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Winter Hiking at Conservation Halton's Hilton Falls

We've been experiencing some pretty wacky weather this winter. But that hasn't stopped us from getting outside to enjoy some winter hiking. The beauty of Conservation Halton Hilton Falls Conservation Area didn't disappoint us at all one gorgeous January afternoon.

Gear Review: Smartwool Socks

Did you know that a pair of socks can seriously make or break a good hike? They need to be the right material, the right weight and the right level of cushioning.

I've tried several brands of hiking socks over the years, and have definitely come to the conclusion that wool socks are the best option for hiking, even in the summer. Smartwool is one brand I didn't have in my sock drawer, so when my friends at Algonquin Outfitters sent me a complimentary pair, I was thrilled to be able to give this well-known (but untested by me) brand a try on a winter hike.

I recently hit the trail with Alex at a Conservation Halton Trail and put my new Smartwool socks to the test. These socks are merino wool, "outdoor" socks with medium cushion.

Results: warm, dry, comfy feet after a 2+ hr hike. They stayed in place, with no rubbing or sliding down in my boots. My feet were totally cozy without getting overheated. They were perfect in -10 celsius weather.

As an aside, I experience a lot of pain in my feet because of plantar fasciitis. These socks provided nice arch support, but I still combined my socks with a compression sock on my worst foot and was really comfortable.

The socks washed well and didn't lose their shape or shrink. I've worn them several times since the initial trial and they are still super comfortable and warm.

Of course, on top of the whole practical/warm/comfy thing, they come in super-cute colours. Because really, sometimes you just want a bit of wilderness bling with your highly functional gear!

Winter Camping Starts In The Kitchen

We haven't been camping in months. Months! We're having some pretty serious withdrawal around here. So, we've been keeping ourselves in the spirit of getting outside by planning and prepping for our next trip. We're heading out into the winter wild(ish) to camp in a hot tent at Algonquin's Mew Lake Campground in less than a couple of months. Woohoo!

Alex has been cooking up a storm, makinghis signature Polish Bigos as well as a mushroom and beef stew. We're talking big batch cooking, here. And the house smells awesome.

He'll freeze today's results (after we have a sample for dinner) and then we'll enjoy them on the campsite as hot, hearty meals after a day of winter fun.

Wondering what Bigos is? Basically, it's a stew made with meat and sauerkraut. Alex says the more kinds of meat, the better the taste. His version today has smoked kielbasa, pork and maple bacon in it. This is the stuff of heroes when you need calories (and comfort) in your food to stay warm. I can't tell you what else is in the recipe. Not because it's a secret, but because I can't read the cookbook. Seriously. He brought it with him from the old country and it's written in Polish. What I can tell you, is that whatever he makes from that book is always incredibly good. And when were savouring all that meaty goodness in our hot tent, I'll be thanking the stars once again that I have a husband who has a magic cookbook that he knows how to use.

Getting Outside with a wheelchair at Halton Parks

Did you know that there are trails at a couple of Conservation Halton parks that are designed to help people in wheelchairs enjoy getting outside and into nature? And did you also know that there are all-terrain wheelchairs available to help people get on those trails? I know! I think it's pretty awesome, too.
An all-terrain wheelchair at Crawford Lake Conservation Area
The last time we were at Crawford Lake Conservation Area, Alex and I enjoyed walking one of the wide, groomed paths as part of our hike. We followed it from a gorgeous lookout that provides a great view over the Nassagaweya Canyon. I was so excited that this part of the Escarpment trail made it possible for anyone - on legs or on wheels - to meander through the forest and enjoy the lookout.