With hiking season long gone and not much new snow on the ground, we’ve decided that snowshoeing will be our way of staying in shape.

We bought our snowshoes, complete with retractable poles, last year at Costco. In fact, it was actually the poles that drew me in. I had wanted some for hiking to help protect my aging knees from long downhills at the end of a hike. They really felt it when we hiked from the start of Ridge Road near Old Chelsea up to the Champlain Lookout and back.

Last weekend we brought the snowshoes out to Kanata. We opted not to convert the baskets and took the crosscountry ski poles instead. That was a mistake. Your stride isn’t nearly as long on shoes as it is on skis. I also learned not to follow NosyNeighbour’s suggestion of “Let’s take this trail and see where it goes,” especially when you’ve only eaten a grapefruit, started your day with some special “Christmas Cream” in your coffee and have no snacks for along the trail. Needless to say I was parched and peckish after finishing that loop, which took almost an hour and a half. Thankfully, my lumpy foot held up okay but it was starting to feeling the pressure of repetitive slapping against the frozen ground.

Today, we ventured out along the Ottawa River Parkway, starting just past the west end of Tunney’s Pasture. It’s part of our cycling route to work and I can’t recall ever having been down there in the winter. This time we’d added the winter baskets to the poles and the height was much better.

After we’d parked and put on the snowshoes we starting tramping along approaching the two underpasses for the parkway. Strangely, there was a narrow band of snow under each bridge, just enough for a crosscountry skier. I imagined whether somebody in the old stone house on the corner brought a shovel to make the trail so they could ski to work. I’ve done that once, in our former house, and it’s not as easy as you think.

Once at the main pathway, we set off into the brisk easterly wind. Just like cycling, I’d rather have it in my face at the start. Faint ski tracks appeared on the far right and left of the main walkway. Imprints of old and new snowshoes appeared from time to time as well. But mostly, it was crunchy snow interspersed with deep footprints, likely from dogwalkers.

As we climbed up the small hill near the parking lot, one of my hip flexors was asking me why I hadn’t stretched. Hmm…. cold muscles and uneven snow. Not a great combination.  So we stopped to let it rest for a minute, and that’s when we heard nature. Took – took -took, or is it tuck – tuck – tuck, coming from above and just behind us. A woodpecker was being burrowing its beak into a tree, raising its head and back down again.

So I pretended I was in an urban park, like Central Park. That would explain the faint sound of snow tires humming along the parkway. As we edged along, crunching through snow crusted with a layer of freezing rain, it reminded me of the crampons we used to climb the Franz Joseph Glacier in New Zealand. On the really icy spots you had to make sure your snowshoe came down flatfooted. It makes you feel like a toy soldier with really big feet.

A bit further on, a squirrel ran from tree to tree looking for nuts I suppose. Or maybe he was checking on his supplies making sure other squirrels weren’t looting. Clearly he was a risk taker, missing about a third of his tail. Maybe he was just checking up on the hibernating squirrels to make sure they were still alive and had something to nibble on in case they awoke from their deep slumber.

We continued on until NosyNeighbour’s krazy glue-repaired basked fell apart again. Then we turned around. Amazingly I couldn’t see my tracks. I thought I would have been able to, but it’s like I had never been there.

On the return trip I noticed the inukshuk were still along the shore. Some had toppled over, but most of them were braving the winter. A few ducks were bobbing in the open fridge water. Thankfully the Canada geese are on vacation. No green piles of poop along the trail.

A bit chilly, and not quite the commune with nature as in Kanata, but all in all not a big chunk out of my day to have about an hour’s worth of fresh air.