Getting outside: trails for snowshoeing, skiing, hiking

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Did you know that the municipality loans out snowshoes? Neither did I, until I heard it at a Council meeting. Apparently, there are a lot of people interested in borrowing those snowshoes! It makes sense. Even the most outdoors-loving amongst us are feeling the lack of social interaction, as well as all those things that we do in the winter inside, that we can’t do right now. We can’t visit friends, see a movie, visit the library, go shopping, go to museums or plays….. you get the idea.

People are restless, and they want to try new things. Snowshoeing is one of those things. Snowshoeing, alongside skiing or hiking, is conducive to social distancing. The outdoor rinks are open for skating, the roads and sidewalks are cleared for walking, the trails are cleared for snowmobiling, but there’s still a number of places to explore for hiking, snowshoeing, or cross country skiing.

A lot of people in the west side of North Dundas end up heading to Kemptville if they want to go for a nature walk. There are trails and roads through Ferguson Forest, and the Campus, and, of course, there’s Limerick Forest. North Dundas has its own system of trails to explore.

The Oschmann Forest has a short trail of 1.2 km. There’s a diversity of trees, and there’s a maple sugar bush in the spring. There are interpretive trail signs, and a heritage sugar shack. It is north of Winchester, off of Ormond Road.

The Robert Graham Trail on Country Road 18/Glen Stewart Road is 140 acres, and has 6.5 km of trails for hiking, snowshoeing, or skiing. The trails are through the woods of white and red pine, and forest regeneration. It is home to deer, turkeys, lots of birds, rabbits, and a variety of other wildlife species.

Two Creeks Forest is on Highway #2, between Iroquois and Morrisburg. The area is 457 acres, with 4.5 km of trail. This is a bio-diverse forest. It includes coastal ecosystems, grassland flood plains, and lowland forests. This type of forest contains the greatest number of living species of all the eco-regions in Canada.

If you want to head a bit further afield, the South Nation watershed extends north east, until the South Nation River empties into the Ottawa. There are many opportunities for cross country skiing, hiking, and snowshoeing throughout the area. To our west is the Rideau Valley watershed and North Grenville, trails that include those at Limerick Forest.

If you can’t borrow one of those pairs of loaner snowshoes from the municipality, and you want to get some of your own, here are some things to keep in mind. Snowshoes are meant for walking over snow that you would sink into without them. You do not need them on packed or icy trails. Hiking through mounds of snow is hard work. Snowshoes keep you from sinking. They are relatively easy on the body, and are much more compact than the old cat-gut rackets from years ago. It’s pretty easy now to avoid one foot stepping on the other, and the bindings don’t need much adjusting once they’re on, unlike the old leather ones. They aren’t overly expensive.

Like anything, you can spend as much money as you want, but it’s possible to get a decent pair of snowshoes for the price of a pair of skates. If it’s been a while since you’ve thrown yourself into a winter sport, it’s a lot easier on the body to fall into a pile of snow while snowshoing than it is to fall on the ice while skating. Some people like adding hiking poles to their kit list when heading out. They can add a bit more motion if you’re after a workout, and they provide balance. Dress in layers, because it’s easy to overheat once you get going. Being too warm in winter can be dangerous if you can’t take a layer off as you heat up. The size of your snowshoes depends on your weight. An adult between 150 to 200 pounds wants a snowshoe that is 25 inches in length and 8 inches across. Most snowshoes will say this right on the shoe. Add about 20 pounds to your actual weight, to allow for your clothes, boots, backpack, water, and lunch. A pair of snowshoes that is too small won’t keep you up in the snow.

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