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Winter's Here! (Shirley Lake Marathon)


Peter
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[TD]If you've ever done the Shirley Lake Trail, you might be questioning the description of this TR as a 'Marathon'. It sure didn't seem that long when we did it in the summer!

Somehow, though, what was a nice little 2.5 hr meander through prairie 'Knob & Kettle' terrain in the summer months turned into a 3.5 hour endurance workout on snowshoes. We all know snowshoes use different muscles and that hiking on snowshoes is slower, but I don't think I've ever had it quite so forcefully demonstrated.

We carpooled from the Belvedere LRT station to Elk Island National Park, and left the Shirley Lake trailhead at about 10:45. Predicted temperatures in the morning were supposed to be -11°C, but the actual temperature that morning was -20° in Edmonton and probably a few degrees colder in the Park. I did a quick scan to make sure everybody was dressed for it, and we headed out into the frosty air. Early morning ice fog lifted and the hoar-frost covered trees sparkled like diamonds in the sun.

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We spotted a herd of bison across Shirley Lake as we passed by, but never got too close to any of them. There were a few cross-country skiers on the trails as well, and we tried not to trample on their tracks.

When we got to Oster Lake, we stopped for awhile for a snack and rest. Unfortunately the Oster Lake area is open to the wind and we cooled off pretty quickly. As soon as we were done there was a bit of a rush to get going again, and we headed back into the shelter of the trees.

The Shirley Lake trail is supposed to be 10.5 kilometers, but by the time we were half-way back on the loop the chitchat started to dwindle, except for occasional comments like was I 'sure it was only 10 km, not 14?" and 'when will we get back to the parking lot?'. It wasn't that people were cold, but they were definitely starting to get tired. The clouds had closed in again, and the mood went from upbeat and cheery to grumpy and petulant.

Trail markers passed by very slowly and as the last few came and went you could see feet dragging, and the conversation waned. It became a slog, and as we arrived at the parking lot, there were a few spontaneous cheers.

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All in all, it was a nice day, but it may have been too much for a few people. I know a second snowshoe trip for Sunday was cancelled because of aches and pains, but at least no one complained it was too easy![/TD]

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Edited by Peter
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Aaron Zagrodnick

Peter,

Looks like a nice trip! Our latest snow event was followed by temperatures that are dropping below 0 (F) at night, I'm sure I'll be out on some similar looking excursions soon... :D

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