Once upon a time, I hated winter …but then I decided to embrace it. I bought a pair of snowshoes from my favourite place Outdoors Oriented , Elektra’s made by Atlas Snowshoe Compamy. Then, I waited, but the snow didn’t come!
I went winter glamping twice, but it wasn’t cold enough for the ice to freeze to skate on, it wasn’t snowy enough to snowshoe and cross country skiing wasn’t even an option. I was ready, but winter didn’t come and for the first time, I got really sad about it!
My Elektra’s by Atlas, ready and waiting!!
After months of waiting and following Ontario Parks to find out what was happening to the north of me, the snow finally came, it finally stayed and the ice trail at Arrowhead Provincial Park finally opened on January 15th.
Thanks Mother Nature! But I wasn’t going camping again until February and I didn’t have an entire weekend free until pretty much the weekend I booked to camp. What I had was a whole Sunday, and I decided that had to be enough. If I left at 530 am, I’d arrive around 830 am (park opens at 9). I could stay until the park closed which was 5pm on a Sunday, and the drive back, getting home around 8pm. It would be a long day, but I could totally pull it off! So I started planning on the 15th, and by the 17th I was on my way to meet up with a fellow honorary woods explorer Cathy and her hubby, who’d I’d met on twitter in August.
I packed meticulously, a few pairs of boots, extra toques, mitts, jackets, hot chocolate, lunch, snacks, extra clothes, lots of batteries and chargers for my phone and camera and soon I was on my way! See how the highway goes from clean to snowy! LOL!
The roads were great in Niagara, we barely had any snow and it continued that way until I reached Barrie. They had snow there but it wasn’t snowing and the roads were still amazing. Somewhere around Gravenhurst though, that changed. It was snowing heavily and the highway was reduced to 2 tire tracks of spotty black where you could sometimes see the road, and sometimes not. It was so early, I was all alone on the highway, and it was awesome. I arrived safe and sound at Arrowhead park at 8:40am. With a ten minute stop for gas, it took me exactly 3 hours, which was what I had expected. The last bit of the drive was quite crazy, with tonnes of snow coming down and white outs, but I drove through it all and now I was ready to start my adventure!
Unfortunately, the park was not ready for me yet. The gate didn’t open until 9 so I got myself changed into my snow pants and gear. I didn’t want to wear too much in the car and risk sweating, hence, making myself cold later, so I put them on and got myself organized. I pulled out my map I’d printed from the website and studied it, trying to see where we had to go when Cathy and Frank arrived. The map can be found at Ontario Parks here.
Shortly, the office opened and I got my permit and then headed to park and put on my snowshoes.
Cathy and Frank were on the way but they lived farther than I did and had bad conditions most of the drive so I would occupy my time with a small trek on the Mayflower Lake Trail until they arrived. I had a clear cell signal so no worries about losing touch. As I walked towards the trail I saw several people ice fishing on the lake. Very cool!
It took me a bit to get the snowshoes on. I was currently wearing my Woods Neoprene boots. They’ve accompanied me on all my winter adventures thus far and I was very happy with them. They kept my feet very warm and dry. I eventually got the snowshoes on, this was my very first time snowshoeing and I was super excited.
I made my way along the trail and was in awe of the beauty around me. Every tree was covered with cm’s of snow and the tiniest branches held snow on them and it amazed me. The trees here were extra large and very tall and old and it made for gorgeous views everywhere I looked.
After a half hour or so, Cathy texted me to say they were about 23km’s away. I headed back to the front gate via the Mayflower Short Loop and didn’t see them so I continued to my car in the lot and put away my snowshoes. For the first time so far, my feet were very cold in my boots, so I put on another pair of socks. It seemed to do the trick! I went back to the gate and was happy to see Cathy and Frank pull in and park!!! We greeted each other, chatted for a bit about the drive and what we were going to do and then they went inside to get their pass. After that we headed to the rental area to get ski’s and go on our first trail of the day!
We were told that to get the skis for only a half day we had to wait until 1pm to rent them. I did’t quite understand why we couldn’t rent them from 10-12 and have them back for 1 but there was no option about it. I was a bit cranky from getting up so early and frustrated, and I hope I wasn’t rude to the lovely Ontario Parks lady, Karyne who was only trying to help us. I deeply apologize if I was. 🙂 Cathy rented skates instead of skis and since I had my own, we headed to the skating trail to check it out and go for a boot!
The skating trail was ultimately cool! On Saturday nights it was lit by torches from 6-9, however, it was sunday and we weren’t going to get to see that beautiful sight today unfortunately. We went over to the start of the trail and found a pretty neat set up. Tonnes of cubbys for shoes to be put in until you were done skating and 2 fires going, lots of benches and picnic tables to rest and have a snack. Very cool indeed!
Cathy and I got our skates on. Frank was going to sit this one out so he even was gracious enough to put our boots in the car to keep them warm. SWEET! After we got our skates on, we got on the ice and went around the trail. It was really cool and i enjoyed it immensely. The trees all had snow stuck to them and every once and a while the wind would blow a bit and huge chunks would fall making it look like a scene from a movie. it was so unbelievably beautiful, I wish I could’ve captured the magic in my photos. I did my best but you’ll just have to go check it out yourselves to get the entire experience.
We went around the loop twice. My feet were a bit sore and we decided it was time to go on our next adventure. It was now almost 1 so we could do half day rentals. We took off our skates, put our boots back on and drove back to the rental area. We grabbed our lunches and went to one of the warming areas and sat inside, taking off our jackets and hats for a bit and ate our lunches.
When we finished it was just about 1pm so we went to the rental trailer and Cathy and Frank rented snowshoes. I had mine in the car so I went to get them. We all got them on and off we went!!!I was still wearing my woods boots and with the extra pair of socks my feet were now warm and I was totally cozy and not cold in any way at all, which made me very happy!
We did a trail called Stubbs Falls and it was incredibly scenic. There were lanterns hung on many of the trees along the way, which I thought was really cool. I”m assuming saturday nights they light up the trail for night snowshoeing but this is just a guess. Regardless, we saw some beautiful sights and had an amazing time snowshoeing through the forest.
After almost about a half hour or so, we came to a bridge with a waterfall and stopped to take a few pictures.
First we had to creatively get down the stairs in our snowshoes !
Then we continued on our way down the trail pointing out cool trees to each other, places we thought could be bear dens, and looking for animal tracks, which we saw none! I was pretty surprised at that but it has been snowing non stop so I’m thinking maybe they were just under the fresh powder that was falling?
Sadly, we completed our loop and returned back to the rental area. It was now after 3 and it was snowing really hard. I desperately wanted to try cross country skiing. I had no intention of going for hours, I just wanted to see what it was like. My next trip is a camping trip to Macgregor and one of my friends has cross country skis. In order to join her skiing, I would have to rent a pair of skis from an outfitter about a 15-20 minute drive from the park, so I wanted to see if that was an activity I wanted to do again or not. Having the rentals right here and only $17ish, I thought it was best to give it a go now. Cathy was all in and I was pretty impressed with her! We were both pretty exhausted but we rented the ski’s anyways.
I have not been downhill skiing in more years that I can remember and I’ve never cross country skied. We got the skis but I had no clue what to do with them? So we walked over to a crowd of people who all looked like skiers and asked for help . Before we knew it, we were on our way!
We had a little bit of trouble figuring out which trail we were on, and which one we were supposed to be going on? We came across a lovely lady who gave us some advice and said we should go to the Big Bend lookout which was right next to where we were standing. So we did, and I’m so happy we ran into that woman and took her advice!
It was snowing really heavily at this point, and we were both exhausted. We decided it was time to head back to the rental shop, drop off our skis, and start our journey home. But first, I had to take a picture with Piglet !!lol
We dropped off our gear and thanked the Ontario parks staff who’d been so awesome! We walked to our cars and I said goodbye to Cathy and Frank, grateful they’d decided to come and meet me and spend the day at this awesome place!
Thanks so much to arrowhead park for having such a fabulous place for people to go and enjoy a true winter wonderland! I honestly think it was the best winter day I’ve ever had!
The start of the ride home was a little bit sketchy with snow coming down close to blizzard like conditions. Thankfully, the closer I got to home the better the weather got, and exactly 3 hours after I’d left the park, I pulled into my driveway, happy to be back home, but sad my adventure was over.
I really hope you enjoyed my post and it inspired you to get outdoors and enjoy some of what winter has to offer. Thanks for stopping by and please leave a comment if you have any suggestions, issues, or just want to say hi !
I’d like to send out a very huge thank you to Cathy and Frank for making the very long trip to Arrowhead Provincial Park to spend the day with me adventuring and for being such amazingly awesome people. Also, I’d like to thank them for the great photos they provided for this post. Most of the photos that I am in that are not selfies are taken by them, so big thanks for that!
HAPPY WINTER ADVENTURING!