On February 2nd, in a true Groundhog Day tradition, we were back on the road heading to Arrowhead Provincial Park, again. In many ways it felt like a repeat of our last trip: it was late, it was snowing, and our cabin was a mirror image of the previous one, except for a table lamp, coat hooks and a different Group of Seven reproduction above the door. There was another big difference, of course. Our older son couldn’t join us so it was just the three of us.
Big Bend decked in white
Two trips to the same park only three weeks apart may seem repetitive. Arrowhead, however, is a park with endless possibilities so getting bored wasn’t an option. After a few days of snow, almost all the trails were open so we could finally do some cross-country skiing. Did I mention how much I love skiing? I am not even that good at it but there is something magical about gliding through a snow-covered forest. I couldn’t help feeling like we entered a fairy-tale, glided our way right into a postcard depicting a typical winter forest scene. Snow balancing on thin tree branches and broad furry paws of pines and spruces. A deep forest slumber interrupted only by screeching squirrels and chattering blue jays.
Arrowhead has over 30 kilometres of cross-country ski trails
It was our first time skiing this winter so we started with some easy trails. After a quick turn on Bunny and Roe trails, I could feel my body getting into a familiar rhythm: the push of the ski, the swing of the arm, all working in concert, gliding forward.
Arrowhead has trails for all skill levels
A perfect day for skiing
Gliding through a postcard winter scene
Arrowhead Lake Trail was next – a six-kilometre loop around the park’s namesake. The trail was more challenging with a few hills but I managed to do the whole loop without falling once, which may seem minor but is a huge deal for me (the only time I landed on my backside that day was while putting my skis on – someone did a thorough job waxing them).
We’ve often paddled under this bridge, this was our first time skiing across it
The “thin ice” sign, obviously, doesn’t deter everyone
Arrowhead Lake Trail runs around the park’s namesake
Our first time on the other side of the lake
Occasionally, we would watch an experienced skier effortlessly glide right past us as we painstakingly v-stepped our way to the top of the hill. But it’s not a competition. Fun comes in all speeds and experience levels.
Taking the time to explore along the way
Going up slowly but surely
After an uphill struggle, time for some fun
Plus going slowly has its advantages – you notice more of the world around: a fir-tree encased in ice, fluffy blobs covered in snow, bark-stripped trees reaching for the sky. As I watched a rocky ridge along the trail, I realized that during all our trips to the park we’d never been to this side of the lake. There are always new experiences waiting no matter how many times we visit the parks.
Going slowly has its advantages, like more time to explore the surroundings
What are these fairy furry blobs?
Exploring a different side of Arrowhead
And there is always solitude to be found if you go far enough. Even though the area close to equipment rentals was buzzing with people, the trails were quiet and peaceful. I must say the park has done an incredible job to ensure the best winter experience for its visitors. Since the time we came here for Family Day a few years ago, when we had to fight for the last pair of skis, the amount of rental equipment has grown about ten times. They also moved rentals into a separate portable leaving the park office to deal with permits and registrations only.
We loved the campfires scattered around the park – great spots to take a break
A new visitor centre is now in the works so next year the park will have even more amenities. That could mean even more people but hey, who would blame them. Arrowhead really knows how to do winter. It was fun to watch pint-sized skiers, part of the Jackrabbit Nordic Ski Program, practicing their skills, and couples trying snowshoeing for the first time. Not to mention a famous 1.3 kilometre skate trail, which attracts huge crowds. Even I couldn’t resist its pull. My skating experience amounts to two or three loops around a neighborhood rink, and with skates on my feet I exhibit the grace of a newborn deer learning how to walk. But I couldn’t allow the fear of looking stupid (which I did) to stop me from trying. With my husband’s help, I managed to skate (shuffled? waddled?) around the loop twice without falling, although that was more of my husband’s achievement than mine.
My third time on ice – trying to look more confident than I feel
My husband, meanwhile, showed some smooth moves
Another rest spot by the skating trail
After all our outdoor adventures, we had our cozy cabin waiting for us with delicious meals, hot drinks and books. The snow kept falling through the weekend adding more and more white strokes to the landscape. By Sunday morning the world was reshaped, edges softened, lines blurred. As I bathed in this white stillness, I thought I wouldn’t mind getting trapped in a Groundhog Day like this for a while.
Our cozy cabin waiting for us after a day of winter fun
Coffee, books – what better way to spend a winter morning
Wouldn’t mind getting trapped in a Groundhog Day here