Tracking, skiing and other winter pursuits

The winter can be awfully long when you don’t get outside, especially with kids. After a slow start, we’ve had lots of good snow to enjoy in recent weeks, which makes all the difference in the world.

Two weekends ago we skiied on our own land, which is very like back-country skiing, but with the added excitement of grass tussocks that trip you up when you least expect it. “Face plant!” is a term of endearment around here. The temperature was glorious, but the conditions were a little sticky. As much as my older son wanted to keep doing runs down our hill, I had to beg off as I kept getting one ski caught on the way down and falling, which gets less and less fun the more you age! I’d normally love to keep doing mini downhill runs, but it wasn’t going to happen.

The highlight of that day was snack time, or the snack that nearly never was. We got down to the pond and our youngest said “so what’s for snack, mum?” “Um…I didn’t bring anything today.” Wrong answer. I’ve written often enough about the importance of snacks for outdoor work and outings, you’d think I’d know better. But it all worked out in the end and the unexpected hero of the day was older son. He was wanting to go at a different pace anyway and volunteered to go up to the house for a thermos of hot chocolate and some crackers, which was agreeable to younger son. So off he went, and the three of us remained at the path, carving new paths and “adventuring”.

Nearly half an hour later older son returned and immediately started in with “Don’t worry about the footprints all over the kitchen floor, mum, I’ll sort them out when we get back” as he proceeded to unpack three flasks and the food. Yes, three flasks: he had troubled himself to make hot chocolate and two kinds of tea! Where in the world do you find a 12-year old boy who spontaneously does this kind of thing? And makes good on his promise to clean up the footprints all over the new kitchen floor? Apparently at my house! Can you see the motherly pride swelling up over here? Quick, someone grab a pin.

Our youngest needed a day off school in the middle of last week (he’s got a story, that one, but school, especially in the winter, is long and trying for this boy), and he spent a good chunk of it skiing all the way around the land with his dad. Best R&R plan ever. Especially as dad thought to stuff a large sandwhich container full of mini marshmallows (I must admit, that’s not something I’d normally do, so my appeal is slipping). This boy loves maps and later showed me exactly where they went and emphatically pointed out “this is where we stopped for our snack!”

This past weekend we tried out something new – tracking. Lots of virgin snow everyone, so it was the perfect time to try this out. My older son and I went off with a 15-minute head start, trying to create false paths to throw the seekers off our trail, and then we hid ourselves. We managed three rounds of this before slogging through deep snow took its toll, but it was a blast. Older son is absolutely dying to have a go on his own when we all have to track him (he’s famous for becoming a ghost when we play hide and seek indoors; we’ve had to give up looking for him on a couple of occasions), so that’s next on the list.

And then yesterday, another lovely mild day, but just below zero so better skiing conditions than the previous weekend. We went to a nearby conservation area with lovely trails and some fun smaller hills, and that was a big hit with all of us. We’re still getting to know the cross-country skiing options in and around the town where we now live, and this one was a winner. I scored on the snack front too – hot chocolate, apple slices, cheese, nuts, mini chocolate bars AND mini marshmallows – ha! We were getting geared up for a return trip after school early this week, but today it’s raining. Yuck. Just when I hit my winter stride and am chomping at the bit for more outdoor outings, this always happens.

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