Healthy Hikes Magazine / Issue 1
- Benefits of Outdoor Nordic Poling
- Want to be a Certified Hike Leader?
- First Person: The Source of our Nile
- First Person: A Forest for Your Family
- Twilight Tuesdays at Longwoods Road & Ska-Nah-Doht Village
Benefits of Outdoor Nordic Poling
Warmer weather and sunny blue skies mark the welcome beginning of spring, there’s no time like the present to take advantage of the nearly 300 outdoor Conservation Areas in Ontario. Ditch the gym membership this season, grab your Nordic walking poles, and connect with nature by exploring the untapped gems in our very own province while getting a full-body workout.
MAKE IT A FAMILY AFFAIR.
Hiking with Nordic poles as a family is a great activity to bridge the generational divide. For grandma, poles are a great way to help take pressure off joints and promote stability on while trekking on uneven terrain. For busy mom, exercising with poles outside of the gym is not only therapeutic, but she also gets the added benefits of a full-body workout and increased upper body strength. For the kids, it’s an opportunity to explore nature and discover all of its little critters while getting some much-needed physical activity.
ENCOURAGE YOUR KIDS TO PLAY OUTSIDE.
Children are spending more and more time indoors these days, sitting in front of television screens and laptops. Outdoor play has become a thing of the past and it’s no wonder that childhood obesity rates and the number of kids on anti-depressants have skyrocketed. Help them to break free from old habits and reconnect with nature together by venturing out together. They will reap the many health benefits of getting a daily dose of sunshine and Vitamin D, which help strengthen bones and guard against heart disease. It also alleviates stress levels and ADHD symptoms, while promoting an appreciation for the environment and fostering a sense of community.
NOURISH YOUR ADVENTUROUS SIDE WITHOUT BREAKING THE BANK.
If you’re looking for an outdoor oasis but are on a budget, take advantage of any one of the nearly 300 Conservation Areas that Ontario has to offer. Most are free to visit, so, all you need to do is choose one or more to visit. Pick up your Nordic poles and enjoy a scenic workout free from walls and membership fees.
BOOST YOUR MENTAL HEALTH.
If you’re feeling stressed or just need to lift your spirits, there’s nothing better than enjoying a workout outdoors. A study conducted by the University of Michigan found that going for group nature walks provides a variety of mental health benefits including decreased depression, lower perceived stress, improved mood and increased feelings of well-being. So leave your blues behind and walk your way to better health!
START A TRADITION.
Start a new tradition this summer by working out regularly with friends or family. Choose a new Conservation Area to explore every week – or let your kids decide where the next adventure will take you — and enjoy a routine workout while bonding with your loved ones.
Last but not least, don’t forget to snap a few photos of you in action while discovering the natural wonders of our Conservation Areas. Share your captured moments on social media using the hashtags #HealthyHikes and #StepIntoNature to celebrate our Healthy Hikes Campaign!
– Madeline Camire-Cameron, Intern, Urban Poling.
Want to be a Certified Hike Leader?
A satisfying activity with tremendous benefits for both the physical and mental health of all participants is leading hikes. This is not an activity that should be taken lightly as taking on the responsibility for others’ safety and behaviour adds risk to a healthy, environmentally-friendly activity.
There is training available to lead others as a Hike Ontario Certified Hike Leader. This training will prepare you to proactively manage risk in the following ways:
Preparing a leader’s backpack with resources and redundancy for most eventualities.
Choosing a hike that is within the leaders’ experience and skill level.
Advertising the hike accurately to attract the participants who will be capable and will enjoy the experience.
Pre-hiking the trail (with at least two others for safety) to provide preparation for route, bug out options, rest stops, etc. in the near future ahead of the event.
Checking the weather as close to the event as possible to determine whether to go ahead, change route or cancel.
Vetting participants to make sure that they are equipped and capable, and turning away unsuitable hikers.
Providing an introduction for the participants so they have an accurate idea of what they will experience.
Getting waivers signed and explaining the legal nature of their use to reduce our insurance costs.
Setting up transportation to the event location that safely allows people to arrive and find a way back to their vehicle at the end of the hike.
Using the lead hiker/sweep/hike leader (who may lead from the front or back along the group) to bracket the group and assure we do not lose participants. Giving appropriate methods for people to go to the bathroom so that hydration is encouraged.
Pausing early in the hike for a clothing adjustment/pace check/hydration reminder.
Calling back and educating about hazards that may be encountered.
Providing a rest stop and using protocols for making sure that hikers do not lose contact by keeping them between the lead hiker and sweep, and eliminating gaps or setting up methods like pausing the group or posting hikers to direct the group so they do not head down the wrong fork on a trail.
Pausing at the end of the hike to take feedback and follow up on any issue that should be dealt with.
Hike leadership training also manage hazards reactively by having protocols in place to respond effectively when an incident occurs (injury, weather change, trail issue, animal encounter, etc.). We identify and use our experienced medically trained hikers and first aiders, cell phone resources, educate hikers to identify and protect themselves from hazards such as noxious plants like poison ivy, giant hogweed, cow parsnip, and set out responses to lightening, wind or animal challenges. Often the teamwork between the Lead Hiker and Sweep takes place without the other hikers’ awareness.
The rewards of a well-managed hike that gives enjoyment in nature with safety for all are immeasurable and give back tremendous benefits to all participants. Leading healthy hikes is satisfying, sustainable and something that I hope you get to experience.
Learn more about Hike Ontario’s Certified Hike Leader Training.
– Tom Friesen, Past President, Hike Ontario and Certified Hike Leader trainer.
First Person: The Source of our Nile
When I was about eight-years-old, my parents had the use of a cottage for a month in Quebec’s Eastern Townships. The cottage was on the third road cut into a steep hill above a large lake. On many mornings, my older brother would wake up early, take his rod and tackle, and walk down the hill to fish. I did not share his passion for fishing and instead often poked around for frogs and other treasures along the small creek that ran beside the cottage.
I remember one day suddenly wondering where the water came from. That hill looked pretty steep and, densely wooded, a bit dark. Being brave at eight, I naturally recruited my four-year-old brother for the expedition. The footing was alternately wet rocks, slippery mud, or dry banks about a metre high. Carved by run-off, the banks often crumbled under our feet. Scrambling and grabbing branches as needed, we were determined to make it to the top.
Near the crest of the hill, we came across a fork in the creek. Ahead, lay a few more meters of a dry swale, leading to a field. To the right was an exposed pipe with water cascading about five feet into the creek. This section was the steepest, and we had to push through about 15 metres of dense shrubs to see where the pipe came from. We emerged from the forest and found ourselves at the edge of a pasture, full of Jersey cattle. As this was a part of Mrs. Virgin’s champion herd, and as Jersey bulls can be a bit testy, we realized that we had gone as far as we could go. But there, just inside the pasture, was a large pond – the source of our Nile.
It’s funny how life fulfills itself. Today, my older brother still fishes. I rarely cast a lure, and work for the Ontario Headwaters Institute, always pushing upstream. And, my younger brother and I continue to hike together, regularly exploring Ontario’s headwater catchments and forests.
Whatever your passion – fishing big lakes, exploring small streams, or looking for frogs and salamanders in wet areas – nature always gives you back more than you take in.
– Andrew McCammon, Executive Director, Ontario Headwaters Institute.
First Person: A Forest for Your Family
Does your family have a forest?
I had one as a child, and it made all the difference in my life. I’m not talking here of some backwoods version of the lifestyles of the rich and famous. But, of a place for your kids and you to explore, discover and dream – a place you can call your own.
The forest of my childhood was not physically huge, but it was mine. Just a short walk from our house, this beautiful and mysterious wooded-lot fueled my boyhood. I played there often. The frequency with which we played in those woods and the fun, and sense of wonder we found there changed us. With friends in tow, it was a place to build forts, climb trees, discover insects and whatever else we could imagine. So, while it was a small space, its dimensions were really drawn by our imaginations. It helped me to develop resilience and gave me a strong sense of belonging in this country where I was born.
Outdoor play in nature offers all of this and much more. And, let’s not forget that it’s loads of fun! Unfortunately, this is not a style of play that many children growing up today have access to regularly. And, it’s not that forested areas are disappearing.
Today’s children are not being offered the opportunity to have their imaginations fueled by nature on a regular basis. There are a whole host of reasons as to why outdoor play in nature is on the decline, and they are far too complex to examine meaningfully here.
Right now, I simply want to offer a quick fix, if you will – a way to correct this lack of play in nature. Ready? Visit a Conservation Area or forested park near you with the children who are an important part of your life and explore the woods – often. I’ve mentioned some of the incredible benefits, and there is one more to consider that is critical to the future of our natural and wild green spaces.
If I ask you where you played as a child you will likely have some great memories of playing outside in nature. Now, just for a moment, imagine the typical Grade One class, somewhere in Ontario. Fast-forward 20 years, and listen as I ask those now young adults, the same question: Where did you play as a child? If few or no people grow up with a strong connection to nature, who will there be to care? Who will be the future environmental leaders and stewards of nature?
This is not an exercise in nostalgia, or some romantic vision of the childhood of yore. Nature play is vital. It’s dirty and difficult, it is beautiful and plain, it is exciting and still. But most of all, it’s real.
Give your kids a forest! It can change their lives for the better, now and well into the future.
– Mark Yearwood, Executive Director, Kids In the Woods Initiative (K.I.W.I.) , a nonprofit dedicated to reconnecting children to nature in Rouge National Urban Park.
Twilight Tuesdays at Longwoods Road Conservation Area
& Ska-Nah-Doht Village
There is something to do on Tuesday evenings all summer long at Longwoods Road Conservation Area and Ska-Nah-Doht Village! It’s, Twilight Tuesdays!
See the Museum and Resource Centre in a whole new light, at dusk. Conservation Educator, Jerry De Zwart and Ska-Nah-Doht Curator, Karen Mattila are your hosts for the evening. They will share their knowledge and stories as we hike along the Carolinian trails to see just what there is to see. You never know what plants are up and what animals are out. Whether it is the First Nations traditional use of plants as medicine or how the flying squirrels nest. We may cross the suspension bridge to visit the marsh or catch and release insects. We may follow the trestle bridge trail and hike the ravine. Longwoods has 155 acres and 10 km of trails to explore. Each tour is different!
But we are only half way through the night’s adventure! Eventually we’ll make it over to Ska-Nah-Doht Village to share stories by the fire in the longhouse. We may learn how bats got their wings or maybe it will be all about the 3 Sisters. We may look to the night sky for the Great Bear or we may make a clay pot. We could play some games, practice lacrosse – there is even a story about that too!
On the way back we’ll listen for forest night sounds or just hang out on the bridge to enjoy the firefly show. Finally, we invite you to join us at the cabins for a round of campfire songs or perhaps call for an owl or two!
Bring the entire family, meet at the Resource Centre and the evening takes off from there! The activities start at 7:30 p.m. and wrap up at around 9:30 p.m. We make the best of what nature has to offer the way we find it, rain or shine!
Come once – it will be fun! Join us again – it will be even better! Never the same tour twice! Twilight Tuesdays is every Tuesday evening July 4 through to August 22. Admission is $8 per vehicle.
Longwoods Conservation Area and Ska-Nah-Doht are owned and operated by the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority.
– Karen Mattila, Curator at Ska-Nah-Doht Village and Museum, Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority.