These are unprecedented times for sure and it has been a tough year. But that doesn't mean a get away is off the table. We have managed to travel locally following the pandemic regulations which had made me realize how much we have to explore in our own backyard. I have taken a few day trips in Ontario, Canada to some of the famous Provincial Parks during the pandemic because it's inherently an activity with minimal human contact. We have dipped ourselves into nature. There was something about the wilderness, and the adventure forced me to forget about my worries for a little bit and live in the moment.
It feels sometimes I need a literal change of scenery to help me feel better, to take a break from responsibility and daily pressures which helps me rejuvenate. The pandemic has of course impacted our ability to travel like we used to, but that doesn't mean that taking a day trip within the regulations has to be stopped. In fact, it is even more important for us to take a break for our mental health, since many of us are cooped up inside or working from home.
Here are the some exciting places I have discovered in our own back yard:
Arrow Head Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada
Arrowhead Park is situated on the southern portion of the Canadian Shield. It is located in the District Municipality of Muskoka on Highway 11, eight kilometres north of Huntsville. Arrowhead contains many interesting earth science features, including the provincially significant Big East River Delta. This glacial delta was formed by the deposition of sand and gravel flowing from the meltwater of glacial Lake Algonquin. One of the best sites to view this ancient formation is at the Big Bend Lookout. Here, the inside of the glacial delta is exposed and layers or bands of silt and sand that were deposited by the glacial river are evident.
Big Bend Lookout – easy: This short walk from the parking lot on Roe Campground Road leads to a panoramic view of the meandering Big East River and the surrounding Muskoka terrain.
Stubb’s Falls Trail - 2 km (45 minutes) easy
Take this trail in early spring when wildflowers and songbirds will be your reward. At Stubb’s Falls, the Little East River rushes down a rock chute. Stop here for a pleasant respite.
The Park and surrounding area typifies this portion of the shield with rough terrain, precipitous slopes, thin soils, bedrock out-crops, scattered lakes, poorly drained areas and beaver ponds.
2. MacGregor Point Provincial Park
The beautiful thing about hiking is that it's truly an activity everyone can do. Whether you're young or old, an expert or an amateur, there's a trail out there that will be perfect for you. My favourite season of all is Fall. Autumn is the season when the world mellows out and takes stock on what has already been achieved. Change occurs, but at a reassuringly slow drift rather than a hurried panic.
MacGregor Point Provincial Park is a park located on Lake Huron, off of Bruce Road 33 near Port Elgin, Ontario, Canada.
A tower provides a panoramic view of the wetland and a bird hide offers excellent viewing opportunities at water level. Really nice loop trail that circles a protected wetland. Great trail for bird-watching, with a bird blind and an observation tower that overlook a large marshland, which is beautiful on a rainy day. My partner and I saw both a kingfisher and a wood duck while we were there. There are a lot of educational placards along the way about the geography and local wildlife. The trail is only 3.5 km and the terrain is not challenging at all, so it's great for children and families. Lots of boardwalks too!
The ethereal blanketing of the earth with leaves every autumn is nothing short of soul lifting. The amber richness of the shed leaves softens the world and slows our pace. Experiencing such beauty doesn’t just feel lovely, it’s lovely for our brain, too.
The contrast that occurs in early autumn — green against red, yellow versus brown — grabs our attention and excites our brain, making a bright, engaging change from the solid greens of a spring and summer forest. It gives us a unique visual stimulus. We forget our daily worries and fears, overwhelmed by the beauty of nature — even if just for the duration of a walk or a relaxation session outside. The trees and their daily change also give us a good chance to practice mindfulness. How many leaves have dropped since I was last here? What color strikes me the most? When we encounter the largesse of life like this, we are humbled into forgetting our self-centered worriers and look outward to appreciate the world.
In this park you come across so many varieties of wild edible mushrooms that are suitable for the novice mushroom enthusiast. I have found a love in mushroom photography after rising the MacGregor Park.
3.The Blue Mountains, Ontario
It’s been an epic Ontario winter, and it seems like Old Man Winter hasn’t quite said good-bye yet. Here’s a few ways to send him off in style with an Ontario Road Trip to Blue Mountain, Collingwood. When I put my on my pair of snow boots and trudge through fresh snow I feel like 10 years old again.
It’s beautiful in all four seasons, but there is something truly magical about experiencing Blue Mountain Village in all it’s snowy glory. Wander from shop to shop and sample some local Apple Pie Trail goodies, or hit the slopes and admire the village from the top of the hill. Late winter skiing can be some of the best of the season, with lots of sunshine to make your time on the hill that much more fun.
I first started hiking in the Whites in the winter because I love being outdoors in the snow and thought the hikes would be slower so I could keep up easier. Hah! I didn’t take into account the full pack on my back. I was ready to quit after the first one but I was already hooked on the beautiful views and snow covered trees on the trails. I switched over to the proper snow boots hikes and slowly increased my stamina. I like winter hiking because you don’t sweat, there are no bugs and the trail is smooth.
Winter is one of my favorite times of the year to hike. Winter hiking is experiencing new as well as familiar places from a different perspective. After a fresh snowfall they can appear unexplored. Different animal tracks in the snow can be observed.
Food for the soul. Mantra of crushed snow with each step, crisp clean air with each breath and crystal clear views brings pure peace and serenity.
There are endless options for things to do at Blue Mountain. From family-friendly adventures to more rugged adventures, it’s a nature lover’s destination.
The Blue Mountains, about 160 km (100 miles) north of Toronto, in Southern Georgian Bay is a great weekend getaway from Toronto and one of the most popular getaways in Ontario.
And finally to quote Greta Crosby: “Let us not wish away the winter. It is a season to itself, not simply the way to spring. Winter is a table set with ice and starlight.”
4. Dufferin Islands, Niagara Falls
Explore 10 acres of paradise, where wooden footbridges connect small, secluded islands. You may be surprised at the wildlife you find in this popular escape, Niagara’s hidden secret.
The Dufferin Islands are a group of manmade islands located about 2 kilometers from Horseshoe Falls in the Niagara River. Here the river waters flow more slowly and gently than in the rapids leading up to the falls, creating a more serene and relaxing environment for enjoying the natural beauty of the area. If you’ll be spending some time around Niagara Falls, you wouldn’t be wasting your time exploring this fascinating area.
If you’re interested in bird watching or fishing, then the Dufferin Islands is the place to visit. Over the past decade, there has been a great effort toward naturalizing the area. Toward that effort, the parks commission has introduced fish to the waters surrounding the islands and created a catch-and-release fishing program that allows visitors to drop a line in the park. In addition, throughout the park you’ll find bird feeders and bird boxes designed to attract a wide variety of bird species.
A wide range of birds and insects live at Dufferin Islands, and the ducks and Canadian geese that stop on the waters there have been an attraction for photographers over the decades.
I am sharing my experiences visiting local Provincial Parks during the pandemic. Ontario Parks remain open and continue to provide facilities and services for local and safe outdoor all seasons recreation day-use activities. I know how much people love to visit Ontario Parks as a way to spend time outdoors, get fresh air and stay healthy, but I am asking that you to follow the government regulations.
And finally to quote Roy.T Bennette, "Nobody is exempt from trials of life, but everyone can always find something positive in everything even in the worst of time."