A Quick Winter Overnight

This past week, I have been busy studying for a work-related course. It usually seems that these courses align with the warmest weather that week, so I found myself staring enviously out the window as my boyfriend enjoyed a cold drink on the patio.

Luckily, some friends had been wanting to plan a winter camping night for a few weeks and we had set our date to that Saturday evening. It feels like a bit of a cheat to say ‘winter camping’ when it only got down to -1 to -3 degrees that night, but it was still technically winter!

After I packed up my study books for the day, and after enjoying a quick celebratory beer, I packed up my gear. We decided to spend the night at a nearby provincial park, which just by my luck is only minutes away from my house. My sister arrived and we made our way over to the other side of the lake.

Our friends had already been out for the day enjoying the hiking trails, so we arrived to a crackling fire and smokies on the grill.

With the luxury of being close to a vehicle and also close to home, my sister and I set up our tent and stuffed it silly with blankets. Not to mention that I had brought two of my dogs along with me who have proven to be excellent tent heaters in the past.

As the sun set we chatted around the campfire. The dogs barked at the nearby coyotes, and just about anything else they thought might be too close to our camp.

Much to our delight, the northern lights appeared above the lake. I have seen them plenty of times in my life, but I had never seen them dance as beautifully as they did that night. We were in awe as the green and orange lights trickled across the sky. I tried to snap a photo but of course the cellphone pictures never do justice.

Northern Lights

Eventually I had to tuck away into the tent and get an early night in before I was due back in my Zoom class at 9am the next morning. I snuggled up with the dogs and had no problem warming up. My sister, on the other hand, came to the tent about and hour later and ended up sleeping with dog paws pressed into her back instead of the furry space heaters she was hoping for.

We woke up fairly early the next more to pack up and get home in time for my class, but it was an excellent night outside. I often write off the winter season entirely for camping, but I definitely need to give colder temperatures a try next time!

It was great to have a quick getaway from studying, and our first tenting night of the year! Getting all of my gear out has only gotten me more excited for the adventures to come this summer.

A perfect sunrise over the frozen lake

Happy camping!

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!

Living the Lake Life

A few months ago, my boyfriend and I bought our first home together. We decided to trade city life to move out to a small resort village in Saskatchewan and have been enjoying the lifestyle to the fullest ever since.

Moving right before Christmas might be hectic any other year, but with the Covid-19 restrictions in place we weren’t allowed to go and visit with family. While it was a strange and quiet holiday, we had a lot of time to unpack and set up our new home. With just our luck, the strictest restrictions our province has implemented so far went in to place right before our moving day. So, without the ability to offer pizza and beer in exchange for some help, we ended up moving almost everything just the two of us. But it was well worth it to spend that first night in our cozy new home.

Before moving, I lived on one of the busiest streets in one of the busiest cities in Saskatchewan. While I liked my little house, sirens and traffic were regular background noise for me, and my fingers were always crossed that I would walk out to my car in the morning and none of my windows would be smashed. Now, city life absolutely has its perks. I love trying new restaurants, checking out the local vintage shops, and taking the dogs to the riverside dog parks, but I think that living in a small community is my favorite place to be. Now, I wake up to a quiet house where I can leave the blinds open to let the sun stream in. The dogs watch deer from the windows, and race across the frozen lake in search of any scraps left behind by whoever is out ice fishing. We are also close to a Provincial Park, and there’s a perfect skating rink right by our house.

With the extreme cold we have has in the last week, paired with a lot of snow early on in the season, the deer moved in to our little village. While I love living somewhere where I can see a deer from my front window, the dogs have taken it as a personal challenge to chase them at every opportunity. I have been working on my core strength on walks lately, holding back my two coyotes while the deer lay in neighboring yards without a care in the world. A few times we have made the mistake of trusting June off leash, and ended up chasing after a dog in hot pursuit of some deer that are certainly faster than her. These chases end up with us huffing and puffing to the house to find June already sitting in the front yard guiltily.

While June likes the thrill of the chase, Piper finds her joy in sneaking frozen deer poop or fish remnants off of the ground as we walk along. She loves zooming around on the lake, sometimes forgetting that the ice below her feet is in fact quite slippery. The lake that we live by is also host to hundreds of ice fishing shacks in the winter months, and there are always plenty of people out making the most of the cold days, even after a bout of strong winds toppled over and damaged many of them a few weeks ago.

I took the dogs to the nearby park to check out the cross country ski trails the other day and was glad I hadn’t decided to try them out blindly on my skis with two dogs. They look like a blast, but definitely a little more advanced than where my skijoring skill set currently is. Instead, we enjoyed a walk and a little break from all of our deer friends. Lake life is certainly the life for us.

With all of the fun we have been having this winter, I am so excited to see what summer has in store for us!

Skijoring in a Winter Wonderland

Wow! Has it ever been a busy few months, from Christmas, to studying, to moving into a beautiful new home, I have hardly had a minute to write anything. I have been enjoying myself so much, but I am happy to finally get back out and document some more adventures.

January 18, 2021

Today I finally checked my first item off of my winter bucket list. My mom and I packed up our skis and my dog and we headed out to try skijoring! We went to the Finlayson Island trails in North Battleford, and the weather was a perfect -1 degrees.

Now, Piper is a retired sled dog, and no stranger to running on snowy trails, so she was thrilled to get back to it. I was a little nervous, not sure how many tumbles I would be taking. We started off a little rusty, with Piper lagging behind and then running forward like a slingshot but after a few minutes of getting in to the swing of things we were a perfect team.

The weather could not have been better, and I found myself feeling even more balanced with a dog than when I ski alone. It was such warm day that our skis stuck to the snow whenever we stopped, and the dried berries that fell off of the trees in fall were colouring the wet snow around them pink. I looked down at some specks on the ground and noticed that even the snow fleas were out to play. It’s always fascinating to see little creatures alive and well in the snow.

It was a wonderful experience and I’ve ordered Piper a proper pulling harness so we can go all of the time!

Happy winter adventuring!

Summer Walks at Cranberry Flats Conservation Area

Cranberry Flats Conservation Area is a short 10 minute drive outside of the city of Saskatoon that is family friendly, dog friendly (on-leash), and has an accessible lookout point with a boardwalk. While it is lovely in the winter for snowshoeing and walking, it is worth revisiting in warmer months to appreciate the large diversity of plant life.

The dogs at Cranberry Flats

I packed up my usual adventure sidekicks and we set off to explore. Although the area can get busy, there are plenty of smaller trails that branch off and I didn’t find myself crossing paths with many other people. I was in awe at the variety of wildflowers I came across, but couldn’t stop for long as the dogs pressed forward in hopes of coming up on one of the squirrels that chattered around us.

Along with the explosion of flowers, we were surrounded by berries of all colours. The Saskatoons have begun to ripen on the bushes, and the Juniper berries were so plentiful that they weighed down the little green shrubs.

Although there were a few grey clouds in the sky, it was a hot day, so we made our way down to the river for the dogs to have a swim and a drink. I watched some new little froglets hop back into the safety of the water as we cooled off and continued on our way.

June going for a swim

We continued along the river side for a while and then happened to pop up right below the boardwalk and lookout point where a man was playing the guitar with the company of two curious ground squirrels. After a lovely chat, we headed back to the vehicle for a drink of water and some air conditioning.

Wild Bergamot

My favourite part about Cranberry Flats Conservation Area is that you can make it your own adventure. You can spend 30 minutes to several hours exploring, no matter the season, and it is always breathtaking.

Happy exploring!

A Quick Stop to Smell the Flowers at Pike Lake Provincial Park

Pike Lake Provincial Park is located a short 30 kilometres outside of the city of Saskatoon. It is one of the smallest provincial parks in Saskatchewan, but it is still the perfect getaway if you want to take a break from the city for a few hours. You’ll find a lovely little beach, an outdoor swimming pool, a mini golf course, plenty of day-use picnic tables, and a small nature trail.

Piper and I went for a quick swim in the lake and then decided to see what we could find on the nature trail. It is well maintained and family friendly, you’ll see diverse plant life from cattails to cacti along the way.

I joke that Piper is like Ferdinand the bull from the popular children’s book because she loves to stop and sniff flowers. Here are a few pictures of some of our favourite finds on the trail.

While it isn’t always possible to pack up and leave every weekend to adventure, it is always fun to explore closer to home and discover the beautiful things that our own back yard has to offer in Saskatoon.

Happy exploring!

May Long in the Dirt

Just one week after our walk in the snow storm, the weather was finally looking warmer for the May long weekend. The past two years my long weekends have been spent hiking to Grey Owls cabin in Prince Albert National Park, but with the parks closed for now we had to change it up.

Spending more time in the city gave us the perfect opportunity to try out one of the disc golf courses in Saskatoon a few weeks ago, and we have gone quite a few times since. A set of disks is around $40-$60 and the course is free to use, making it the perfect activity for a warm evening in the city.

Fun for any skill level, I enjoyed the game even though I haven’t exactly mastered how to throw a frisbee very far… or very straight.

On Saturday we went to some off-road vehicle trails north of the city. I was nervous about driving my own quad but quickly realized that the fun outweighed the fear. We packed some watermelon, and not nearly enough water, and enjoyed the +25 celcius day.

Eventually, we made it back to the city as the sun was setting, covered in dust and dried mud, but happy as could be. I had planned on getting quite a bit of yard work done the next day, but failed to take into account just how exhausting it is to drive an ATV.

I ended up spending the following day cleaning up a bit, but mostly napping on the couch. Finally the next morning I was eager to get my planters filled with new flowers.

It was the perfect weekend of wonderful company, new adventures, and a little gardening.

Happy exploring!

Walking a Half Marathon Through the City of Saskatoon

Last week we finally decided to cancel our West Coast Trail reservations. We were booked for June 5th and it seems unlikely that it will be open for out of province residents at that time if it evens opens at all. To distract ourselves from the disappointment of missing out on our hike, we wanted to plan adventures closer to home to fill in the hiking gap.

With Covid-19 restrictions beginning to lift , but still present in many of the parks and day used areas around the city, we decided to keep our adventure close to home. And as the weather would have it, we hardly crossed paths with any other people on our 21 kilometre adventure through the city.

May 9, 2020

We began at the edge of the Riverside Country Club and walked through the Furdale dog park to the Meewasin trail. What we didn’t expect, was to be walking through a snowstorm on May 9th. But my friend Lindsay often reminds me that there is no such thing as bad weather, as long as you are dressed appropriately, so we set out in the snow!

May 9, 2020

Fortunately I packed a two pairs of gloves, a rain coat, and pants, because we were in for about 3 and a half hours of wind and wet snow. Under the fresh layer of snow was also a healthy layer of mud, and we slipped and slid around for the first few kilometres.

May 9, 2020

It was easier going once we made it to the road, and even easier once we were on the Meewasin trail. From there we left the usual trail scenery for the city life. It is definitely a strange feeling to be walking past buildings and bridges in hiking boots with a backpack on.

May 9, 2020

We battled the cold and wind most of the way, I expected to shed clothing layers as the walk went on but instead found myself wishing I had packed more. In spite of the cold, we had a great group of girls and laughed and made the best of it. The trail was rather quiet due to the weather, but I still managed to slip and fall in front of one of the few people we passed along the way, giving my friend behind me a good laugh.

Quick warm up break.
Snack breaks!

Eventually, the snow stopped and the wind settled down, making the last 5-6 kilometres a treat. we made it to the Meewasin Park parking lot about 5 hours after we set out on our journey. Success!

We were cold and tired, but still had such a wonderful day. Now we need to start planning the next adventure, maybe a full walking marathon next time!

Happy adventuring!

Getting Off the Pavement Without Leaving the City

Given the choice, I always prefer a dirt trail to a sidewalk, but it isn’t always convenient to pack up and drive out of the city in search of a good trail. Fortunately, there are adventures to be had within city limits. Saskatoon has beautiful paved paths along the riverside, and if you look even closer you’ll see that there are often dirt trails hidden in the trees below. These trails are most frequently used by mountain bikers, but they also make for a great walk though the trees that feels disconnected from busy city life.

I am dog sitting a very small pup for two weeks, but still wanted to try my best to get outside and enjoy the sun. The river trails in Saskatoon are close to home, and short enough to be small dog friendly (although it was more of a ‘carry’ than a walk because little Chihuahua feet get cold fast). We parked at the train bridge and made our way across, then found a quiet path closer to the river.

Train bridge, Saskatoon SK (Feb 26, 2020)

I rarely come across other people on these trails, but it’s a good idea to keep an eye and an ear out for oncoming bikers. If your shoes lack grip, it might be a good idea to get some spikes or YakTrax to prevent slipping as it is quite icy in some areas. Also, even though you’re in the city, let someone know where you will be walking and when you plan on getting back to your vehicle. We didn’t see any other people, and Mina even got a minute or two to run before she was chilled and ready to be snuggled up in my jacket again.

The river trails in Saskatoon are also the perfect place to start training with a heavier pack and get used to uneven terrain without planning a trip out of the city. Last year, my friend Lindsay and I did a morning of West Coast Trail prep, hiking from bridge to bridge through the trees, and even along the rocks and sand on the river’s edge. In the summertime, you can even stop mid-hike and treat yourself to an ice cream or a beer on broadway (hell yeah!), or snack on the Saskatoon berries that grow along the river banks.

Sometimes you don’t have to leave the city to get away for a while. There are adventures to be had everywhere, often even closer than you think!

4 Hiking Mistakes We All Make

Making mistakes is all a part of the adventure. It’s how we learn, improve, and end up with funny stories to tell our friends. While trial and error is a big part of adventuring, maybe this list can save your feet a few blisters.

1. Improper Foot Care

After my first overnight hike I swore that I was going to burn my boots if I ever made it back to the parked vehicle. I tried to save some money and bought an inexpensive pair online, but I ended up shelling out three times as much for a good solid pair of boots that I love.

Foot care is one of the most important things to get the hang of if you want to truly enjoy your adventures. It is not worth it to ‘tough it out’ with uncomfortable shoes and blisters. Here are some ways to keep your feet feeling great.

  • Try on many different styles and brands of hiking footwear before you decide on a pair, make sure that you don’t feel discomfort or pressure that could cause blisters
  • Stop as soon as you feel rubbing or discomfort and put second skin or tape over the area
  • For multi-day trips, make sure you have a few pairs of socks and let them dry out completely between wears
  • Take your boots off when you stop for longer breaks
  • Tape your feet beforehand if you know you have blister prone spots
January 4, 2020 Pike Lake

2. Over-Packing

Everyone wants to be prepared for anything in the outdoors. When packing I always find myself throwing in plenty of last minute additions, and while some of them may be useful, they are also adding weight. Thru-hikers often do ‘shakedowns’ along their journey to cut out unnecessary weight, and while you may not feel like ditching your deodorant just yet, there may be other things that you can leave at home.

If you are going on an overnight trip, you maybe don’t need as many ‘just in case’ items. If you check the weather beforehand, you my be able to leave some layers behind (and use that saved space for candy bars). I have noticed that I tend to over pack first aid supplies. The problem with these giants kits of bandages and supplies is that I don’t know how to use most of it, which isn’t helpful on the trail. I saved myself a fair bit of weight by making a custom first aid kit filled with stuff that I know.

It is good to be prepared, but think critically about what you really need, you may save your back some stress. Try making notes of which items you used often and which were left untouched after each trip.

Pretty full pack here. 😛

3. Not Doing Enough Research

I once led myself and two friends the wrong way up a mountain because it seemed like the right way to me. I could have saved myself a few hours of time, and some less than enthused friends if I had simply looked up the hike online beforehand and read that the best way to access the peak was on the other side. Fortunately, most websites or apps (like AllTrails) will tell you the best route to take, and you can usually even download the trail maps to use out of cell service range.

Comparing this experience to my week on the West Coast Trail, which I had meticulously planned down to the kilometer, I know for sure that good research can make your trip. With a full trail plan, I was way more confident with decision making and time management. I could tell my hiking partners what to expect down to each kilometre.

Save yourself the stress and look at reviews or guides online from past hikers, there is often important information like washed out bridges and trail closures.

July 22, 2019

4. Forgetting That You’re Supposed to Have Fun

Your feet are sore, pack weighing down on your shoulders, trekking through wind and rain, you hope that your stove will light and the water you filtered from the lake is safe. You stop and wonder why you even put yourself in to this situation to begin with.

A negative mind set is one of the first obstacles you may have to overcome, and also one of the hardest. It isn’t easy to go from a warm, comfortable home to a small tent and rehydrated meals, or even to leave the safety of your couch to trek up a mountainside in a day. It is, however, important to try your very best to stay in a positive headspace. Here are a few ways I keep positive…

  • Remember that you are doing this for fun, it is okay to turn around, to take a break, or do whatever you need to make it a positive experience.
  • Mentally prepare yourself for the worst (i.e. what if it rains the whole time?), if the worst happens then you’ll be ready, if not, yay!
  • Stop and enjoy. Take lots of pictures, stop and write in a journal, sit and listen to music, this time is for you.
  • Bring good company, positivity is contagious.
  • Celebrate your accomplishments. Pack a beer for the summit, bring delicious snacks, go out for a nice dinner. Congratulations, you’ve earned it!

When we are doing something difficult or new, my friend Lindsay always reminds us, “Your body is made to do hard things.” You may be tired and sore, but wow will you ever be happy when you climb that mountain. Thanks hiking buddy, I love that.

Stutfield Glacier