Friday, January 23, 2009

Winter Wonderland!

Since my last post started telling you about Kilimanjaro, I was reminiscing about some of my training for the climb. As I described in the Kili post I did a lot of spinning for training. However I also did a fair amount of hiking. Most of us will admit to hiking more in the better weather. In fact we all tend to hibernate in front of the TV or, like myself the computer, when the snow starts falling. However lets talk about getting out and about in this snowy winter wonderland. One of the areas that I did some training in prior to Kili was the Durham forest/Glen Major/Walkers woods complex.This area, just south of Uxbridge is less than an hour drive from Toronto. This area is forested, hilly and full of well marked trails. Between the three areas they comprise about 2000 hectares (who knows what the heck a Hectare is?) of wooded area for self propelled recreation. They are well used at certain times of the year, especially for mountain biking. However the shear size of the complex makes it easy to spend hours without seeing anyone other than your own group. On one sunny, cold winter day just prior to leaving for Kilimanjaro, Ray and I spent three hours hiking the hills of Glen Major. We saw some snowshoe tracks throughout the area. This would be a great day trip for all you Toronto snowshoe afficianados. Bring a map and compass and or a GPS because it is a large area and you might feel a hundred miles from the nearest civilization even though you aren't. There are a network of X country ski trails as well. This winters heavy snow fall would make this a good choice for a day outing for anyone looking at nordic skiing. The trails aren't groomed like a commercial ski area but they are free. The last time I went the conservation authorities had not put up any parking fees, but even if they did you would be looking at a couple of dollars for a carload of skiers/snowshoers/hikers. In fact the only people that we saw that day were three X country skiers, well into the interior of the woods. It was really cold that day and we were using the hike to prepare us for the colds at the 20,000 feet. It didn't!! Our beards were covered with ice as you can see in the photos. The remarkable thing about the three skiers that we did meet out on this frigid day was that they were all well into their seventies. They were enjoying themselves! Those people are my heroes! I hope to be as active and unafraid to do things like this when I am their age.

Ray and Myself enjoying the cold!

Other hiking opportunities abound in the winter in southern Ontario. Other training hikes were along the Bruce Trail. If you don't know it it runs from Queenston Heights on the Niagara River to Tobermory at the tip of the Bruce peninsula. It follows the Niagara escarpment and is maintained by volunteers from the Bruce Trail Conservancy. Guide books and maps are available from them by going to their website. The trail originated as a brainchild of Ray Lowes, a metallurgist from Dofasco in Hamilton. His idea became a project for Canada's centennial in 1967 and I remember as a child helping to build sections of the trail in Niagara, and the construction of the cairn marking the southern terminus, at Queenston Heights. In the winter the trail is less crowded and best of all there are no bugs.

Hiking on the Bruce Trail near Grimsby, ON.

You don't have to go that far for a winter hike. Almost all of us have somewhere 'nearby and natural' (to steal someones saying) that we can go for an hour or mores hike. I live in Bowmanville and five minutes from my house is Stephen's Gulch Conservation Area. Last week I was out for a litle cross country ski. I have hiked in the winter and summer and mountain biked as well. I will probably take a quick snowshoe there in the next few days as the snow is
deep right now. The point is that there are endless possibilities for winter recreation. Just get out there and enjoy it!!! We are Canadians after all.

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