Tag Archives: Hiking

3 Things I Love About Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Image of a person's legs as they walk on a snowy, icy surface.This post is the final instalment of a four-part series I’ve been slowly working on about walking during each season of the year. Click on the links in this sentence to read about the things I love about spring hikes, summer strolls, and autumn hikes.

Winter is my least favourite season. The  cold temperatures, short days, and frequent snowstorms means I generally spend a lot of time indoors.

I do so much of my exercising outdoors from spring to autumn, so this also means that getting workouts in is trickier at this time of the year than at any other. With that being said, there are still advantages to getting outdoors for a walk in the winter.

The Blissful Solitude

Tree standing in a snowy field. The tree has some snow covering its branches. While I mentioned something pretty similar to this in my post about spring hikes, but it bears repeating again for this season. There are always some people walking around in my area, but you definitely see fewer of them on cold days.

As an introvert, I love this. There’s nothing like going to the park and having it all – or nearly all – to yourself.

The same can be said for walking down a street that is generally quite crowded in warmer weather. Rather than dodging strangers, I can focus on looking at all of the little things I might not have noticed about the architecture of the buildings I pass or the new plants at the park or forest that appeared since my last visit.

The Quiet Consistency

Woman walking down a city street during a blizzardThe months between April and November are filled with changes in the natural world here in southern Ontario. I revel in every change I see as plants sprout leaves, flowers bloom, or the first trees began to change colours for the season.

Winter is a long pause in this cycle every year. It’s just about impossible to look outdoors and immediately know whether we’re in the first week of December or the last week of March.  Every day more or less looks the same during those months unless there’s been an ice storm or snowstorm recently.

There’s something to be said for appreciating that consistency. Spring will arrive eventually. In the meantime, I don’t need to think about whether a plant hanging over the side of the sidewalk is poison ivy or whether I’ve photographed that flower already.

Winter is a time of rest. I’m coming to appreciate that.

The Cold, Crisp Air

Clouds being blown by a breeze. A year or two ago, I noticed that the temperatures were a bit cooler one August morning than they’d been that previous week. I decided to set out for a walk before the true heat of the day set in.

It took less than half a block for my body to become so drenched in perspiration that I headed back home for a cold glass of water. What I wouldn’t have given for a gust of cold, crisp air that day!

As much as I always look forward to spring, there is definitely something to be said for being able to exercise outdoors without getting dehydrated, developing a sunburn, or sweating through my clothes a few short minutes after leaving the house.

If you live in a part of the world that has winter and you spend time outdoors exercising during that season, what do you like most about it?

3 Things I Love About Summer Strolls

It’s time for the third instalment in my series about hiking – or, in this case, strolling –  during the various seasons. If you’re a new reader or would like to reread my previous posts, I’ve also written about the things I love about spring and autumn hikes. Eventually, I’ll finish this series off with a post about winter walks.

Why have I switched from talking about hiking to strolling for the summer post?

Well, July and August in Toronto are extremely hot and humid. We’ve had multiple days so far in July where the humidity levels were well above 70% and the high temperature felt like 40 Celcius (104 Fahrenheit) or more.

While some Canadians do go out hiking in that weather, I’m not one of them. Spring and autumn are best for brisk outdoor exercise. Summer is better for swimming during the daytime and walking at a slower pace either before or after the hottest part of the day.

With that being said, there is still plenty to love about walking outside during this time of the year.

The Long, Warm Evenings

Sunset in Toronto generally happens between 5 and 6 pm in the winter. During the summer, sunset is at about 9 pm. When you combine those extra hours of daylight with evening weather that feels like 25 C (77 F) instead of -25 C (-13 F) after the sun goes down, it’s no wonder that summer evenings can be such pleasant times to walk.

I spent much of my childhood in a climate similar to the one that Toronto has that I was about seven years old the first time I realized summer had much more daylight than winter.

It was only after running outside for hours after dinner did I realize that the sun still hadn’t set yet that day. When I asked my mother if the sun was never going to set again, she laughed and explained the summer solstice to me in more detail than I’d known before. Her explanation gave me a sense of wonder about the world that I still feel every summer as an adult.

Winter days are short, cold, and punctuated by many hours of darkness before the sun has any hope of rising again. Summer feels magical in contrast, especially if you’re lucky enough to spend plenty of time outdoors during the evening.

The Friendly Background Noise

Yes, I know I mentioned my love of peace and quiet when I talked about spring hikes earlier this year. The interesting thing about walking during the summer is how noisy it can be!

Our streets come alive after the temperatures drop outdoors. After a long, hot day, many people spill out onto the streets to take their dog for a walk, let their children burn off energy at the park, go shopping, meet up with friends for dinner, or otherwise enjoy the nice weather.

There are countless concerts, festivals, parades, and many other events that can lead to evenings punctuated with the sounds of other people having a wonderful time if you happen to wander into the right neighbourhood at the right time.

As much as I love my quiet time, I’ve also learned to deeply appreciate the distant hum of an excited crowd or the faint vibrations of a band from a street or two away.

Being surrounded by relaxed, happy people is a lovely feeling, and Torontonians tend to be pretty happy in these scenarios.

The Sense of Community

One of the coolest and least intuitive things living in a city as large as Toronto is how often you tend to run into the same people over and over again. You’d think this would be rare given the fact that millions of people live here, but it’s really not!

This is the time of year when I stop to say hello to neighbours or acquaintances on almost every walk I take. Sometimes I’ll need to stop and talk to multiple people on the same stroll.

Since folks are spending more time outdoors being sociable in general, the chances of running into someone you know are higher than they would be in January when people tend to stay home after dark.

My parents did this regularly in the small towns I grew up in. Back then I assumed it was something that only happened in rural areas, but now I’ve learned that it’s part of city life as well. The world is a much smaller place than you’d think!

I’ve come to enjoy seeing how many people I recognize on these strolls. Some neighbours pop up so regularly I can nearly count on saying hello to them several times a week, while others only cross my path occasionally.

What do you like most about summer strolls?

3 Things I Love About Spring Hikes

Signs of spring are popping up everywhere now here in Ontario. If you follow me on Twitter, you might have noticed the photos I’ve been sharing there of our first flowers of the year.

It’s still a little too muddy and chilly outside to spend much time traipsing around out in nature,  but I’m hoping the weather will become nice enough to change that soon.

In the meantime, I’ve been thinking about the joy of going on hikes or walks during this season. There are many reasons why this is the perfect time of year to do that. Today I’ll be sharing three of them with you just like I talked about my love of autumn hiking last year.

The Peace and Quiet

Toronto almost feels like an entirely different city in each of its four seasons. Things grow quieter here in the winter, especially once all of the December holidays have ended.

Summer is our busy, tourist season. There are certain parts of the city I don’t visit much at all during those months because of how crowded they are when kids are out of school and families visit Toronto. Tourists are always welcome here, but I’d rather visit familiar landmarks in the off-season than wait in long lines outdoors to see them in the never-ending heat and humidity of August.

Spring and autumn are transitional times. We don’t have as many tourists or warm weather at these parts of the year, but the weather can give us many unexpectedly beautiful days. It’s been my experience that there aren’t as many Torontonians venturing to a park or the woods in the in-between seasons for reasons I haven’t quite figured out yet.

At any rate, I like these quiet, peaceful days out in nature. Sometimes they start out cold and foggy but later turn out to have several hours of mild, comfortable weather in the afternoon. It’s always a gamble at this time of the year, but I like grabbing those few hours of decent weather when possible and using them to visit parks that haven’t yet begun to see their full stream of warm-weather visitors.

I’d also much rather go wander around outside on a day that is slightly chilly and overcast than one that may leave me sunburned or overheated by the end of it. To each their own on that topic, though.

The Outdoor Exercise

After spending the last several months exercising indoors due to a mixture of weather and health-related reasons, I can’t tell you what a relief it’s been to start doing some workouts outside.

There’s something so invigorating to me about feeling the sun and wind on my skin as I exercise. Watching all of the TV shows or exercise videos in the world can never replicate that sensation anymore than they can show what it feels like to greet a friendly neighbour you happen to run into while exercising outdoors.

Life isn’t always conducive to this, of course, especially when I had a sore foot a few months ago and needed to avoid slipping or falling while it healed.  With that being said, it’s a nice experience when possible, and I’m hoping to do it much more regularly now that I’m feeling like my old self and the sidewalks aren’t dangerously slippery for anyone who needs to be careful to avoid a fall.

The Scenery

As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, spring is my favourite season of the year. Winter is cold, snowy, drab, and long here, so it’s always a relief when the temperatures rise and I begin seeing bright splashes of colour on the landscape again after the flowers begin blooming.

I’ve already paused more than one walk with my spouse in order to snap a picture of a flower or new leaf on a tree. Every bit of colour that’s added to the landscape makes me that much happier.

It’s going to be even nicer once I’m able to visit a forest that isn’t dormant at all any more! I can’t wait to see flowers, leaves, and grasses growing no matter what direction I look.

If you’re also a fan of hiking or taking long walks, what do you like most about it at this time of the year?

3 Things I Love About Autumn Hikes

This autumn has been an odd one so far here in Ontario as climate change continues to disrupt our normal weather patterns.

Early September is often still hot here, but the heat continued on through October this year. I was actually still wearing shorts and other summer gear as recently as a week ago!

Now the weather is jumping back and forth between unseasonably warm and cold temperatures from one day to the next.

One of the most noticeable side effects of this strange weather has been a delay in when the leaves began to change colour and fall off for the year. There are still quite a few trees with green leaves in southern Ontario even though we’re already more than halfway through October.

I’m hoping this will mean that we’ll have a delayed beginning of winter as well. There hasn’t been enough time to spend exercising while out in nature as I like to have when the weather is mild.

Hidden Details Being Revealed

Some of the trees in my neighbourhood have begun to change colour. Once the weather cools down enough for other species to join them, the landscape changes quickly as other trees follow in their footsteps. At some point, all of the non-evergreen

As much as I’ll miss the sight of green plants this winter, it’s always interesting to spot the now-abandoned nests that birds created when no one could see what they were doing up in those branches or to see how sparse a forest can look when all of the plants go dormant for the winter.

If I still wrote poetry, I’d write a poem about all of the things we might not have noticed when the year was still young. There’s so much room for inspiration when you visit a place you’ve been to many times before and notice something there that you hadn’t picked up on before.

Friendly Weather

I was originally going to call this section mild weather, but it honestly feels downright friendly to me after the long, hot summer we had. It’s so nice to go outside again without feeling like you’ve stuck your head in an oven.

Not only are the chances of suffering frostbite or a sunburn are lower than usual at this time of the year, October is a pretty pleasant month if you like spending a lot of time outdoors. Any shivering or perspiring is generally kept to a minimum, especially if you dress in layers and remove or add them as needed.

Despite my interest in fitness and nature, I’m not the sort of person who enjoys spending a lot of time outside when it is very hot or cold outside. This is something that confuses certain folks when they first get to know me, but there’s a massive quality of life difference between spending hours in the woods when it’s 15 degrees Celcius (60 Fahrenheit) versus -15 C (5 F) or 45 C (113 F).

To me, nature is something best explored during moderate seasons like spring and fall. Yes, they can both be unpredictable at times as far how quickly their temperatures can shift, but they’re generally the best times of the year to spend hours outside without suffering too many negative health consequences for that decision.

Mentally Stimulating Exercise

There’s a huge difference between exercising to a pre-recorded video indoors on a cold winter day and getting to explore the world around you when the weather is more agreeable.

I’ll get my workouts in either way, but I have to say that I find a lot more pleasure in exercising at the park where I’m surrounded by the sights, smells, and sounds of autumn.

Something as simple as hearing the crunch of leaves as I pass through them or seeing a neighbour’s dog stubbornly chase squirrels adds a little bit of joy to my normal routine. (Don’t worry – I’ve never seen a single dog catch a squirrel at my local park. The wildlife here is too smart and fast for pampered city pets to keep up with).

It doesn’t have to be anything exciting in order to catch my attention. Even subtle changes are enough to keep me interested in my surroundings as I exercise.

How does the changing of the seasons affect your workout routine? Will you be hiking or walking anywhere interesting over the next few months?