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!

My 3 Outdoor Activity Goals for This Winter

As the leaves are beginning to turn, and the mornings are getting darker, I am starting to think about how I can make this winter one to remember, even though it seems likely that we will still be practicing social distancing. Pushing myself to get outside despite the cold makes me appreciate the season a whole lot more, and also catch some of that elusive daylight. This will also be my first cold season with my dog Piper, who I adopted back in April, and I am looking forward to making her first winter as a retired sled dog a great one.

Here are three things I want to give a try this winter!

Skijoring With Piper

For the last two snowy seasons, cross-country skiing has been my favorite way to get outside in the cold. Now that I have Piper, I think that skiing could be the perfect activity for us to do together. As a retired sled dog, she is extremely familiar with wearing a harness and running on trails, so I’m hoping it will be an easy transition for her.

Piper at work

Even in their retirement, sled dogs require plenty of exercise, and Piper still loves to run. I need to purchase a pulling harness, a hip belt, and a tug line to get us started. Piper is not much of a puller (based on my experience with her on a dog sled), but she loves going running so I’m hoping that this can be a great way for us to get some exercise this winter.

Cross country skiing

(Finally) Learning How to Snowboard

This is something that I have been saying since I was 16, but I really truly do want to figure out how to snowboard without getting scared and stopping, or falling every few minutes. It is so frustrating to try over and over again to feel like I haven’t made a stitch of progress, but I’m also not quite ready to admit defeat.

I may even consider switching to downhill skis instead of a board if I continue to have no luck. I am thankful for my kind and patient boyfriend and friends who continue to convince me to go back and give it another try. And if all else fails there’s always a chalet nearby to sit by a warm fire and enjoy a caesar, right?

Winter Camping

Camping is one of my favorite things to do throughout the warmer seasons, and I would love to get out and experience the winter even more. About four years ago I spent an overnight in a Quinzhee with my Recreation and Tourism program and it was such a unique experience.

Successful night in the Quinzhee

A Quinzhee is created by building up a large pile of snow, letting it harden up, and then hollowing out the center to create a space to sleep. As soon as we get enough snow on the ground, my sister and I will be out there trying to craft the perfect snow shelter. We will need to trade in our ultra light backpacking gear for some heavier cold weather sleeping bags, but sleeping in a snow shelter can be very warm if it is set up right! There are so many amazing places in Saskatchewan that I want to revisit in the winter, and camping is a great way to do it.

Ready for a winter overnight

How are you going to get outside this winter?

Happy adventuring!

Chihuahuas on the Trail

Looking after smaller dogs in Canadian winter conditions means that you have to put a little more thought in to bringing them outdoors with you. Little paws and ears get cold fast, so it’s important that they’re dressed warmly and they get opportunities for a break from the snow. Dog booties are also a good idea, although I didn’t have any with me, so I was just careful about checking toes and carrying them every once in a while.

With just under a week of dog sitting remaining and a busy weekend ahead, we had to get out for some fresh air and exercise. I put on my winter coat, the dogs got their matching sweaters, and we picked up my friend Lindsay for a walk at Finlayson Island in Battleford. Even though it was snowing, we lucked out with a fairly warm -6° celsius day.

March 7, 2020

Our path was sheltered by the trees and a fair bit of the wind was blocked. Lily was eager to run the whole time, while Mina preferred to stay in my warm jacket. Instead of packing weights in a bag for West Coast Trail training this year I think I need to keep carrying two chihuahuas around every day, what a workout.

Two days later, we returned to the same spot to navigate all of the snow that had fallen. The little dogs had a blast, but our walk was short-lived as it’s tricky for them to run through so much snow being under 10lbs. We did a quick loop, and I ended up getting the best workout of all by carrying the dogs back to the car through the deep snow. Seriously, the Chihuahua workout is real.

March 9, 2020

After braving the winter weather, we decided to do what little dogs do best and enjoy a nice cozy evening in. I’m glad that we all got a chance to enjoy the snow, no matter how small.

Happy adventuring!