Enjoying life, off the hamster wheel
Here we are, back again with another entry about our New Year’s adventures! This time we’re celebrating the waning of 2014 and the waxing of 2015.
To usher out 2014, Neil and I decided at the last minute to go to Manning Park as we had done last year for their guided evening snowshoe tour, only this time our good friends Omanie and Mike joined us. We had lots of fun! My iPhone stopped working because it was too cold, so I was unable to take picutres and I didn’t bring up my DSLR, but luckily Omanie brought her compact camera and took some fun photos. She’s given me permission to share them.
We arrived at Manning Park Lodge at around 7:00pm. After unpacking the car, checking in and getting our gear, we didn’t have much time for dinner, so we had a quick snack and headed off with the rest of the tour. It was a large group of 18 with one woman we recognized from the year before.
Our guide, Jo, had a few things planned for the evening. One of them was to teach us a little about the animals that live in the park. She kept her eye out for tracks and she would stop frequently to tell us about them. Not only was it educational, it was also a good way for such a large group with varying levels of fitness to stay together or catch up. We learned about the tracks and habits of small critters like the Snowshoe Hare with its V-shaped footprints, or the ermine and its tail that drags in the snow leaving little tracks behind. We learned that mice follow tree trunks down to the subnivean zone – the airpocket beneath the snow pack between the ground and snow where the temperature maintains a constant 0° centigrade. We learned that the largest owl in the park (or maybe it’s the largest owl in general) is the Grey Owl, and they can detect and hunt prey down to depths of two feet under the snow.
The moon was bright and illuminated most of the trail and very few of us turned on our headlamps. The snow glittered and sparkled in an otherworldly, ethereal beauty. Omanie and I are birds of a feather, inquisitive magpies, and we stopped and admired the sparkling beauty, laughed and said, “Ooo… sparkly, shiny thing!” I wondered if it would be possible to capture on film (or digitally) the beauty of those shimmering dots of light that seemed to hover just above the surface of the snow.
About half way through the tour, our guide stopped and said that when you’re hiking, you’re normally asked to take only pictures and leave only footprints behind, but this evening she encouraged us to plant our faces in the snow and leave our faceprints behind. Below are some great pictures of Mike. Neil and I walked up to a tree that was thickly coated in snow, and we left our imprints beside each other. Isn’t that romantic?
After that we walked a little further and the guide pulled out some candles and aluminum foil from her pack. Using the candle and foil, we were asked to melt snow. It would help if we thought about the properties of snow and flame, she said. Wilderness survival 101, we joked. We figured out that if you place the candle in a hole in the snow, the snow acts as a reflector which concentrates the heat, thus making it like a little oven.
As we walked back to the Nordic centre, we passed a good old-fashioned hockey game on a frozen pond. That’s pure Canadiana, right there! Many a great hockey player was made playing pond hockey.
We finished our walk, took the obligatory selfies and group photos and made our way into the warming hut.
Feeling invigorated and a bit hungry, we drank hot chocolate and apple cider provided by the lodge, and sat down to tuck into our packed dinner of smoked salmon, a variety of cheeses, gourmet sandwiches, fruit, homemade chocolate cookies, and of course, a little flavouring for our hot chocolate. A brisk walk in the woods on a clear, snowy night with good friends is an excellent appetizer for a rustic yet delicious meal!
As we didn’t have a place to stay, we loaded the car and headed home after we ate. The New Year was celebrated in the car, 20kms East of Chilliwack. Omanie surprised us with party hats and honkers and we laughed and tooted and sang Auld Lang Syne in the car. Who knew ringing in the New Year while driving could be so much fun?!
The following day, Jan. 1, found us once again at Old Orchard Hall in Port Moody. Neil joined his sensei, Andy Holmes and 9 other crazy karateka wearing matching pajamas, for the annual New Year’s Day Training. They braved the frigid sand on their feet and icy waters to boldly ring in the New Year! Without exception, every one of them said it wasn’t too bad, especially once they lost sensation in their feet and lower extremities.
It was an especially fun year because there were a few new people joining the group, including an orange belt from Kyle’s dojo. She kept up with the black belts with inspiring determination, and proved what a force a junior belt can be. Bravo! Nancy, who formerly trained with Sensei Andy, came down from the interior with her husband and 5 year old daughter. Both Nancy and her husband are black belts and joined the gang on the beach while their daughter watched.
I took pictures again, which has become my tradition. Unfortunately, my battery died before I could capture the goup taking the plunge, but here are pictures of the training and of them getting half way into the water.
Neil had his very own cheering squad in our friend Christine who came out despite a nasty cold, and our friend Jeanne wanted to be there too, but arrived just as everyone was getting dressed, after they had taken their second plunge.
Second plunge, you ask? Unfortunately, one of the long-time participants, Garson, arrived late, but as the group is very loyal to each other they all decided to do take another plunge for Garson’s benefit. I pulled out my iPhone and quickly took pictures of plunge #2.
Margot Holmes, Sensei Andy’s wife, got an excellent picture of him breaking a sheet of ice in Neil’s hands. I pulled it off the Torakai Shotokan Karate’s Facebook page.
As for Neil and Kyle, it was their third time in the water when Garson arrived, because they posed for us looking very strong and stoic, indeed.
So, there you have it! Not one, but 2 1/2 polar bear plunges this year by our hero and his friends! Perhaps this is an auspicious sign for the coming year, 2015!
May you inspire others and they inspire you in return, and may your life be filled with balance, kindness, love and joy. HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Ingrid and Neil