Taking part in YXE Winter Bingo, Saskatoon

A few months ago, my sister sent me a post shared by Outter Limits in Saskatoon. The YXE Outdoor Bingo is created by a collaboration of local businesses with the goal of getting people out and enjoying the city. It looked fun, so we both decided to take part! Here are the activities that I managed to accomplish. Now my fingers are crossed that they release a summer bingo.

Make a sling for your arm with a piece of clothing. I overthought this one. My mind was full of complex ideas to tie up a jacket or pair of pants and create an impressive looking sling. In reality, if you find yourself in a situation where you need a sling in the outdoors, you likely won’t go out of your way to make it fancy. After a quick browse on YouTube, I made the easiest sling I could imagine out of a simple T-Shirt. All you do is place it over your head like a necklace, and put your wrist through the opposite arm hole, while using the rest of the material to support your arm. Easy peasy!

Hop online to learn about Zwift bike training. This activity has apparently exploded since the pandemic hit, with people looking to keep their physical activity closer to home. We learned a bit about how it all works and the programs do look wonderful. With my current budget, I will stick to running around outside, but it is a great idea for avid bikers or people looking to explore from the comfort and safety of their homes!

Cross country ski at one of the cities maintained trails. I loved this one, and try to get out on the trails as much as I can in the winter. My sister and I went to Diefenbaker park and enjoyed the loop as well as a beautiful sunset.

Enjoy some hot cocoa outside. Okay, the picture makes it tricky to see, but I swear there is a hot chocolate in there! My sister and I took the dogs for a walk on Blackstrap Lake with some hot drinks. The trickiest park was trying to keep three rowdy dogs from knocking over our precious beverages.

Make snow angel. This is another activity that is a little trickier with dogs, you have to avoid wet noses and playful paw slaps.

Try a new winter activity. Piper and I tried Skijoring together for the first time this winter and it was a blast! As a retired sled dog, she knew exactly what to do and it was mostly up to me to get used to it. We skied along the Finlayson Island trails in North Battleford and had an amazing adventure.

Find some animal tracks in the snow. With all of the snow and cold at the beginning of this winter, the deer moved in to Shields. I wake up in the morning to chewed up trees in my front yard and little deer prints up to my front door, if only I would just let them in.

Go for a winter run. We checked out Blackstrap Provincial Park for a quiet walk in the snow. After startling a nearby owl, the dogs decided that we should probably run the trails instead of walking them. This was fine by me because I do want to start Canicross in the summer. Lets go dogs!

Explore the river by the old farmers market. My cousin had sent me a message saying we should meet up for a distance walk. We grabbed some hot drinks from a nearby café and strolled down the riverside. It was colder than expected, and I probably should have layered up more! I was glad to have a break from dogs trying to chase my resident deer while out walking, only to be rudely reminded that Saskatoon is filled with jackrabbits. We still had a great time, but it was not the leisurely river walk that I envisioned!

Take a selfie in your favourite winter spot. Choosing one favourite spot is a tough one for me, so instead I chose a selfie! We decided to give Optimist Hill a try on sleds one evening and had a great time zooming down the hill.

Enjoy the night sky. I have been lucky to have many evenings to enjoy the night sky this season, especially after moving out to the lake. This particular evening we decided to ski along the river at night. It was fantastic!

Go for a winter adventure at Cranberry Flats. If you stop and look, you’ll see so many amazing features that make the prairies truly special. There is one large main trail and plenty of smaller little offshoot trails to explore with a lookout point that gives you a fantastic view of the river.

Getting lost along the Meewasin trails. This one was easy as pie because I often find myself lost along these trails. Well.. not lost lost, but I have thought I was coming up to return to the main trail before and accidentally found myself in someone’s yard, oops. My Piper girl enjoys the trails just as much as I do so we don’t mind a wrong turn every now and then. It’s important to keep an eye out and share the trails with mountain bikers, but I have never had any issues. Most people that you come across are incredibly kind.

I would have liked to check more items off of the list, but I will be excited to give it a try the next time an opportunity like this is offered! What a fun way to engage the community in the outdoors in a safe way. Huge thanks to all of the small businesses that put this idea together.

Happy exploring!

Nut Point Trail, Lac La Ronge Provincial Park

The Nut Point Trail is a beautiful 30km out and back trail located in Lac La Ronge Provincial Park in Saskatchewan. It can be hiked in a day, but I recommend doing an overnight trip to give yourself time to enjoy the beautiful camp spot at the end of the peninsula. You do not need to book a backcountry camping site, but you do need a provincial park pass to get in.

Piper and butterflies

The area is well marked and it is easy to find the trailhead, you will hike just over 15kms in to the camp spot, although I have heard that people occasionally choose to camp at the portage at the 7.5km mark. My friend Lindsay, the two dogs, and I packed up and set out on a hot +25 degree celsius day.

I packed my bag the night before with my usual gear for an overnight hike. The camping area at the end does not have a cache or canisters to keep food away from wildlife so be sure to pack some rope to hang up your food. After speaking to a local I packed a swimsuit because he said that the camping area was also a perfect swimming spot. I’m also glad I brought bug spray, although they weren’t too bad so long as we kept moving. Most importantly, I brought my camp shoes so that my feet got a rest and my soggy hiking boots had some time to dry out.

My gear for the night

The trail is rated as difficult and I found it to be challenging terrain, it was good to have my trekking poles when manoeuvring over the rocks and roots. We passed lots of muddy areas that the dogs adored but left each of us with soggy boots. There are also plenty of open spots where the heat can get to you so make sure you have plenty of water and sunscreen. There is spotty cell service along the trail, and we noticed plenty of boats driving past the peninsula which made us feel more comfortable as we were the only tent set up that night.

June enjoying every mud puddle

After a very long 7.5kms in the sun, we made it to the portage at the halfway point. There are a few picnic tables and spot off to the left where a group of teenagers was jumping off the rocks into the lake. The dogs got a good opportunity to cool off and we had a moment to drink some water and eat a quick snack. I have read in other posts that people sometimes opt to camp here, but we didn’t see much room for a tent set up.

The half way point

The difference in terrain along the trail is breathtaking. We hiked over rock, through water, over roots and moss. We admired the blueberry plants along the trail, which was another reminder to be bear aware, but didn’t end up seeing much more than the odd squirrel. We saw quite a few hiking back from camping, and they said that there were about 5 tents set up there the night before, but we were the only ones heading out that day.

On the trail, hoping to find some squirrels

My absolute favourite spot on the trail is around the 11km mark. A small trail veers off to the perfect spot to dip your feet in the water and sit on a shelf of rock. I was excited to stop here both days.

Around km 11, the perfect spot for a break

At last, we arrived! We were thrilled to finally make it to the end of the peninsula. There is one camp fire spot that seems more permanent and plenty of smaller fire rings set up around from past campers. The local I talked to was right, the swimming area was perfect! We started the trail later in the day, but next time I would probably start first thing in the morning so we would have more day light to enjoy the beautiful spot.

Lindsay enjoying the water

We set up camp and settled in to eat some dinner. The dogs quickly ate the kibble that I had packed for them and then conned me out of part of my sandwich with their puppy dog eyes. How could I resist? I packed a pre-made s’more that may be my new favourite hiking treat in lieu of my usual chocolate bar.

Piper enjoying the campsite
Camp treats

We were exhausted from the long day of hiking, and ended up in bed pretty early. But I was told later that the northern lights were incredible, so they may be worth staying up for next time I find myself on this trail.

Lindsay setting up camp

I probably should have warned Lindsay that the two person tent we were sharing would also have two soggy dogs in it. She might not have had the best sleep, but hopefully she forgives us. In addition to the cramped tent, it was quite warm and windy through the night and we found ourselves up early and ready to head home. The trek back to the car was much nicer in the cool morning air, although the bugs did come out a bit more.

2 people and 2 dogs in a 2 person tent

Finally we arrived at the parking lot. I was exhausted, with sore feet, and a long 5 hour drive ahead, but so glad that we had tackled the trail. I am so thankful to have an adventure friend like Lindsay who is always in to try something new. We stopped for a well earned Slurpee and made our way back home.

Happy fam

Happy hiking!

Tick Talk with Tia

As we are a few weeks strong into tick season, and I have a newly adopted dog that has been bringing plenty of them into my house, I figured it would be a good idea to do some research and learn a little more about how to avoid and remove these nasty little creatures.

I often see people sharing ‘life hacks’ on Facebook about how to quickly get rid of a tick with vaseline or a lighter, and I know that this method could potentially do more harm than good, so I believe it is important to share a little about what they actually are and how to remove them.

Healthlink BC has an excellent step by step process on how to properly remove a tick and some removal methods to avoid. https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/tp23585spec

It is also a great idea to research the types of ticks that are found in your area and which tick borne illnesses you may need to be aware of. In Saskatchewan, I have only found Wood Ticks (or American Dog Ticks), but I know that the Lyme disease carrying Deer Tick is here as well.

The thing is that I want to be educated and cautious, because they can potentially be quite harmful, but I also do not want to let them stop me from going outside or keeping me stuck to the sidewalk. There are a few steps I take to kick the ticks…

For myself, it’s important to wear bug spray with DEET if I know i’ll be going off of a path. If I think that the area may be especially tick-y, I’ll tuck my pant legs into my socks (what a nerd) so that they can’t crawl up into my pant legs. It’s also nice to ask your hiking/walking buddies to quickly scan each other during and after your hike. When I get home, I will remove all of my clothing and throw it into the dryer for 10-20 minutes (your washing machine will not kill them, but the dryer will). Then I’ll check places that a tick would like to bite like behind my ears, armpits, etc. to make sure I don’t have any unwelcome hitchhikers.

For Piper, I also want to be careful because dogs can also be susceptible to tick borne illnesses. I give her a tick treatment once per month which will kill ticks about 12-24 hrs after she is bitten (talk to your vet about the best tick treatment option for your pet as there are plenty!). I also try to avoid walking her through very grassy areas, although being a dog she is drawn to them. After our walks I will quickly check her over for anything I can immediately see, but it is difficult to spot ticks on her as she is dark coloured so I often don’t find them until they’re crawling across my couch a few hours later.

My family and I save every tick we find in a glass jar. Firstly, its a good idea to keep the ticks in case you are bitten and do begin to feel ill, then they can be tested for tick borne illnesses. And secondly, they are so damn hard to kill that I never feel quite confident that I have squished them (and remember that water doesn’t seem the phase them so flushing is probably not a good idea either).

Here are a few resources to help learn how to identify ticks and ways to avoid them.

Tick Identification: https://tickencounter.org/tick_identification/tick_species

Preventing tick bites: https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/avoid/on_people.html

Tick bites and what to do if you are bitten: https://www.healthline.com/health/tick-bites#symptoms

Keep safe and continue to enjoy the outdoors!