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Winter Road Trip

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!”

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.

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.

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 in Warsaw on our way back into Peterborough.  Make it your sweet reward!

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.

Next –not sure how this was possible – but Stavros had never been to the Canadian Canoe Museum on Monaghan Road (open 10 to 5 most days). 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.

Dinner? As much as Stavros was pining for his favourite Thai food at Cosmic Charlie’s on Hunter Street – been there, done that –  instead we grabbed a booth at Hot Belly Mama’s on George St. N. and tucked into some of the best Cajun food I’ve ever tasted. (There’s a coffin hanging from the ceiling. Just saying.)

A great (impromptu) winter road trip!

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