Forest Montmorency". When the caravan stops for gas, the locals use many other strange phrases as well, such as "bonjour" and "comment allez -vous? " and " nous avions eu trente centimètre de neige la semaine passé, mais la pluie et la chaleur ont presque tout fondu ". Winnie-the-Pooh had learned that the best way to sound like he knew what was going on was to say " oui oui" after a short pause on their part. The caravan keeps the journey going, stopping periodically on the side of the highway. This is an expotition in itself, by definition. There is a long line of everybody. Well, not quite because the girls never took part in this line formation. The boys would line up, equal distance apart from each other with backs facing the road. They would stand there for thirty seconds to a minute, and then would turn around and walk back to the vehicles. Perhaps they are scouting for the "North Pole". None of them ever seem to have discovered much. All of these interludes are a necessary part of the journey. They are a short time to limber up stiff legs and to breath in some fresh air. Can one smell the "North Pole"? I don't know, but everyone gets into a discussion about Altitude after passing a sign with '300m' inscribed on it. Someone says that the Forest Montmorency (The North Pole) is at 800m. This is very important in determining that there might be snow there even though there is still no signs of any.

As they get closer, all those emotions of anticipation of what might be found; of fear of what might not be found; of uncertainty of what to expect run through their blood. The air starts to feel colder, and there are a couple patches of old snow laying amongst the bushes. And then a little more snow, and a little more; until finally, large thin sheets cover the ground on both sides of the road. Winnie-the Pooh spots a large brown sign ahead on the side of the road. Trying to decifer the words, all he can do is mutter to himself "oui oui". There are two words he can read and he slowly reads them aloud : "Fo-res-t Mon-t-mo-ren-cy". Having realized what he just said, he repeats them, more fluently and louder than the first time so that everyone around can hear : "Forest Montmorency! That is it. We are here!!!"

Despite the doubts there was enough snow to ski on, so Winnie the Pooh and all his friends on XC Ottawa changed into their ski clothes and headed down to the ski trail. The ski trail resembled more of a skating rink than a ski trail; all ice and patches of dirt, rocks and grass. Winnie the Pooh said "I don't like this one bit" but the members of XC Ottawa were so eager to ski that they strapped on those old sticks for the very first time since last winter and took their first very ungraceful first strides of the season. The first little while was a time of adjusting to those very long sticks attacked to their feet, and trying not to fall on their faces, with all those rocks just "suddenly popping right up out of nowhere". After a bit Winnie the Pooh and all his friends found a trail that had pretty decent snow, and they skied on the 600-meter stretch until it got dark and then they headed back for a hot shower and some warm grub.

Part 2: Playing on the Snow

Our days on the trails were filled with fun and adventure, as well as a couple misadventures. Like kids, they were happy to be alive and just the sight of snow, little as there was, made their hearts tingle. Klister and rocks were the recommended grip wax. After their first afternoon of skate skiing, They embraced the classic technique for most of the week. They discovered a network of trails; trails with character. Had there been more snow, they would have considered them just normal trails. But in their circumstance, these trails were something more. They had the grit of rock, the smoothness of snow, the depth of water holes, the playfulness of having obstacle logs and holes to jump over, as well as being a little rough around the edges with baby spruce and fir trees popping up everywhere. These trails provided the excitement of discovery. Wide-eyed and eager, they set out to find out what might be around the next corner, and over the next hill. Most often, it was the same thing that was around the last one. However, this sort of common sense does not usually register in the minds of folks on a grand expotition.

Everyday, they would play on the snow for a couple hours before lunch in a long line of everybody. Then they would snooze for a while, after eating a hearty lumberjack meal. And then they would wake up to Pavol's wake up call. "Chop! Chop!" he would call out down the corridor. No matter the time of day, it seemed like they had only just finished eating before they had to eat some more. Their chore of the day was to come back every hour to eat, so that they would not deplete their reserves. Energy bars, chocolate chips, raisins, molasses, tea, coffee and apricots were only some of the provisions they had brought. There honey flowing, for the Winnie the Pooh in all of them. Eat, Sleep, Exercise, and Drink lots of Fluids. Isn't this a prescription to health? They couldn't ask for a better lifestyle. Pavol and John kept the trails alive by shoveling snow onto the bare patches. Even with all their efforts, they could not persuade the snow to stay. The snow left on the fourth day after their arrival. They all cried, "What did we do to insult you? Come back dear snow, reviens chère neige".

But helas, they woke up the next morning to a green landscape outside their bedroom windows. Snow had been in the forecast. There was still hope, for it was still in the forecast. Perhaps tomorrow. For practical reasons, this Tuesday became their rest day. Some of them took a little jaunt to Quebec City where the maple syrup flowed over the delicious crepes. They stuffed themselves with at the Cache Crêperie. Along the way, they spotted fresh snow on some of the trucks as they passed by them.

With this vision of fresh snow began their quest for snow. From that day on, they no longer skied at the Montmorency Forest trails. They would drive forty to sixty kilometers north in caravan to find a road. They surveyed many possibilities, but most roads were too gravelly, for there was no base under the five centimeters of new snow. Old logging roads and skidoo trails made for some good skiing. They spent some of their days skiing on hilly stretches a couple kilometers long. On other occasions, a couple hundred meter strip did the job. Like an animal migrating from one foraging ground to another, they used up the snow each day and moved to a new road the next. They put in a lot of hours, but worked on some technique as well. No matter where they were, the rocks made their presence known. The rocks triumphed many times, but they did not let the rocks stop them from having fun. The rocks brought down two of Arno's poles in the same fall, as well as a ski in another.

"…But Christopher Robin wasn't listening. He was looking at Pooh.
"Pooh," he said, "where did you find that pole?" Pooh looked at the pole in his hands.
"I just found it," he said. "I thought it ought to be useful. I just picked it up."
"Pooh," said Christopher Robin solemnly, "the Expedition is over. You have found the North Pole!"
"Oh!" said Pooh. (A.A. Milne)"

Kris and David also scored 9's in ski-breaking falls. The rocks also accepted a couple of blood offerings as well as a couple other good falls. This one rock in particular, of the big and malicious sort, did not take pleasure in causing small harm. It was only satisfied with hearing a person scream in agony. That rock got its way with Sharon, she didn't just fall, but she fell hard enough to fracture her tailbone. Every small bump felt huge on the way to the hospital. The doctor prescribed some painkillers. Oh! The joy of being able to numb the body in such a circumstance.

It's Sunday morning already. It's time to go home. They wanted to stay another day, but again, the snow had melted. How could they complain though? They got in many good training days and were only glad that they had been able to feel the glide neath their feet before the start of their racing season. This place had become a home and a community. They had shared this place with an American team from St-Laurent University as well as with the staff and students of the Forestry School. Alex, one of the staff, even threw a dance party for both teams, preceded with a game of Sharades. Awsome. This was 's ROCKIN' training camp. Santé Osti!

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