Canada is 150 years old this year, and celebrations are happening all over the country. On my own birthday this month I decided to kick off a number of posts dedicated to Canada’s 150th, focusing on the great outdoors and many of the fantastic free (and almost free) activities you can tackle in North America’s largest country.
The problem with starting a series of posts on Canada’s great outdoors in January is that it tends to be cold. Really cold. Mariah Carey on New Year’s Eve cold. This is an issue for me, because while I might be Canadian, I’ve turned into a bit of a wimp when it comes to cold weather lately.
I tend to love warm weather, tropical humidity, and food spicy enough to melt the face off a dragon. Canada is known for none of these things; in fact, in the winter, Canada might be the exact antithesis of all things caliente, and through the years, as my love of warmer climates has grown, my enthusiasm for winter has diminished.
This year, though, I wouldn’t let winter get the better of me. I could whine about it, or I could own it! I was going to get up, get out there, and embrace my inner Canadian! And what better way to start than dig out the skates and find an outdoor skate path to reignite my love for cold weather sports? Skating is fairly easy, it’s low-risk, and there’s a Tim Horton’s nearby (see below). Ask around, unless Bryan Adams comes charging around the corner on a herd of moose while drinking a Labatt’s Blue, you can’t get more Canadian than outdoor skating in the shadow of a Timmy’s.
Angela and I live about twenty-five minutes from Waterdown’s skate loop (near Hamilton, ON), a nice little park in a nice little town. We hit it on a Sunday morning around ten a.m., when the park wasn’t busy and the weather not too cold (about -5 Celcius, which is amazing for the middle of January in Ontario). A good day to get started.
This is the first winter the park is active, and they’ve done a nice job creating skate change areas, a groomed skating path, and free parking. They have a Zamboni that floods the ice now and then, making for a nice, smooth skating experience. It’s fun seeing how excited the kids get when the Zamboni comes out, the driver becoming a very temporary but productive rock star.
I used to make my living on my skates (I operated hockey schools and coached for years), so it didn’t take too long for me to hit my stride. Angela hadn’t skated since she was a kid, so she was a little less certain on her blades. But she bravely hit the ice, grabbing on to my jersey as we made our way around the 230m loop.
Big day for Angela’s figure skates, their first action in years…
As you skate you pass by little kids holding on to support rails, parents holding their little ones up, and other adults who dig hitting the ice. The loop isn’t huge, but it’s in great shape and there are enough twists and turns to vary the routine. Check out the video below (I used my iPhone while skating, so bear with me on the bouncy bit in the middle when a tiny human tried to take me out – it was a self-preservation thing):
We skated for just shy of an hour. No wipe-outs, no injuries to speak of. My feet were less than happy with me, unsurprising since I haven’t jammed them into skate boots for almost eight years, but I felt great just the same.
We’ll be back for sure, and I was pleased to learn there are some pretty fantastic outdoor skate trails all over the province. This was a perfect way to kick off my year of Canada 150 posts (look for 1-2 a month), reserved for those times when I’m not on the road. This is such a phenomenal country, I feel it deserves to be explored, photographed, and written about.
As for the Waterdown Skating Loop, a good time was had by all – even if Bryan Adams didn’t charge through the woods on a herd of moose.
The loop is located at the Waterdown Rotary Memorial Park on Hamilton Road in Waterdown, about twenty minutes from Hamilton and the same from Burlington (roughly forty-five minutes to an hour from Toronto depending on the traffic).
How about you? Have you tried out any of Canada’s amazing skate trails? How are you embracing winter? Comment below – cheers!