Never Mind The Empty Parking Lot


If you read my post on 9 January you may remember that I mentioned some possible indications that cross-country skiing might be risky.

I’d like to supplement that list. This appendix to the previous post is a result of my experience this afternoon on the otherwise beautiful Trail 10, a 4-km path of bliss that extends from Kanata North into Napean, briefly bordering the Ottawa River.

You may want to  reconsider skiing if:

  • Your poles slide when you try to plant them
  • You can actually double pole uphill
  • The narrow wooden bridge is covered with ice, but the black brook below it is not
  • You can’t hear low flying jets because of the noise your skis are making
  • If you happen to fall and throw a ski, it travels forward 40 m at approximately Mach 2 before it finally strikes a tree

Alas, I did not heed this warning today, as I had not yet written it. Hence, it was an interesting afternoon. Because I wasn’t sure if  I’d be able to get out again this winter, I decided to give it a go. (When I was on the Ground Search and Rescue team in Nova Scotia, we couldn’t say, “Well, folks, the conditions aren’t ideal, so I guess we’ll call this off.”) I learned to accept horrid conditions as a personal challenge and actually grew to relish them. This slightly twisted worldview is what prompted me to traverse Trail 10 today.

Apart from my Laurel and Hardy technique on the ice (which nobody witnessed, I’m happy to report–unless they were in the low flying jets), the noise my skis made was something quite remarkable. The only signs of wildlife I saw all day were…well, just that–signs. The kind of signs hunters look for. The wildlife itself had apparently vacated the National Capital Region, fearing an imminent natural disaster of cataclysmic proportions. At best, I sounded like a snowmobile with engine trouble. My skis whipped along the icy tracks in whatever direction they chose, with me following close behind. This would not have been so bad if the skis had always chosen to go in the same direction. But ice tends to turn skis into independent thinkers, and they rarely agree.

I met a bird watcher, a gentle man with a pair of binoculars around his neck (well, the strap was around his neck) that I’m quite sure was worth more than my car. After a brief chat, during which he mentioned that he’d heard me coming from a kilometre or so away, I asked him if he’d seen any birds. His mouth said, “Yes, in those cedars where you’ll turn off there are some brown creepers. They’re small brown birds with white breasts.” His look said, “But don’t worry–you won’t be seeing any.”

There is one more sure-fire indication that ski conditions might be less than ideal: an empty parking lot at the trail head on a perfect Sunday afternoon. It should have told me all I needed to know.

But not doing something just because nobody else is doing it seems to me like an awfully bland way to live.

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6 thoughts on “Never Mind The Empty Parking Lot”

  1. Ha, nice Rob, you have an adventurous spirit. You are an explorer and explorers go dispite the conditions.
    Funny that you asked the bird watcher if he saw any birds when you scared them all away with your clunking skiing sound. You wrote so well, I could just imagine how your trip went (over icy bridges etc).
    I just took a gentle walk through the neighborhood, no icy sidewalks but with the wind it was quite nippy.

    1. Well, Beate, I know you have an adventuresome spirit as well. You have to in order to be a missionary nurse in Somalia or take in the likes of us for three weeks, sight unseen! Glad you had a nice walk, and thanks for a great day once again.

  2. My dear, and crazy, husband forgot to mention that I had warned him about going out skiing in these conditions. But…he is a grown man, and can make up his own mind. 🙂
    I must admit, though, that I was a tad jealous not to have been able to go out with him. Recovering from replacement ligament knee surgery takes time. Now I find myself almost wishing that winter and snow and ice would last longer. I can hardly wait to take to my skis and my blades. Guess I will just look forward to next year. Perhaps I should end this post as I began, but point out that I, too, would be considered crazy since I want winter to last several more months. 🙂

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