April 16, 2012

Preparing for the road trip to RCAF Station Parent and Casey

(UPDATE: This trip happened

To recap, I'm going camping with ~8-10 of my craziest friends in the near future, and here's where we're going, in excruciating detail for my next of kin.  All times are approximate, and I've put no times to events on Day 2 and Day 3 because other than getting home around dinner time, I have no schedule I need to keep!

Day 1 ~450 Km:
  • 09:00  Depart from Carp, ON
  • 09:45  meet the rest of the expedition at Tunney's Pasture, by the giant microwave dish.
  • 10:00  Pick up the downtownie, in the market
  • 10:15  Travel to Mont Laurier, QC; via the 105, 107 and 117
  • 12:30  Meet the Montrealer who's joining our merry band of lunatics there.
  • 13:00  Allowing time for the unexpected, depart from Mont-Laurier for Parent, QC
  • 16:00  Arrive at Parent, QC, make camp

View Larger Map

Day 2 ~55 Km:
  • Break camp
  • Explore the remnants of RCAF Station Parent
  • Travel from Parent to the Casey Air Strip
    (NB: The road is not mapped, I will be GPSing it and adding it to Google Maps upon my return)
  • Explore the remnants of the Cold-War-era air base near Casey, QC
  • Make camp!

View Parent, QC to Casey Air Strip in a larger map

Day 3 ~500 Km?

This is where it gets a little hazy.  By this time we've been in the middle of nowhere, in below freezing (at night) temperatures, for 2 sleeps.  Some of the expedition may have become disenfranchised with the trek's vision.  Some may be cold.  Some may be whiny. 
By the start of Day 3, if all goes according to plan, we will be waking up at the abandoned airstrip at Casey, QC.  If we haven't done enough exploring the day before, we can explore some more.  By noon, at the latest, we should be heading home.

I have a "Plan A" and a "Plan B". 

Plan A  ("The Safe Way" - Back the way we came ) ~500 Km
  • Casey, QC to Parent, QC
  • Parent, QC to Mont-Laurier QC (Wave goodbye to the Montrealer who would take the 117 back East)
  • Mont-Laurier to Ottawa, drop off the downtownie and whoever else.

If by day 3 we've had an incredible time, and we all feel invincible, we get to take the "new" way back, the road less traveled.
Plan B  (AKA The Yippe-Kay-Yay Way - BOOYAH!) ~480 Km
  • Head along the forrestry roads from Casey, QC to "Chemain de Manouane" 
  • Head SE along Chemain de Manouane, find the turn off SW toward Rivière-Rouge
    • Decision time
      • If the road toward Rivière-Rouge looks traversable by a Jeep Liberty, a Subaru, an Iltis, and a couple of pick up trucks - GIVE 'ER.
      • RCAF Station La Macaza - 1963
        Credit: Donald Norrie
      • If the road toward Rivière-Rouge looks too rough, head to Saint-Michel-des-Saints, to Montreal, and to Ottawa - skip the following instructions.
  • Head to the Correctional Services Canada La Macaza Institution... and try not to get arrested. 
  • See BOMARC Missile bunkers
    (from a distance I expect)
  • Take the 117 to Route Des Ormes to the 323
  • Take the 323 to the 315
  • Take the 315 through Mayo to the 148
  • Take the 148 to Ottawa

View Larger Map

Here are the weather forecasts for the areas which we will be visiting. 
In case of rain, snow, sleet, hail, tornado, flying pigs - too bad, we're going anyway...

It's quite possible there will be a few people who won't talk to me after I put them through this! 
It looks like it's going to be really cold!

April 09, 2012

Trip to RCAF Station Foymount - Spring 2012

The CFS Foymount Crest (1971)
Ground was broken, building RCAF Station Foymount, in October 1950.  The station became active operationally in September of 1952, and was operational under the Semi Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) by 1963.  In 1967 as part of the Canadian Forces unification it was renamed Canadian Forces Station (CFS) Foymount, and was officially decommissioned & closed in 1974 when it became redundant.  At the start, it was the RCAF 32nd Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron who manned the station as air controllers advising fighter pilots who were intercepting potential Soviet bombers.  The station's callsign was "Eskimo", and motto "Silent Sentry".  

Present Day
Parts of the base have burned to the ground, parts have been leveled intentionally, and the clothing manufacturer who produced good quality winter wear at reasonable prices under license from Sierra Designs closed on August 22nd 2010.  The Primary Married Quarters (PMQs) are very inhabited and extremely well maintained.  The property is well maintained; as far as garbage collection, weeds, etc.. but the common buildings are derelict, burnt down, or falling apart.  Some of the garage buildings have been bought by what seem to be hobby mechanics; some are in good shape with good vehicle restorations clearly in progress (parked out back) and others look like a vehicle graveyard; one pickup truck with the ass end jacked up, and the two flat front tires, was particularly ghetto-looking.  The top of the hill where the operational site was has been razed to the ground and replaced with incredibly high antennas.  There are about half a dozen giant antennas, and supporting buildings with generators, propane, etc. to support them in case of power failure.

The Trip
County Road 34
Taking advantage of the fantastic weather, I departed from Carp just after 10am on Easter Sunday, expecting a two to three hour trip.  The weather was just above freezing, and I had the doors off, so I bundled up with a neck warmer to pull over my face, a light winter jacket, and a hoodie.  Warm driving gloves were essential!
Along the way I discovered that County Road 34 is gravel for a while - I didn't know that as Google Maps doesn't show that part as any different than the rest.  Also, I discovered that while climbing to the highest elevation in Ontario, you might find steep hills - and really give your tired engine a workout!  I dropped to 3rd and still bogged down to ~65Km/h on the steepest one.  I'm very glad the engine didn't give out, but it over the course of the trip did heat up to ~110°C.
I was surprised to find the base so inhabited; it got up to ~10-15°C so people were out in their yards doing spring preparations, and the community at the bottom of the hill was quite alive.  There were a few people in some of the garage-looking buildings up the hill as well, and I stood out like a sore thumb in the Iltis touring around.  I'm sure they're used to getting a fair number of tourists... then again, maybe not.
The return trip was equally (thankfully) uneventful; I made it there and back on just over a half tank of gas.  This might indicate I can get to Parent, then Casey, and back on two tanks... we'll see.

The Route
The Iltis, while it is working well and can go surprisingly fast, is not much of a highway vehicle.  It's theoretical maximum is ~120Km/h on the books, but really it's a stretch to get it to 110Km/h, and isn't a pleasant ride beyond ~90Km/h.  I was pleased to see that along the way there were several places to stop and get gas, and several were open on Easter Sunday for the tourists.

View Larger Map

Comparisons and Observations
UHF/VHF COMMs Building
From my experience visiting the location of the former RCAF Station Parent, and reading the historical records written by the commanding officers of the time, I know more about the surrounding area of Parent Quebec than I do Foymount Ontario.  The buildings were all built at relatively the same time, by the same engineers, to the same specifications, for the same purposes; so many of the features are the same.  After visiting, some questions were answered, and some remain.
  •  Most of RCAF Station Parent's common buildings have been leveled as they were not sold to provate interests. 
  • The RCAF Station Foymount PMQs are in far better shape than those in Parent, but that reflects the comparitive wealth of the area.
  • The COMMs building was exactly where I expected it, down a little trail, by foot, south of the operations site.
  • I was unable to get to the helicopter pad in the woods, as I would have needed to cross clearly private property.  I left them a note, and will return some day to check it out.
  • There should have been an underground water reservoir somewhere, I don't know where that might have been.
  • I believe their sewage was pumped across the street to lagoons a little way away from the PMQs; I don't think anyone remembers that, and I think there's a nice cottage beside that lake.
  • Janet Road is a dirt road in poor shape, and leads to a nice lake on the far side of the base; I'm not sure if it was used for anything, but as there is a concrete building there which someone is fixing up; I suspect it was used for water for something; fire hydrants maybe?  Then again, I don't recall seeing any fire hydrants...
Foymount, Ontario

Thank you to Bob & Diana McElroy who provided me an idea of what the weather and snow conditions would look like in mid-April, as they camped at Foymount on April 16th 2008.

For more information and history about Foymount, The Country Connection Magazine published a fantastic piece that covers not only the base back in the day, but how it's developed since.