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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
Picture this; it’s a cold (but not too cold) day in Saskatoon, you’ve exhausted all of the appealing options on Netflix, and you’re feeling a little stir crazy because your outdoor excursions have been limited to running to and from your car all week in your heaviest winter coat. Maybe today is the day to mix it up, get a little fresh air, and explore somewhere new?
As a beginner cross country skier, I love that it is the perfect way to continue to explore the trails even in the winter, it isn’t terribly difficult to get the hang of, and it gets me out of a dingy gym and into the outdoors. If you don’t own your own set of skis, you can rent them from Eb’s Source for Adventure for around $22/day. They can also recommend the best trails for you to try out and usually have maps on hand.
You’ll find Eb’s trails about an hour north of Saskatoon, just past Duck Lake (Google maps may tell you to drive past the trail entrances and do a U Turn on the highway, but you can actually turn directly left and save yourself an extra 15-20 mins of driving). There are 52kms of trail and two warm up shacks beautifully maintained by the Saskatoon Nordic Ski Club.
My sister, two friends, and I decided to head up to Eb’s for a half day. Beginning at the south lot, we took the Sask 60 trail up to Jorgen’s, this section of trail is perfect for beginners. Then we stopped for a quick snack at the north warm up shack, we all agreed that it worth it to pack yourself some good food and some hot chocolate. After, we skied the Beaverlodge trail directly back into the south lot where our vehicle was parked, we found this section of trail a little more technical, but also quite fun as there were more twists and hills.
Check out the Saskatoon Nordic Ski club website for a trail map and current trail conditions.
While it’s tempting to stay in and hide as soon as the snow hits the ground, Saskatoon has a lot of fun to offer. Take advantage of those warm winter days by getting outside and exploring the nature in your back yard!
Snowshoe at Cranberry Flats
Cranberry Flats Conservation Area is only a few minutes out of the city and perfect for summer and winter walks. There are plenty of little trails that take you to a small lookout platform, through the brush, and down to the rivers edge. If you don’t have a set of snowshoes, rent them from Eb’s Adventure or Escape Sports for about $15/$20 for the day. Dogs are welcome on leash here!
Cross Country Ski at Meewasin
Glide along the snow with a beautiful view of the river at the Lower Meewasin Park ski trail at Pinehouse and Whiteswan Drive. There are plenty of amazing trails worth checking out in Saskatoon, but this one will give you an exceptional view of the city skyline if you go in the evening. If you don’t have cross country skis, rent some from Eb’s for $20/day.
Visit the Birds at Beaver Creek
The Beaver Creek Conservation area is the perfect place to go if you want to feel like a Disney princess for a couple hours, and it’s only about 13km out of the city. Stop in at the interpretive centre for a little cup of birdseed and then head out on a walk to find some friendly chickadees and a perfect photo opportunity. Plan your visit for a weekday as the area is closed on weekends.