Iphone in Muskoka: Winter Wonderland
Finding the motivation to get outside in the winter can be tough, but this year there should be no excuses. Authentic winter has returned to Muskoka – a few years of lackluster snowfall & drab December scenery has been replaced by a couple good snowstorms and enough white fluffy stuff to come over the top of your boots.
Some areas have recorded snow fall amounts of over a metre in just a couple days, and the forecast has just guaranteed us a Bing Crosby style White Christmas. Two hours north of Toronto – boom – Winter Wonderland. Snowboard/Ski hills are open, conditions are good, and if paying for lift tickets or renting x country skis isn’t your thing, just go outside. That sounds facetious and sort of simplistic, but it’s my new winter mantra. Everyone knows too much screen time is bad for your soul or whatever, but actually getting off the couch when the temperature hits minus double digits and it gets dark at Way Too Soon O’Clock is hard.
If you’re not a hunter, the lack of snowfall in recent years has rendered being outdoors in November/early December aesthetically unappealing from a casual outdoorsman’s perspective. Hibernation is an option, but apparently not a healthy choice for many mammals without thick fur or the proper metabolism. The sheer amount of flakes in the air and the stark destructive reality of throwing the ball for the dog in the living room did it for me. I closed my lap-top, grabbed my point & shoot and headed outside, starting in November. I found and explored 3 trails I had no previous knowledge of within 15 km of my house, and it was awesome.
Getting to Muskoka is easy, and access to the Great And Snowy Outdoors is $free.99. Muskoka Tourism has great guides for each municipality that will point you towards awesome trails and events that cost you nothing other than the effort of getting there, and this winter, it’s worth your effort. I am summer’s biggest fan, especially around here, but this winter feels good – it feels special. Being deep in a marshmallow forest, beer in hand on a sunny afternoon with light trickling through tree branches is pretty epic – as does tromping across a snowy moonlit field with that cold sound of snow crunching under your boots as the soundtrack.
So grab a tall can, find those winter boots your mom got you for Christmas four years ago and get outside. Snow makes the trails you walked in the summer a completely different world – your camera will appreciate it. You’ll always remember that time you almost got lost in the woods after dark – you won’t recall that afternoon on the couch watching reruns.
Need an easy start? Try the Bella Beach trail – like the Big East River, it’s a local’s gem. In the summer, it’s an uncrowded light beige sand stretch of beach at the end of a cottage road just outside of Huntsville. While the distance from town deters some, for locals it’s a welcome respite from busy lakes and the trail through the forest to get there is worth it. The firm sand reaches out far from shore, making a shallow water playground perfect for a Sunday afternoon of frisbee and snorkelling. I had never been in the winter, but a friend was up and the dog needed a walk, so we went. The road was navigable, and the trail access was still clearly marked. The freshly fallen snow made the trail seem like winter in Narnia – tall pines and birches cloaked in white silence.
Once you reach the beach, right or left will take you along a scenic shoreline, while straight ahead will take you into the lake, and I’d avoid that option this time of year. This short but fun hike is ideal for snowshoeing, x-county skiing or just plain boot stomping. Alternately, at the trail entrance one can go straight as well, down a crown land access road that will eventually take you to The Big East River! This is what I’ve seen lately on my outdoor adventures – if I can take these pics, anyone can!