Sunday, February 22, 2015

2015 - Arrowhead Provincial Park (Winter)

During wintertime, be sure to head to Arrowhead Provincial Park (roughly 2 hours from Toronto) if you get a chance for a fun day in the park.

From left to right (Ruth, James, Allison, Wai, Seiji, random dude photo-bombing), picture courtesy of Tracey
When I read in the news that Arrowhead Provincial Park had tiki-lit night skating in the forest, I knew I had to come and Seiji having told me about wanting to go, I coordinated with my friends and we ended up going in late February.  If you want to go for tiki-lit night skating, make sure to follow their Twitter (@arropark) because they post the trail's days of operation and hours.  During this trip (we spent one night there), it was with James, Ruth, Seiji, Tracey, Allison, and myself.

What's a waxing hut?
I wanted to go early in order to ensure that we found parking (I was reading reviews and some people complained about 1+ hour wait times), so we aimed to arrive by around 11am.  Any time I visit a new place, I try to visit a restaurant there just to see what their restaurants are like, this time we visited Westside Fish & Chips for breakfast.  I ordered the 'Starved' breakfast which consisted of 3 eggs, 2 sausages, 2 slices of ham, 2 pieces of bacon, bread and home fries which can be substituted for various sides for a price.  Allison got the fish and chips which you have the option of fried or grilled.  I thought the breakfast was okay, I'm not sure why the reviews rave about it (meats are clearly cheap store bought ones, although the home fries I thought were good).

A tree got in the way of this running snowman
After breakfast we arrived at the park at roughly 12pm.  By this time, there were plenty of parking spaces by the ice skating trail, so we could have come later and it would have been okay (mind you, ice skating started 3:30pm today).  My initial plan was we should try to rent some snowshoes but they were out of rentals by noon, and it was probably for the best since all the trails had packed snow, so you could actually just walk them by foot.


Two dudes ice fishing on Mayflower lake
For walking trails, there are only 3 in the wintertime (Stubb's Falls snowshoe trail loop @ 2.6km, Hemlock Ridge Trail @ 1.9km, and Mayflower Lake Trail @ 1.5 - 2 km, so in total, roughly 6.5 km), so do allocate your time accordingly because while the trails aren't very long, they aren't overly difficult either (there are some hills but that just means that during wintertime, I could just bum-slide down afterwards).  While doing the trails, we did see some guys out on Mayflower Lake doing some ice fishing which we wanted to see but without snowshoes, we couldn't make it since we actually hit slushy water.  Do note that they do have a lot of cross country trails if you are interested in those.

Through winter wizardry, here's a snow face!
Be sure to check out the snowtube hill.  If there is a line, check with the front of the line to see how long it will be.  I think in our case, the line was to the parking lot which was roughly 10 - 15 minute wait.  It is well worth it in my opinion.  We could have gone down as a group of 6, but ended up going down as 2 groups of 3 (you can just tie the tubes together).  After the ride, you do need to bring the tubes back up though.  The ride itself it probably 30 - 45 seconds in length but I had a blast doing it and it was free!

What's slowing me down?
After this, we went back to the skate trail and arrived shortly after it opened (around 4pm).  Note that by this time, there was an approximately 8 car wait who were waiting for free parking spaces (not allowed in until another car left).  By this time, the place was pretty packed at the front of the trail since that was where everyone would go in a bit and start taking photos.  If you skate a bit inwards, you will notice that it isn't actually too bad.  The ice conditions aren't great (I don't think they have a zamboni so the ice isn't even) and it accumulates snow since they don't clean it except at the beginning of the day.  So be sure to temper your expectations and you will be fine.

Me on the ice skating trail

Around dusk, the park will light the tiki torches that are all around the ice skating trail and around the parking lot nearest the ice skating trail and this, in my opinion, is when the magic begins.  The ice skating trail is lit along both sides at the front of the trail and only along one side for the rest.  Be sure to check this out if you get a chance.  I thoroughly enjoyed both the day and night skating sessions that I had.

Ice skating trail at night time
I spent a lot of time looking for a cottage nearby, but if you are okay with the resort fees ($30 at the time of this posting), Deerhurst Resort is a good choice.  It is roughly 15 minutes away from Arrowhead and for $420 (after tax/resort fee) for the night, we got a 2 room condo (1 master bedroom with jacuzzi and king bed, 1 room with a double and single bed, and a sofabed in the living room) with lake view, and fully equipped kitchen.  The resort fee does include a good amount of amenities (winter equipment rentals, rock climbing wall, swimming pool, hot tub, among other things, check their site for details).  James coordinated dinner (garlic toast, homemade lasagna, tiramisu) and breakfast (mini chocolate croissants, eggs, sausages, and garlic toast), great job!

On location made lasagna!

Breakfast!
Total costs was gas (roughly 200km from Toronto, so 400km roundtrip), accommodations (Deerhurst was $420 for one night divided by 6 people), food (since our place at Deerhurst has a full kitchen, we just brought food there), and park expenses (in our case, $16 for a day permit for the car, equipment rentals would be extra which we didn't need).

I met my snow brother!
While I don't expect to redo this trip anytime soon, I would recommend doing it (even if you don't skate, there were quite a few people that just walked the trail).