There is something bewildering about a snow-covered forest; something romantic about being in that forest with the one you love. There it was! The day I’d been waiting for, out snowshoeing with my wife, after a 30 cm (12.8″) flurry of the soft powdery snow the night before. It was a beautiful day and the sun was radiant. It was the perfect mid-winter day and we were intoxicated to be out in it.
Heber Down Conservation Area, in Whitby, has 650 acres of forests, fields and wetlands. There are three trails ranging from 2.2 to 3.0 km, but linked in such a way that if you wanted a longer trek, you can hike almost 7.0 km without retracing any steps.
After chatting with an older gentleman in the parking lot we decided to take the Devil’s Den Nature Trail. On the map, the Springbank Trail looked more forested, and the most interesting of the three, but he had told us that the Springbank Trail was icy.
I was anxious to show my wife how much fun snowshoeing is. She wasn’t as excited as I was to get out into the snow, but she indulged me. I was also a little worried about the learning curve of her being out for the first time on snowshoes, but there wasn’t one.
After helping my wife adjust her snowshoes, off we marched; high-stepping through the powdery fluff of the 2.5 km Devil’s Den Nature Trail. A 2.5 km trail in snowshoes is the equivalent of a 5.0 km hike. It was a challenging workout because we had to blaze the trail in certain areas through unspoilt snow. We were careful to pace ourselves and not get overheated. Our frequent stops gave us ample opportunities to pause and take in the post card scenery of the snow-covered forest and fields.
Clumps of snow cascaded occasionally from the trees when the wind gently pushed the white rain from the branches. If our daughter was there she would have screamed with delight and urged us to run under it. Instead we admired the beauty from a distance.
About 2 km into the trail, we stood in a beautiful spot admiring a small valley below, I mistakenly stood on the back of her snowshoes and when she started to walk away, down she fell. She started twisting the snowshoes around as she was on the ground that never would have allowed her to stand. Probably the best method of getting up in snowshoes is to get on your side, tuck your knees in, start pushing your self up and get to one knee and as you raise yourself up bring the other leg under you. If you have trekking poles it becomes all the more easier to use them in your ascent back to your feet.
There were a number of couples out basking in the sunshine. Most were snowshoeing. There was the odd skier, and a couple who shovelled off a small section of the pond to ice skate.
When you are alone and stand still, the acoustic dampening effect of the snow, is meditative. When you are with that special someone, it is quite romantic. We passed a woman who had cross-country skied to where the trail faced an open field, with the forest and sun behind it. Her skis beside her, she sat on a bank of snow looking very peaceful in her reflective pose. She was very much at one with the sun floating low in the afternoon sky; much like I was with my wife that afternoon. February the fourteenth was days away yet, but that was our Valentine’s Day.