Wednesday, September 20, 2017

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snowshoetrails001 270Now that winter seems to finally be upon us, the annual question of what to do with all that snow over the next four months or so is pressing.

Sure, you could hibernate, which many people do, but where's the fun in that? Then, of course, there are the big sports everyone knows about: Alpine skiing, snowmobiling, Nordic skiing, and ice fishing.

What many people aren't aware of is that snowshoeing ... likely the original winter sport ... is possibly just as popular as any of those other sports, although its low-key nature doesn't attract as much attention.

For approximately 20-25 years, snowshoeing has remained one of the fastest-growing winter sports in North America. There's any number of reasons for that explosive growth, including the introduction of advanced, 'hi-tech' snowshoes that make it easier to get around. Too many people likely had their introduction to snowshoeing on traditional snowshoes, which were likely too big and clunky, and left your legs and hips screaming for mercy.

Fundamentally, though, one of the most attractive aspects of the sport is its simplicity. As the saying goes, if you can walk, you can snowshoe.

With the plethora of trails around the greater Meaford area, there are also endless options to consider.

The Georgian Trail is great for novice users, particularly after a fresh snowfall, before the fluffy white stuff gets too trampled. The Trout Hollow Trail is another good choice, and offers hints of a more rustic experience. The Tom Thomson Trail, which attracts minimal traffic in and around Ted's Range Road Diner, also beckons.

Some of the best options, though, lie along the Bruce Trail. One of my favourite routes is at the Bayview Escarpment Nature Reserve, where there are routes that can take you anywhere from a couple of kilometres to more than 13 kilometres for the ambitious. Conditions along those routes range from meandering the old logging road to wandering the edges of the escarpment, providing a wonderful cornucopia of views and terrain.

Perhaps the easiest route lies with the logging road as a linear trail. It's basically flat and easy walking along the two-kilometre distance to the trailhead. It makes for an ideal in-and-out four-kilometre hike that should take no more than an hour.

If you're interested in a short walk just to whet your appetite or practise your skills, there's another short linear trail you can do that's less than a kilometre long in total.

The 'compromise' route is to do the loop section that incorporates most of the old logging road and the very short introductory trail, along with a section through the rocky heart of the property. This is also about four kilometres, but is more challenging.

When the conditions are suitable, it's also an ideal spot to practise snowshoe running, a particularly fast-growing component of the sport.

The most ambitious part of the trail is the roughly 13-kilometre loop from the main entrance along the logging road to the main Bruce Trail. Follow it towards the 11th Line before it returns to the St. Vincent-Sydenham Townline.

That route takes in a full gamut of what the nature reserve has to offer, and is well worth the extra effort. Leave yourself approximately half a day to complete it, depending on conditions. If you're breaking your own trail, double that estimate.

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