Life In the North

Image of Lake Nipissing in the north of Ontario in winter

I have an affinity for “the north”, as varied as it is. I hail from the north of England – Liverpool in the north-west, to be specific – and last week I was back in the north of my adopted country, Canada. Specifically, Garden Village on the edge of Sturgeon Falls in northern Ontario.

Image of sunrise over Lake Nipissing in the north of Ontario, in Winter
Winter sunrise over frozen Lake Nipissing

I will say though, as the temperature dropped to a daytime high of -13 celsius, I was only there for a few days. I may not have the stamina, or the equipment, to survive a full winter in Canada’s north but I love to visit it any time of year. On this occasion, before the temperature drop, there was a fresh snowfall covering the land in a beautiful, crisp white serene blanket, fit for any winter wonderland. You might not think it but it can be a very invigorating experience, though also harsh at times. I like to just stare at the vast expanse until the cold bites viciously at my extremities well enough to send me scurrying back indoors.

Image of two dogs playing in snow in the north of Ontario
Winter Play. Cold temperatures mean nothing to two dogs romping around in the snow.

Lake Nipissing is frozen solid enough to take the snowmobiles and the ice-huts are appearing, ready for winter ice fishing. The trees and ground are gloriously reflecting the glittering highlights of the snow as the bright sun shines down on it from early in the day. Giant dogs, made for this type of climate, bounce around playfully and strike fear in me as they come bounding over in my direction, ready to play. I’ve managed to not get knocked over by them so far.

 

We’re only just into winter but I know it can fly by quickly (I won’t be saying that by March….) so it’s good to make the most of it.

Image of West Nipissing Power Dam in Sturgeon Falls, in the north of Ontario
A view of the bridge on West Nipissing Power Dam in Sturgeon Falls

I’ll be out taking winter pics at different locations in the next few months, so please keep a look out for more postings.

Frozen

Yes, frozen would be a great way to describe the last few months! Winter’s great but even around relatively warm Toronto the temperature didn’t rise to zero once throughout February. A long run of sub zero temperatures has kept the landscape and people well frozen. Cold to the bones.

Walking in Winter
Young woman walking outside in the winter snow

 

Going outside, even when well wrapped up meant having to be organised ahead of time and working to a tight deadline. I went down to the lakeshore in Etobicoke a few times and it was beautiful but brutal enough that I could feel the exposed skin on my face painfully freezing after just a few minutes. Taking my gloves off to fiddle with my camera meant that my fingers got painfully sore pretty quickly though sometimes I wouldn’t notice it until they were almost numb.

Of course, this is all tempered by the fact that it’s a brilliant time to be outside – great scenery, plenty of winter activities, and really refreshing! This shot above is one of a set taken on one of the aforementioned forays down to the lakeshore, heading into sunset, when the sun was really bringing out the colours and the brilliance of the snow.

At the Foot of the Falls
Snow and icicles at the foot of the American Falls in Winter

 

And of course, there was the news that Niagara Falls was frozen. My first thought – doesn’t that happen every year? I find it’s much more photogenic in winter and usually make at least one winter trip down there to see how it’s going. I must admit though, this year was spectacular, with much of the American Falls frozen over. The massive crowds milling around there were also proof of the attention it was getting.

Ice Patterns
Patterns in ice on a window in winter

 

And then, there are all the patterns and colours in the landscape. Ice can create all sorts of eye catching features – icicles, patterns like those in the image above and a great sheen over the top of white, white snow that crunches delicately when it’s broken. Yes, I can’t resist putting my foot through it. You can see some more great shots taken by people around the city at BlogTO.

Still, the good news is that the temperatures are now starting to rise and we’re about to lose the minus sign. It’s funny how anything around zero starts to feel warm and the coat gets unbuttoned, scarf might come off and it feels like spring is here.

Winter Outdoors

Winter outdoors is certainly something you need to prepare for, especially when you’re living in Canada. A climate of extremes, from 30 degrees in the summer to -15 in the winter (that’s in the more moderate Toronto area and not counting the humidity or wind chill), the weather is always the making of a wide variety of outdoor activities.

Sunrise over Frozen Lake Simcoe
Winter outdoors – Sunrise over frozen Lake Simcoe

The kind of outdoors activities that the cold winter kicks off can be quite intriguing. It’s not all skiing, skating and tobogganing, but they do set the stage. I was up and out early one recent morning and took a drive to Lake Simcoe, about an hour away, to see the sun come up across the frozen, snow-covered lake. I’d passed by there a few days before (near Bradford West Gwillimbury) and had an idea of what to expect but I was nevertheless a bit surprised to see the amount of activity going on from well before dawn.

For a good number of people this is primetime for a bit of ice fishing and the place was bustling. Making their way to the lake in their trucks, many bring their snowmobiles, fishing equipment, supplies for the day and of course, there are the numerous fishing huts already out on the ice. Watching all the people in their snow gear (mainly or all men, and a few kids), heading off into the darkness on their snowmobiles or in a snow bus is quite mesmerizing, in spite of the freezing cold temperatures. The shot I took above, shows a hut near the edge of the lake, lit up by the lights of a 4×4 getting ready to head out, just as some light started to appear on the horizon. The sunrise was exceptional that day, with lots of burly clouds lightly illuminated by the brilliant rising sun.