Georgian Bay Getaway: Rediscovering the Joy of Snowshoeing

The spectacular Cobble Beach Resort

On Georgian Bay, where the great outdoors beckon, no matter the weather

By Tim Heyes

snowshoe-Cobble025-3047597511-OIt has been one of those winters, like the ones I remember growing up in Ottawa with huge mounds of snow, blizzards, bitter cold conditions – think plugging in your car or it won’t start. In short, a good, old-fashioned Canadian winter, either to be enjoyed or to simply survive and pray for spring.

After a two-hour drive the night before along the beautiful but wind-swept Georgian Bay shores to Owen Sound, I was a bit hesitant with the suggestion that I strap on a pair of snowshoes and go for an invigorating morning hike.

Rob and Rosemary McLeese, my hosts at the spectacular Cobble Beach Resort, insisted that their scenic trails right on property were perfect for enjoying the winter wonderland that awaited me just outside the comfort of the inn complete with three feet of fresh powdery snowfall.

The thought of snowshoeing brought back very mixed memories of strapping on gigantic wooden framed jobbies with real “deer gut “webbings and leather straps at my father’s fishing camps in the mid ’70s early ’80s. The problem with those antique snowshoes was that, inevitably, I would get about a mile into the hike when they would promptly fall off or the leather straps would be horribly twisted forcing me to struggle back to the camp in four feet of snow lugging the snowshoes feeling like they weighed 10 pounds each over my shoulder. They looked very cool and authentic but did not work very well.

Rob and Rosemary assured me that the technology around snowshoes had improved dramatically and that there would be no more freezing my digits fruitlessly trying to adjust the straps mid hike. They were right. Snowshoe technology has come a long way from the ’70s. I could tell from the moment that I lifted up the first snowshoe how much lighter and smaller (designed efficiently) they were than the older models. The real difference though was the ease and quality of the bindings. It was a breeze to secure my boots with just a few quick pulls and clicks of the plastic straps. All equipment including poles and snowshoes are available at the Inn at Cobble Beach, including a 5 – 10 minute orientation session.

After a brief safety briefing – there is an 80-foot drop to Georgian Bay alongside the Cobble beach property to always watch out for, and one feature that makes the summer golfing experience truly unforgettable – I was off trekking with Rosemary, who was on cross-country skis. Within minutes, I had the basics down, keeping my legs and stride slightly wider than walking or running, happily gliding over the over four feet of snow on the trail. What hit me all at once was how empowering the feeling of floating over the snow is. Very liberating and, even though it was still quite cold and windy with snow swirling in every direction, I felt very alive, and in control. Forget surviving winter, I was actually mastering winter if only for a couple of hours.

The highlight was when we entered a stretch on the 5 km trail the Mcleeses call the “Enchanted Forest.” Nestled just a few kilometers from the main lodge is a lightly forested area, sublimely quiet and sheltered, complete with a series of carvings of mythical persons and creatures a la “Treebeard from the Lord of the Rings.” The carvings are etched right into living trees by one of the local residents and would be a big hit with younger trekkers.

After a couple of hours hike, where my snowshoes actually stayed on my feet and performed perfectly, I could not help but feel that I had rediscovered a lost joy from my childhood – being part of nature and happily gliding over the snow banks with beautiful Georgian Bay in the background. Priceless.

IF YOU GO

Approx 2.5 hours from Downtown Toronto; Inn at Cobble Beach; 221 Mcleese Drive, Kemble, Ont., 1-519-370-2173; www.cobblebeach.com