Last year I vowed to myself that I’d stop hating winter and enjoy it for what it is. It’s a work in progress, but discovering the Ganaraska Forest has been one of the jewels of the endeavour.
- Transit: It’d be tough to get to without a car, or maybe bikes from a nearby community.
- Cost: Low
- Crowds: Saw a few dozen skiers going for the cross-country ski trails; almost no one on the hiking/snowshoe trail.
- Attractions: Peace, green space, babbling brooks, winter birds, photography, cardio.
- Accessbility: Not sure about the buildings on-site, but the trails require ability to walk/bike/ski (depending on season).
- Click here for map.
Getting addicted to wintertime tropical vacations did nothing for my relationship with the cold. Sucks for me; I live in Canada. Sure, I live in one of the warmest parts of Canada – one that rarely gets the kind of cold that the rest of the country gets in spades. We have four seasons, hot humid summers…and all of that rationalization still couldn’t save my relationship with winter.
Problem is, like it or not, the cold season comes every year. Worse yet, living in one of the warmest parts of the country means I don’t get the lush evergreen forests of the north to pick me up in the heart of winter. Every year the nights grow long and the green falls right off the trees. And the beautiful treed spaces of southern Ontario regularly loose their brilliant snow cover and become bleak and grey.
What to do?
Winter doesn’t suck, after all. We human apes may not be built for it, but that’s not winter’s fault; our discomfort comes from living in an environment entirely alien to our evolution.
After years of wailing against the inescapable onslaught of winter I decided I’d put my money where my mouth was and be good for whatever.
Apart from not wanting to get off my couch, one of the things that keeps me away from getting out during winter is cost. I don’t really enjoy skiing, snowboarding, hockey, or any other winter sport enough to sink the kind of money into it that I’d have to.
But I was aching for sunlight and knew it was long past time to get outside. So I took off for the Ganaraska Forest with my better half and a good friend. I figured it’s close enough to be a day trip yet far enough to feel like I really went somewhere, and it’s not expensive.
Just the act of spending time with people was therapeutic – face time, active time. It was just us and the woods.
And it was just us. In our time on the hiking/snowshoeing trail we saw only two or three other people. Only our conversation, our footfalls in the snow, and the songs of winter birds punctuated the delicious quiet. It was a welcome rest for my ears to be away from the constant hum of humanity.
My eyes, meanwhile, soaked in the copious light of the winter forest; without all their leaves, the branches couldn’t catch the sun, so it spilled through the trees and burst off the snow. What a treat after months of indoor light and long nights.
At the start of the trail was a forest of mature cedars, where gnarled older trees stood like pillars among the rest, and all of them huddled around a whispering stream that held one of the nicest surprises of the day: Green things growing, in the middle of winter on the bed of the stream.
Deeper into the trail we found a newer forest full of red and white pines, with hardwoods just beginning their climb up to dominate the canopy. The beech trees all held on to their leaves, adding copper and gold to the palette of colours that grew out of the snow.
We finished the loop in about two hours, ate some snacks, talked more, and then packed it in. I still missed summer, but my pervasive sense of frustration was all but gone. I’d seen plenty of sunlight and blue skies, listened to water babble and birds chatter, and had a good time with good friends.
Winter doesn’t suck, after all. We human apes may not be built for it, but that’s not winter’s fault; our discomfort comes from living in an environment entirely alien to our evolution. A winter forest scene, nearly silent, serene, rendered brilliant by billowing blankets of snow scintillating in the sun (or even more magically, in the light of the full moon) is magnificent.
In the end, being angry at winter for being cold is like being angry at water for being wet: It says nothing about winter, but speaks volumes about me.