Carol Phillips’ Outdoor Blog
I’ve explored many trails, long and short in my quest to enjoy our regions bountiful forests, parks and conservation areas.
I’m not an ‘extreme’ hiker although I walk all seasons and enjoy the outdoors without being anything remotely resembling an athlete. Walking all year means I sometimes use snowshoes, ice spikes, hiking poles, funny hats and I’m getting quite good at evading mosquitoes, coyotes and heat exhaustion!
It’s winter – get out there and enjoy it!
The inclination to cocoon, especially in a winter like this one has been, is very strong…perhaps it’s a throwback to our cave dwelling, hibernating ancestors (did they hibernate?).
However once you’ve picked yourself up off the icy driveway, gone back into the house and belatedly strapped on your trusty ice cleats and grabbed your hiking poles, the winter world out there can be a joy to experience.
York Region has some excellent trails both easy and more challenging that my trusty companion dog and sometimes my companion human and I have explored over the years so let me share a couple of my winter favourites.
The choice of where to go is usually determined by the weather conditions but it really isn’t that hard to figure out what makes sense to try on any given day. If the snow is a little deeper the addition of snowshoes can make the walk easier and of course dress for the temperature and that oh so Canadian ‘windchill’. I’ve always followed the old rule about layers and on many days that seemed positively frigid to start with, it has been necessary to peel back those layers after you get your circulation going.
Alright – so what are a couple of options for a walk?
Some of our favourites are the York Region Forests that can be accessed easily by going East from the 404 along the Aurora Road. You’ll find the link on the York Scene site to get a full map. In all there are a total of 18 amazing forests you can enjoy although so far we’ve explored the seven just north and south of Aurora Rd on McCowan. If you look at those seven using the google earth app you’ll see just how extensive they really are as the unbroken tree canopy stretches for miles -whoops showing my age! – stretches for kilometres. These are mixed deciduous and pine forests so the experience differs depending on the season – but it’s always enjoyable. In case you’re wondering there is no fee for walking these treasures.
Occasionally you cross paths with other winter hikers and a nod of mutual respect passes between you. Breaking a trail through the forest in the fresh snow with the sun shining lifts the cares of the world from your shoulders.
Another of our winter favourites is the Kortright Centre on Pine Valley Road. This is a great outdoor venue especially for families since there are often special events held here. There’s a nominal entry fee so check their website for those details. On the evening of February 22nd they have an ‘Owl Prowl’ so not only can you learn to love winter hiking but you can really show off and have a winter night hike. Something to casually drop into a conversation with your friends as they complain about the winter which, let’s face it, happens every year around here!
Hope to see you on the trails.