“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature -- the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”
- Rachel Carson, Silent Spring
Sometimes things are not what they seem to be and you have to check them out for yourself. That was my thought yesterday when I grabbed my warmest clothes and ventured outside despite frigid cold temperatures. I ended up going for my winter hike after all, and I had so much fun that I wished I had more time to explore.
It was cold yesterday, that's for sure, but I was well prepared. I had my snow pants, three layers underneath my coat, huge scarf, two hoodies and a hat. In addition I had boots that could take -40C temperatures and keep my feet warm. And of course two pairs of woollies. You would think I was getting ready for Alaska but the truth is I didn't feel cold or too warm. I felt just right.
I decided to go hiking near the lake in the area called Princess Point which is a part of Cootes Paradise marsh in Hamilton, Ontario. There is set of trails here all intertwined around the lake and the surrounding woods. In the spring and summer it's absolutely amazing here. I can spend hours wandering the trails and observing wildlife. This is definitely one of my favourite spots.
I wasn't alone when I arrived. There was a lone hockey player out on the ice enjoying a little practice. I wondered about the ice because the winter has not been consistent with its temperatures so far, but the water in that spot is very shallow.
It's been quite few months since I've been here and I realized how much I've missed it. The row of willow trees greeted me at the start of the trail and they were just as beautiful and enormous as I remembered them. One in particular always evokes a sense of wonder in me. It's the biggest of them all, very old with irregular, bulging shape, widely spread out, crooked branches and many crevices to look into. If I was a kid again, I would probably try to climb it. :D
In between the trees and also along the path were sumac bushes with gorgeous fuzzy stalks full of sumac berries. These berries provide sustenance to the wildlife in the winter but few people know that they are very healthy and humans benefit from eating them as well. They are sour in taste. You can crush them and make refreshing lemonade or you can make a concentrate and use it in place of the lemon juice. You can also dry the berries and then grind them into the powder and use it as spice in cooking that doesn't need refrigeration and lasts all year long. My youngest daughter loves to pick them and nibble on them during our hikes. Sumac bushes grow all over the place in Southern Ontario and there is plenty for all to share.
After several minutes of walking I discovered a log bench which wasn't here the last time I visited. What a great idea!! I always liked this spot but now it's even better. This bench looks out onto the lake and in the summer it will be an amazing spot to sit down, ponder and write. I could see that couple of people already carved their names into the bench and I hope more will add to it as time goes on.
I sat on the bench for a little while. It's so peaceful and beautiful here. The only thing missing was the busy chatter of the birds, rustling of squirrels amongst the dead brush and whisper of water gently splashing on the shore. I could hear couple of birds in the distance but that was nothing compared to the hassle of the spring or summer time.
A little hike away from the bench lies the long bridge. That's where the trail continues deeper into the woods and that's where unfortunately I had to stop yesterday due to lack of time. I love this bridge. Whenever I come to this trail I always spend a little time here and I don't know why. I'm just drawn to it. I love to photograph it, stand on it, walk through it and I guess many other people are drawn to it too because there is a lot of history scribbled into its body.
There was quite a number of new additions I noticed: names, dates and even some words of wisdom.
I like to find people's art, signatures or inspirational phrases carved along the trails. Sometimes they are on the bridges, sometimes on benches and sometimes on dead trees. Whatever the case I think it's awesome. To me it's like a book, you can stop for a little while, read and imagine all the characters in its story.
I only had about an hour to explore. I thought it would be plenty given the freezing cold but it was actually not enough. I ended up stretching my stay by half an hour and I still wished I had more time. Now that I'm hooked on winter hiking I'll be going out a little more often and definitely with a little more time on my hands.