By Chris Viel
“There is pleasure in the pathless woods. There is rapture on the lonely shore. There is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea and music in its roar. I love not man the less, but Nature more.” – George Byron
The idea of travelling is one I hear about often. Whether it be an attraction for new and exciting adventures, or to simply seek a change of scenery, there are countless reasons to go exploring and get outdoors. Although I can understand this urge, I feel many people tend to look beyond what is right in front of them. Northwestern Ontario boasts some of the most beautiful and majestic landscapes in Canada, yet it is something many residents take for granted. This is especially true during our lengthy and cold winters, when people would rather stay indoors than venture into the great unknown. However, if approached with a positive attitude and the right equipment, there is an entirely new world to discover and many little gems you will likely have all to yourself!
One of the first things I do before heading out on a winter adventure is try my best to plan ahead. What activities will I be doing? How long will I be going for? What is the weather going to be like? All of these questions and more are things you should be asking yourself. Figuring out what you want to accomplish prior to stepping out the door is half the fun of the adventure. Whether you want to simply take a hike, or maybe combine several activities into a day trip, it’s always best to look at a map or GPS and decide your travel plans and route. Additionally, this planning will help you figure out clothing you will want to bring, and any food you might need.
One of my favourite things to do in winter is traveling to places that would be extremely difficult any other times of the year. Thick brush, swamp, and water bodies all act as potential barriers during other seasons, but when things freeze over you can travel almost anywhere. (Be sure to check ice conditions before traveling over any frozen water!) Due to the high depth of snow over much of the region, a good pair of snowshoes is your best friend when going exploring! It is also a good idea to give yourself as much time as possible, as the longer you are out there, the more incredible experiences you will have!
For people who may not know where to start with winter exploring, a great way to start is to simply go and explore some of the many trails and conservation areas in the region. Many of these will have packed down trails, only requiring minimal gear such as boots and adequate clothing. For the adventure seeker, borrow or buy some basic ice fishing gear (hand auger, rod/reel, bait) and go for a hike to one of the many stocked speckle trout lakes in the area (these can be found at https://www.ontario.ca/page/ontarios-fish-stocking-program). Not only will you have a great time hiking, but you can also enjoy a fire and some great fishing action with a tasty meal at the end!
Whatever journey you decide to embark on, make sure to be safe and prepare for the worst. Always keep an outdoor safety kit along with you, let people know where you are going and when you intend to be back, and bring extra clothing in case the weather turns sour. There is a big, wide, and beautiful world out there, and for those willing to take the road less traveled, there are amazing experiences to be had!