It seems weird to be publishing a post about winter when spring is already in full swing – mud, rain and all. Still as I looked back at another great winter of outdoor adventures, I felt this often maligned season deserved some praise and love. So here we go.
Winter took some time coming in Toronto. But when it finally arrived, it more than made up for its earlier absence bringing record snow falls, freezing temperatures, freezing rain, wind storms, snow storms, even a snow day at schools, which hasn’t happened in a few years. All of this prompted ominous warnings from weather experts urging everyone to not leave the house ever again and, of course, endless complaints about what is actually a pretty normal winter behaviour. As we huddled in bus stops and cursed in traffic jams, we forgot that winter is more than the inconveniences it causes. With Family Day weekend approaching, we were determined to remind ourselves how to do winter right.
Step 1 – Start with a great place
Luckily, we had a cabin booked at Windy Lake Provincial Park. After a couple of visits to Windy Lake, it has become one of our favourite winter destinations. It tends to fly under the radar but has everything you need for a great winter outing: excellent cross country ski trails with rentals offered by the Onaping Falls Nordics Ski Club, snowshoeing, a big frozen lake and ice fishing. And since it is located up north close to Sudbury, snow is always in great supply.
Step 2 – Spend as much time outside as possible
Our drive up to the park was a bit of a challenge. It was snowing most of the way but the snow stopped by the time we got to the cabin and the weather gods granted us the most beautiful weather over the next two days. It was just the right amount of cold with lots and lots of sunshine.
We spent the first day snowshoeing around the lake and along the Transition Trail. This was our third year coming to the park and the most snowy. Every time we got off the trail, we would plunge into deep snow. Our son dove right in a couple of times.
All that snow meant excellent skiing conditions so most of day two was spent on the trails. The Onaping Falls Nordics Ski Club maintains the cross country ski trails right outside the park. They also run a ski chalet with gear rentals. The staff are friendly and helpful. Some of them now recognize us and always stop to chat. The only thing to remember is that they only accept cash, which, of course, we forgot. Luckily, there is an ATM at the Windy Lake motel just down the road. So after a quick detour, we were all set and ready to go.
We went for the Devon Kershaw Trail named after a champion cross country skier and Canadian Winter Olympian who trained here. It is marked as intermediate but has quite a few hills. We, of course, are no Olympians but we did our best. I felt a bit rusty at first and fell at the bottom of the first big hill. The turn at the end of it didn’t help. But after that I regained my balance and my body slowly got into the rhythm. By the end of the day we were ready for some down time.
Step 3 – Cap the day relaxing in a cozy cabin
Which brings me to the final step – after a day of outdoor activities, it feels great to retreat into a cozy cabin by the lake.
The park has four yurts and two cabins so you can be close to all activities. We stayed at a yurt in the past. This year, however, we booked one of the cabins. The cabins are new to the park and are located right by the lake. So each morning we got to wake up to magnificent views of frozen beauty.
And then we would finish the day by the fire outside or a fireplace inside the cabin with some tea, board games or a good book.