Anyone who has experienced North Simcoe in-person has universally reached two truths: The trails are beautiful, and there’s an awful lot of snow.
Snowshoeing the scenic trails of our area with the Midland Hiking Club is the perfect marriage of those two epiphanies.
“It should really be called the Midland-Ganaraska Hiking Trail Club, but they shortened it,” said Midland resident Frieda Baldwin. She’s the president of the local Ganaraska Hiking Trail Association (GHTA), and has been a member for the past 30 years.
“I guess it’s a cultural thing,” Baldwin explained. “I’m from Belgium originally, and in Europe and in many of the countries, it’s a habit for families to walk or hike as a family on the weekend.”
Baldwin took up a profession as a translator which moved her to Germany at age 25 for five years, and then brought her to Canada in 1979 where she met her husband and started her family.
“It’s just ingrained in my DNA, I guess,” Baldwin added with a laugh. “What I really like is the exploration part as well as the camaraderie, of course. What I like is that when you hike, you never know what’s around the next corner.”
The cost of entry to get into snowshoeing as a participant depends on whether you find used snowshoes for frugal prices or decide for higher-quality equipment that costs a bit more.
"The average cost would be about $150,” surmised Baldwin. “There are cheaper versions but I wouldn’t advise (buying them) because they might not last too long. There are more expensive versions, so $150 I think, it’s a good price to pay.”
Baldwin provided a checklist of common-sense hiking gear to bring along during a snowshoeing session.
“A cell phone that you keep warm, because the batteries will die very quickly in the cold, so keep it's close to your body if possible. Some water to drink; it's important people keep up their hydration. Some extra clothing, a whistle maybe and maybe a first-aid kit. It depends how far you go, how far your outing is.”
She added, “A county forest, typically, can be intimidating to people because they are worried about getting lost in them. But by going out with a certified hike leader, like I am as well (as others), they get to know the forest and can eventually go out on their own with friends and family.”
When not under the lockdown restrictions of the coronavirus pandemic, Hike Ontario offers training courses such as the Safe Hiker Program and Certified Hike Leader among many others for entrants who wish to further their outdoors proficiencies.
“Currently, because of COVID, we can still hike in (small) groups, but when we get within two metres of separation we have to wear our masks," Baldwin said. "It’s been challenging for us as the executives to try to understand the public health guidelines and interpret them in a safe manner for our members and also our landowners (and their land).
"We have not closed our trail, whereas the Bruce Trail had closed their trail in the beginning of the pandemic. Some sections were closed by other authorities; the conservation areas closed their trail for awhile, and if the Ganaraska hiking trails went through a conservation area then that section would’ve been (closed too).”
The GHTA, including the Midland chapter, works closely with generous landowners in maintaining the 500-kilometres of trail.
“In most cases, large property landowners are quite agreeable to letting a trail cross their property, and they know about the insurance policy that we have. Some of them help us maintain the trail; it’s just something they do as a volunteer.”
Costs to join the Midland Hiking Club are $25 per family per year, with both online and offline membership forms available on their website.