Embracing the Polar Vortex

Guest Blogger: Evan Holt of Trail Swag


Maybe they have a greater connection to the earth’s polarity, or perhaps their shadow is a true “finger on the pulse” of Canada’s long term weather forecast… but this year, every single one of Canada’s weather predictors came to the same conclusion: spring is going to come early.  Alberta’s Balzac Billy, Manitoba’s Winnipeg Willow, Quebec’s Fred, la marmotte de Val-d’Espoir, and Nova Scotia’s Shubenacadie Sam did not see their shadow. Where does that leave us in Ontario? Wiarton Willie thinks he knows best and was the only one predicting six more weeks of winter.

 Everyone I have talked to seems to be fed up with the “polar vortex’, the growing driveway snow banks and the messy commutes to work. Even on the radio they ask listeners, “don’t you wish for warmer weather?”  It doesn’t matter if you believe the pint-sized meteorological marvel’s predictions or not, I figure… instead of having the next six weeks drag along for you, why not embrace the snow for a day or two head on?

 The first step is to pick something fun that has a connection to nature.  Snowshoeing is a great place to start as you don’t need a lot of equipment and some parks (including Arrowhead, The Pinery, Killarney and Wasaga Beach) rent snowshoes. With Family Day just around the corner, consider Algonquin’s Winter in the Wild Festival, or Killarney’s Winter Activity Day.  By travelling to a place away from the hustle and bustle of the city life, it will certainly clear your head as you enjoy the crisp clean air.  The parks offer numerous trails for all skill levels and each take you somewhere scenic where the trees are a little taller and the snow is a little deeper.

 On the trails at Presqu’ile (left) and Algonquin (upper right). 


My secret to enjoying the winter is layering. I usually don’t have much stored away in the trunk of my car, so I throw in piles of thermal layers, sweaters, jackets, toques and gloves. That way, it doesn’t matter what the temperature is, I’m prepared, protected, and actually enjoying myself because I’m not shivering. Be sure to bring a camera or at least your phone charger so that your batteries are full and you can capture these moments in Ontario’s beautiful parks.

 A bite-size weekend adventure into the outdoors will help you through the tail-end of winter, and who knows, maybe even give you an appreciation for it or kick start your thinking of summer retreats. Don’t forget you can book a camping spot five months in advance.



Three Redpolls, two Gray Jays and a Chickadee in a Pine tree

Now in its 114th year, the Christmas Bird Count is a bird census that occurs across North America between December 14 and January 5.  The count is administered by the National Audubon Society who partners with Bird Studies Canada.  The North American count is made up of regional counts, each run over a 24-hour period and within a 24 kilometre diameter circle.  These counts are conducted by volunteer birders who set out, binoculars in hand, to track species and numbers of birds either seen or heard throughout the day.  The submitted results contribute to a data set more than a century old that provides information on the long-term health of bird populations across the continent.

The noisy Blue Jay is often seen (and heard) on Christmas Bird Counts. (Photo Credit: Mike Burrell)

There are counts going on across the province, but here are details for a few of the counts occurring in Ontario Parks:

  Continue reading Three Redpolls, two Gray Jays and a Chickadee in a Pine tree

Killarney’s 15th Annual Butterfly Count: What’s Happening with Killarney’s Butterflies?

On July 7, Killarney Provincial Park celebrated the 15th Annual Butterfly Count completing a decade and a half long snapshot of its butterflies.  The event provides volunteers with an opportunity to learn about and make a connection with our spectacular butterflies. Continue reading Killarney’s 15th Annual Butterfly Count: What’s Happening with Killarney’s Butterflies?

Chill out in Ontario Parks’ backcountry

Looking to chill out in Ontario Parks’ backcountry? Here are six provincial parks that offer canoe and kayak rentals and hiking trails that access unique park landscapes. Algonquin and Killarney Provincial Parks are iconic and known around the world. Continue reading Chill out in Ontario Parks’ backcountry