Winter in Edmonton can be tough to really get out and explore a lot, especially with little ones in tow. There are lots of places to go and things to do, but you’re at the mercy of the weather, and how warm you can keep their little hands and feet. This particular winter in Alberta has been odd for the constant thaw and freeze cycle that’s been going on during what should be the coldest months of the year.
Trying to be brave and intrepid, I decided to take Finn out for a little bit of snowshoeing. It’s a great winter sport that I want to do more of as the years go by, exploring the parks and natural areas around Edmonton on foot, reminding myself what life looks at in the backcountry when all the leaves are fallen and snow lies everywhere. For starters though, I thought that the Clifford E. Lee Natural Area would be a great place to start: it’s close to our house, has a nice raised boardwalk for parts of the trail, and very gentle hills for the rest. It’s also not a very far hike at all, perfect for Finn’s first time out exploring in the snow like that.
The trail started out promising, relatively clear and wide, though heavily iced over and sometimes cumbersome to walk over. I was really proud that every time Finn fell down or got tangled in his snowshoes, or got tripped up in a rut or deep, frozen footprint he smiled and got right back up again. We were rewarded with a close encounter with some chickadees, who even came up and landed on our hands (I missed a picture of this, though!) looking for some bird seed.
We didn’t stay on the boardwalk the entire way, though. It was pretty impassable at times for his little legs, and it was easier to just hop off into the snow and let him walk right on top of the ice crust. Everywhere he walked he floated right on top, while I sunk in to my knees with just about every step.
Finally we arrived at out hot chocolate spot, and the turnaround point for the day (we had covered approximately 700m over the course of an hour, so needless to say, we weren’t setting any speed records along the way). Time for a quick Dad & Finn selfie!
And then, the hot chocolate, plus a little snack, before heading back the way we came. Drinking it from a thermos out in the woods definitely made the chocolate taste better, to me anyways.
Now, it wasn’t all sunshine and chickadees out there. Just after we finished our hot chocolate, Finn’s fingers got super cold and nothing I could do quickly would warm them and help get him up and moving again. He was a trooper and walked for portions, but mostly I had to carry him back if we were to make good time on the boardwalk again, and the lack of exercise while being carried sure didn’t help with how cold he was feeling. I was able to talk him into one last picture at the beginning of our hike, but (as you can see) he was less than enthusiastic about the idea.
So, lessons learned:
- Make sure Finn wears his warmest mittens at all times, even when drinking hot chocolate.
- Temperatures below -10C aren’t going to be in his wheelhouse, at least not yet.
- Investing in hand warmer packets might pay dividends for keeping his hands & feet warm.
- Bring birdseed for the birds in the winter time, or even make a bird feeder to bring out with us to hang from a tree.
And finally, before I forget: the Clifford E. Lee Nature Reserve. It’s one of west Edmonton’s hidden gems, a beautiful natural area full of wildlife in the summer that is perfect for young families. I’ll touch on it again in the future, and I guarantee that we will have more adventures out there in all seasons, so stay tuned!