Sunday, January 5, 2014

Quebec City - as cold as you would expect

This says "Ack!  It is freakin' cold here!" in French.
The final stop of the Winter Wonderland tour was Quebec City, where we ate, drank, and curled up in our hotel bed while the temperature dropped to -30C outside.  There may have been some frozen sightseeing in there somewhere, too.

Bars in cellars are cozy and warm.  Smart move, QC.

Very nice views of a very cold city.

We snuck a food tour in there somewhere.  Well, there was food and it was a tour, at least.

Yes, yes, amazing history, tour guide.  Let's move!  In a few more blocks, I would get actual frostbite on my nose.
Celebrity sighting on the tour!  You'll recognize the woman on the right from the newspaper cover at the top of the blog.  The maple tea was wonderful, too.
Indoors + cider wine = excellent.

Another pub-cellar.  

Le Chateau Frontenac.

Toboggan ride!
All in all, a great, frozen trip.

Hut-to-hut skiing in Maine!

For the second leg of the Winter Wonderland trip, Mike and I went cross-country skiing from hut to hut in Maine.  It was awesome, even though we had only spent one morning on cross-country skis before and "learned" the sport through a YouTube video.  Heh.
I know, you can't tell at all that I'm new to this.  This is my first 20 feet in quasi-backcountry skis.
Each day, we swooshed through beautiful woods to a modern, heated hut, where staff cooked us family-style meals and we sat by the fire and played games and read and drank hot chocolate, tea, wine, and beer.  In the morning, after a hearty breakfast, we did it again.  Fabulous.

Day 1: Up the hill to Stratton Brook hut.  

Lovely woods.

They look even better from inside the hut.

The down side of staying at Stratton Brook was literally the down side:  we had to descend the next day.  And by descend, I mean crash a few times, then take off the skis and walk.


There were moose tracks EVERYWHERE.  But no moose sightings this time.

By the time we made it to the Poplar Hut, it was time for a nap.
Among the books in the hut library was one on how to cross-country ski.  Very helpful.

We celebrated New Years at the Poplar Hut.  The 15 guests and 3 staff voted to ring in the New Year at 10pm instead of midnight, which was just fine by me.  There was plenty of festivity...

a fire, of course... 
lots of game-playing ... 
and logically... 
a whistle music concert!
The third day was my favorite.  The skiing was flat, the woods were lovely, and we ended up at Flagstaff Hut, on the shore of Flagstaff Lake.

Rest stop in a yurt.

Made it to Flagstaff!

Mike politely declined my offer to walk around on the frozen lake in -10F temps.

I think he missed out.

Getting ready for our final dinner.  The staff at this hut wrote a poem about the guests, which was recited before dinner. Awesome.

One final look out on the lake the next morning.

And we were at our car (which started! hooray!) with minutes to spare before Mike's eyes would have frozen shut.

Mt. Washington in Winter

They say, When in Rome... Well, when in Canada, embrace the winter.  It makes it a lot more fun.  For the holiday break, Mike and I decided to take the winter wonderland theme on the road with a trip to New Hampshire, Maine, and Quebec.  First stop: climbing Mt. Washington, in North Conway, New Hampshire!

Paul and Deanna were kind enough to join us for this leg of the trip.  We got in too late to make a summit attempt on our first day, so we hiked up half the mountain as a test run.

Getting dressed at the visitor center

Not bold (cold) enough to start - we lost some of those layers quite fast.

Winter wonderland begins!

Paul and Deanna, our partners in crime climb
 We turned around at a random spot, so there wasn't much to see.  The next day, we decided to make a bid for the summit.  And, well, just pay attention to the weather changes as the climb goes on.

Oddly, we had to take the "summer" route.

Clear-ish skies on the way up.

Note the lack of ice on clothes.  That won't last long.


So chill.

Goodbye blue skies.  Time for parkas.

It was around this point that people began descending past us, citing "crazy high winds" ahead.

From this point on, the camera did not make an appearance on the mountain.  First, there was the hurricane-force winds.  Those died down after 20 minutes or so to merely "strong gusts".  Then came snow and visibility dropped to almost zero.  Around 0.3 miles from the summit, we were forced to turn back.  We made our way back down about 1/2 way to shelter behind a rock for some photo ops.

Mike's self-portrait in my goggles.

By the time we got back down to this point, we were back to all smiles.

Paul and Deanna are smiling, I swear.

Time to head home.  And this was with loads of visibility!

Mt. Washington gave us her (his?) best.  I was ready to climb it again the next morning, but Mike reminded me that we did have four days of cross-country skiing beginning the following day.  Alas, we shall meet again! 

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