Chasing winter: Our weekend at Windy Lake Provincial Park

The winter in Toronto has been a bit of a disappointment so far. It is a matter of opinion, of course. Some people are quite happy with milder than usual temperatures and almost complete lack of snow. Not me, though. Apart from sporadic bursts of season-appropriate weather, we seem to have been stuck in an eternal November loop as if the winter has forgotten how to do winter. So a couple of weekends ago we decided to chase it and headed up north to Windy Lake Provincial Park.

snowshoes in front of a yurt at Windy Lake Provincial Park

Our pursuit of winter took us to Windy Lake Provincial Park

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About our trip to Gatineau, inspiration and reasons for getting outside (with video)

Back in March, we headed to Gatineau to enjoy a well-deserved break and wrap up the winter glamping season. More than two months later, I still haven’t managed to put together a post about our trip. The reasons for those struggles have been plenty, with finding time near the top of the list. There was also the writer’s block that has been following me around since last year, failure to find a new angle for writing about the park we have already visited several times before and continuous attempts to perfect the video we filmed for my final video course project. And the more time passed since our trip and spring slowly but surely continued to establish its presence, the sillier it seemed to write about a winter trip.

forest reflected in the sun glasses Continue reading

Winter adventures at Windy Lake or how to do winter right in three easy steps (with video)

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.

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Celebrating New Year among the stars: our trip to Parc national du Mont-Mégantic

Spica is the brightest object in the constellation of Virgo located about 260 light years away. This binary star is 2,200 times more powerful than our Sun making it one of the 20 most prominent objects in the night sky. Spica was also the name of our cabin at Parc national du Mont-Mégantic where we spent the last few days of 2018 and greeted the New Year.

Rustic shelter Spica at Parc national du Mont-Mégantic inQuebec in the winter

Spica is the brightest star in the constellation of Virgo; it was also the name of our cabin at Parc national du Mont-Mégantic Continue reading

Escape into solitude or winter yurting at Windy Lake

There is often a moment at the end of a trip when the packing is done, I get whatever firewood we have left and start the fire. That’s my small attempt to soak up the last of the camping magic along with some smoke and to postpone the moment of returning to the world of glass and concrete. Don’t get me wrong: city life has its charms. Occasionally, though, the traffic, the noise, and, most importantly, constant presence of people becomes too much. That’s why moments like these are a necessity. An escape into solitude. An opportunity to recharge.

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Glamping at Arrowhead or what’s the point of weekend getaways in the winter

“In winter we wait for spring, in spring we wait for summer. Always waiting for something,” says a woman standing next to me in the elevator. I can see her friend nodding vigorously, and I find myself agreeing as well. While I am committed to embracing whatever each season brings, some days it is easier said than done. Case in point: our recent trip to Arrowhead or rather the obstacles of getting there.

Arrowhead provincial park in the winter Continue reading

Tiny cabin, big view: celebrating the New Year at Parc national d’Aiguebelle

I slowly start losing the feeling in my fingertips. My thin “camera” gloves are no match for -35°C temperatures but with a spectacular eastward view right outside our cabin, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to greet the first sunrise of 2018. So here I am watching a new year being born out of the white silence interrupted only by a joyful bird song. Or is it my own joy reverberating through the frozen air?

first sunrise of 2018 from La Cigale cabin in Parc National d'Aiguebelle

The first sunrise of 2018

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Winter at Silent Lake: revisiting our yurt stay

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.

yurt 5 at Silent Lake Provincial Park Continue reading

Ringing in the new year without a bang: our quiet celebration in Gatineau Park

When I was growing up in the Soviet Union, New Year’s celebration was a big deal. Christmas, like all religious holidays, was if not prohibited then strongly discouraged and was only celebrated quietly, behind closed doors. That put all the spotlight on New Year’s. Christmas tree was known as New Year tree, presents were delivered by Father Frost on New Year’s night, and all big gatherings were on December 31st. Most of the day was spent cooking and preparing for a big feast, which usually featured way more food than anyone could consume, mainly because all the feasts of my childhood were like that, but also because of the belief that New Year’s celebration set the tone for the whole year so lots of food on that night meant abundance throughout the year. Sometime before midnight, we would sit down to a table laden with food waiting for the big Kremlin clock to announce the arrival of a new year, nurturing that deepest wish which had to be whispered at the exact moment the clock struck 12. What followed was a night of eating, drinking and TV watching. Staying up all night was like a badge of honour, and on our first day back to school we would brag about who managed to “survive” the longest.

When we moved to Canada, we kept those traditions going for a few years but without all the hoopla around it got old pretty fast. So we decided to create our own traditions, and headed into the woods, of course.  Continue reading