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Winter Road Trip

man sitting on a bench covered with ice in a partially frozen pond

Google Search has no word for people like me – someone who is the opposite of a ‘Snow Bird.’  I don’t flee winter in search of sun, sand and swim-up bars. I head out for a day of snowshoeing or cross-country skiing every chance I get.

So you can appreciate how bereft I was in mid-January when we still had no snow in the Greater Toronto Area. Patches of brown grass, everywhere!  I stared longingly at my snow shoes as I commiserated with my friend Stavros.

“We never had this problem in Peterborough,” announced Stavros. “We always had a mountain of snow.”

That’s when a light bulb (or snow glow!) went off. Peterborough. Snow. Just down the highway from Toronto. Three words: “Winter Road Trip!”

snow covered forest with some floating ice

Stavros, a native Torontonian, spent two years as a college student in Peterborough. He passed with flying colours then promptly moved back to the GTA: “I never got the chance to really explore Peterborough and the Kawarthas. I was aware of all these cool things to do – but I was buried in school work.” Time to make up for missed opportunities!
Topping Stavros’s must-visit list was Warsaw Caves Conservation Area, a short jaunt from Peterborough.  I checked the Weather Network: Warsaw had snow. I morphed into that screaming woman from the IKEA commercial: “Start the car. Start the car.”

In the time it took for my Starbucks to cool, we headed down the 401 and cruised along the traffic-free 7E which eventually took us through the little hamlet of Warsaw. A quick turn on County Road 4 and we reached our destination: Warsaw Caves Conservation Area

man sitting on a bench covered with ice in a partially frozen pond
Man snowshoeing in front of Caves trail informational board

The glacial-crafted caverns that give the conservation area its name are cordoned off during winter but the place is prime for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. We strapped on our snowshoes and followed the Look Out Trail which winds its way up through groves of cedar until you reach a look-point high above Indian River. The views are stunning. Our half day in the snow was the ideal winter cure.

man at a cliff with river flowing down
Lookout view of Indian river

Reward: Post-hike food and drink

Experts say a person burns 650 to 700 calories for every hour of snowshoeing.  One butter tart can be 300 calories. So I felt no guilt as I inhaled two butter tarts at the Kawartha Butter Tart Factory on our way back into Peterborough.  Make it your sweet reward! Note: The Kawartha Buttertart Factory is now located at 713 County RD 4, Peterborough.

man standing in front of butter tart factory cafe

Our plan for downtown Peterborough: we’d only visit places Stavros didn’t frequent during his two-year stay.  So for our post-hike warm-up, we made a beeline for Karma’s Café (221 Hunter St.) where we noshed on Tibetan momos and butter tea.

a dim sum with red chilli sauce

Next –not sure how this was possible – but Stavros had never been to the Canadian Canoe Museum on Monaghan Road. Best one hour on a wintry afternoon.

Every hike involves a pint. While Stavros enjoyed Riley’s Pub as a student, we stuck to our plan to try something new and parked ourselves on a bench at St. Veronus Café & Tap Room on the corner of Water and Hunter streets and sampled some of their award-winning Belgian beer. A great (impromptu) winter road trip!

Belgian beer maredsous in a glass
man sitting at a bar holding beer in a glass
headshot of man holding wine glass

This blog was originally published 2017. Updated in 2021.