Winter finally showed up in Toronto late on a Monday afternoon. Its arrival was heralded by snow blobs the size of cotton balls tearing through the December twilight. As I watched their graceful dance outside my office window, I could feel familiar longing.
“Let’s go camping this weekend,” I greeted my husband later that night.
“Where to?” he replied without missing a bit.
“Wherever there’s a yurt or cabin available.”
We didn’t hold our breaths since roofed accommodations get booked far in advance. To our surprise, we had several options to choose from. We ruled out Quetico (too far), MacGregor Point (too flat), Algonquin (we camped there a couple of weeks ago), which left Silent Lake. The next question was: a cabin or a yurt? And while we have the best memories of staying in a camp cabin in Killarney, we decided to go with a more rustic yurt, the same yurt # 5 we stayed at a few years ago. It had a wood stove, no electricity and was a walk-in – just the way we like it. That last one didn’t exactly pen out –the park roads had been cleared so we were able to drive right up to our yurt. But the rest was just as we remembered it, except for a new wood shed outside.
In a constant chorus of complaints about winter, I often feel like an outsider. I love winter and I love snow. That, however, wasn’t always the case. My love for winter grew out of fascination with its artistic flair and magic abilities to reinvent landscapes and brighten even the gloomiest of days. It blossomed on snow-covered trails as I ventured into slumbering woods, my steps muffled as if not to disturb their dreams.
Every nature outing helped turn months of misery that have to be endured into a season to love and enjoy. I embraced the crisp cold that makes the snow sing louder under my feet and stars shine brighter at night. I learned to appreciate early darkness that provides an extra excuse to huddle around the campfire and more time to play games. So as others head south to escape the cold and snow, we drive towards it, albeit slowly because winter comes with bad roads and terrible traffic.
That was certainly the case when we left for Silent Lake on Friday night. The drive to the park took us twice as long. The world was turning whiter and whiter as we travelled north until we finally rolled into the snow-decked park around nine.
It was freezing inside the yurt so we immediately got to chopping wood and starting the stove. An hour later all the gear was unpacked, the stove was roaring, and our abode was nice and toasty. We fell asleep watching orange reflections dancing on the yurt walls. And yes, I had to wake up three or four times during the night to add more wood. Still, I will take a wood stove with its soft glow and joyful crackling over a blaring electric heater every time.
Plus, a wood stove doubles as a cooking space so we didn’t have to run aside for every cup of coffee, which was especially appreciated in the morning.
We only had one full day at Silent Lake and we couldn’t wait to venture into the woods. Our snowshoes were also happy to finally hit the trails and taste some snow. Bonnie’s Pond Trail, which starts right next to the Pincer Bay campground where we stayed, seemed like an excellent choice for our outing. At three kilometres (a little longer if you count the side trail to the lookout), it is not particularly long but with snow and snowshoes on, plus all the stops to take photos, it took us over two hours.
The skies were blue, the air crisp, and the snow fresh and fluffy after a snowfall the day before. Trees wrapped their white coats tightly around themselves, and lakes and ponds hid under the armour of ice. Only the bravest of streams continued their journeys uncovered, defiantly interrupting the monochromatic landscape.
Occasionally, the wind, or our son, would strip branches of their coverings and the gauze of their white garments would float in the air, glistening in the sun.
Upon our return, we chopped more wood and started a fire, this time outside because no trip is complete without a campfire even if you have a wood stove. We kept waiting for our bird friends we met during our previous stay to show up again but they seemed to be avoiding us. So eventually we retreated inside for a night of games.
The next morning, we took it slow trying to store up a bit more of winter magic before heading back to the city with its traffic and grey snow. As we were about to leave, we finally got a surprise visit from chickadees. They looked happy to see us or, maybe, it was the nuts. And with that happy memory we left. Until next time.