Ontario Provincial Parks – An Overlooked Winter Joy

Driving up Highway 35/115 on my way to Ken Reid Conservation Area, located north of Lindsay, “The Gateway to the Kawarthas”, to break in my new snowshoes, I suddenly found myself in Peterborough.  I must have been in a daydream at the 35 exit.  Disappointed that I had another half hour of driving before I would get out on the trails, it wasn’t too long before I saw a sign, “Emily Provincial Park – 3 Km”.  Why delay gratification?  I could be slapping through the snow in a few minutes.  Besides, Emily, is a provincial park that I have wanted to visit for a few years.  Within a few minutes I was strapping on my snowshoes and had the run of the park; 205 acres all to myself.  Beautiful!Emily Provincial Park: Looking up the creek at Cedars campground

I have never been snowshoeing before, but have  always enjoyed walking through  forests, even in winter when the snow wasn’t too deep.  Now I had snowshoes and I could hike regardless of the snow depth. The zero learning curve took me by surprise, and off I went.  For the entire outing I saw no one else.  There was about a foot of snow and I pretty much stuck to the roads as there was only the odd vehicle track, but mostly  just skier, hiker, dog and the odd rabbit tracks that had been there before me.  I traipsed around the different campgrounds: Cedars, Hill, Circle and Lookout.  I noted a few campsites at which I’d like to camp if I get a chance to come back in the summer.  I made my way to the southern of the two beaches and looked out over the frozen Pigeon River as seen in the image at the top of the page.  South of that is the Marsh Boardwalk Trail, almost a kilometer long, which is mostly a loop – but more of a capital “Q”.  I bypassed the trail thinking it maybe awkward using snowshoes on a boardwalk and not ready to remove my snowshoes.As a winter day outing, Emily Provincial Park, is great!  The weather was perfect for snowshoeing.  Being an overcast day, I didn’t have the sun beating down on me, which helped with the overheating.  But within a half hour I had removed my toque, gloves and outer layer due to the amount of sweat I was producing.  Layering is key to help reduce sweat which will come back and chill you later.  An hour and a half had past when I decided that it was time to return to my car at the park entrance.  I headed off into that general direction.  After some time and making good progress, it was nice to see snowshoe tracks, among the others, for the first time that day.  They looked fresh.  I wondered who else was out here; where they were.  Realizing that the tracks were the same size as mine, then, that they were in fact mine.  I knew I was heading back to my car.  Or was I?  Upon closer inspection I noticed that I was heading in the same direction as my earlier tracks.  Somehow I had veered off into a large loop and circled around.  So I followed the tracks in the opposite direction and arrived back at the park entrance.Emily Provincial Park: Cedars Campground looking down the frozen creek

Sure, I could have used the handheld GPS that I had purchased a month earlier, but where would the adventure  in that be?  That is how I wound up here to begin with.  Sometimes you just have to get out and have some fun.  I am looking forward to my next trek.  Perhaps next weekend.  How about you?

As mentioned earlier I took note of some campsites that seemed to appeal to me for future camping.  Everyone has their own criteria for what makes a great campsite.   For you, it could be the size of the site; whether there is access to electricity; proximity to comfort stations or other people.  I don’t need electricity.  Size is not an issue.  I do like a level pad for my tent.  Most of all I require two trees spaced just right in order for me to hang my hammock.  One of my favorite is at Darlington Provincial Park, site #192.  I should also mention that it is about a fifteen minute drive from home, so it is my “go-to” Provincial Park.