Last Sunday’s backcountry ski hike was the most awesome adventure I’ve ever been on!
Horst Wetzl was a long-time devoted member of the Voyageur Trail Association (VTA) and landowner along the VTA trail system. He was an avid outdoorsman, and had a home a few hundred meters beyond the end of Peoples road. Horst passed away in 2015 at the age of 80. The new owners of the Wetzl home, the Chevalier family, now run a maple syrup operation there. Our hike on Sunday was devoted to the memory of Horst, who blazed the scenic trail to the canyon many years ago so that we may also take pleasure in its beauty and peacefulness.
On March 15th, the “Fabulous Five” ventured out for the Horst Wetzl Memorial Canyon Ski. Cheryl and Mark led the backcountry ski hike. Julie, myself, and Lesley were the newbies on this adventure. We started around 11am at the end of Peoples Road. From there, we strapped on our skis and travelled a short distance along a snow-covered road where the former Wetzl home is located. The fun really began when we went “off-roading” into the woods. We headed North West through forest and frozen wetlands. Cheryl was ahead of us, laying track, when she took an efficient and lucky detour towards the creek crossing. She came upon Mother Moose and her calf relaxing on the other side of the creek! The rest of us slow pokes could only imagine the wonderful scene as we were too preoccupied dodging trees and a steep incline to get to the creek crossing.
The day could not have been more beautiful. A blue jay was welcoming springtime with its call. The sky was so blue and the sun so bright and energizing. The snow was perfect. The base was hard enough to support our skis, and just soft enough to allow us to carve tracks and glide effortlessly. We continued for a while following the creek, and then negotiated a few more mogul runs in the forest. Nothing like a good roller coaster ride amongst the tall pine and birch trees. We finally arrived at the portal entry into the canyon. It was such a spectacular view! A corridor of canyon laid in front of us, lined on both sides by rock and magnificent icefalls. I was truly awestruck!
We skied down into the canyon entrance and followed the meandering path until we arrived at our destination. There, in front of us, was a spectacular chandelier of turquoise ice hanging from the cliff wall. Cheryl and Mark made a nice campfire, and we ate lunch admiring the beauty all around us. A curious fisher or marten was scurrying up the side of the snow covered rockface as we admired the glittering ice sculptures. I’m sure the little creature was surprised to see us there!
Upon leaving the Canyon, Mark serenaded the spirits with his bagpipes. He played one of my most favorite pieces, Antonin Dvorak’s Adagio movement from The New World Symphony. I played Dvorak’s 9th Symphony many times while touring through Scotland as a young violinist. The adagio (featured as an oboe solo in the symphony) was also the lullaby song that I sang to my daughter when she needed calming and reassurance. It’s a beautiful tune, and it echoed soulfully through the canyon as we left it behind.
Our return was along the same route. The sun was now a warm golden glow, glistening on the snow. Disappointed that we had not witnessed Mother Moose and her calf, we were altogether surprised to be given a second chance by seeing the duo’s moose tracks on the trail upon which we had skied earlier in the morning. I couldn’t believe how deep the prints were! At least 2 feet deep, and tracking down the side of the valley wall. What a nice treat!
We exited the forest, back onto the snow-covered road, and were rewarded with a nice gentle, gravity-powered ski back to Peoples road. A truly perfect day with wonderful friends.
Thanks Cheryl, Mark, Julie and Lesley for a day I will cherish forever!
Hiking Summary: 13 kms. Total elapsed time: 5hrs:40mins. Return 4:30pm.