Location: Toronto – Forest Hill, Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Chaplin Estates
Duration: about 2.5 hours, around 12 km
Weather: Clear and cold, -15 C with a -28 C wind chill
Today’s walk was a chilly one, and a workout. We had some snow last night and today the temperatures were well down into negative numbers, with a brisk north wind to help cool things further. Even so, the sun was out and it was a winter scene that wanted a good walk, so off we went. We started out going west on Roselawn to Latimer and then south across Eglinton onto Russell Hill Road. We took that south, crossing the Beltline as we went.
We kept going south on Russell Hill Road, through Forest Hill to Heath Street. Then we turned east and headed to Avenue Road, crossed it, went south on Oriole, and east on St. Clair to Yonge. There we popped into Zelden’s Diner for a proper winter brunch, and then back out into the cold. We headed north up Yonge with the wind in our faces, and at Mount Pleasant Cemetery, I went in and headed east while my wife headed home.
I did the full loop around the cemetery, crossing Mount Pleasant Road and looping around the eastern half over to Bayview and then back west across Mount Pleasant Road again, through the cemetery west to the northwest corner to connect to the Beltline. I took that over Yonge to Oriole Park, and then headed north through the Park and into the Chaplin Estates neighbourhood along Lascelles Boulevard all the way north to Eglinton, where I crossed into Eglinton Park and kept onwards north to Roselawn where I turned west and slogged up the hill to Avenue Road and home.
Walking on a day like today, with hard crunchy snow underfoot, is a lot more tiring than walking on bare, dry roads. Your feet slip a little and so you shorten your stride and walk a bit flat-footed so that you keep more of the sole of your boots on the ground. That change in gait is less efficient that a full, free stride, and you work muscles you didn’t know you had – my hips are sore and so is my knee.
On top of that, with the cold and the wind, you need to be careful to manage your temperature. I wore 3 layers of clothing under my coat plus two layers on my legs, so at first I was warm but not overly warm. As I went on, however, my face was getting blasted and I could feel my cheeks freezing so I had to cover up to avoid frostbite. When I did that I started to overheat a bit. The last couple of km home were a grind, alternately too hot and too cold, with dragging feet and heavy legs, especially up the hill at Roselawn. I’m pretty gassed even now, a couple of hours later.
Still, walking in winter is always interesting. You could tell it was cold just by the crunchy sound of the snow when you walk on it, and with bright sunshine you needed sunglasses – I have a bit of a wind/sun burn on my face except around my eyes as a result.
Some folks are diligent about shovelling and some aren’t so there’s navigation challenges avoiding slippery bits. Others chuck salt about like it’s free so you feel like you’re walking on pebbles. Then there are the homes with heated driveways which melt the snow and cause the runoff to freeze into ice patches on the sidewalks and roads.
As you walk you pass others out, walking dogs or just walking, and you nod to each other acknowledging the cold and the challenge of being out in it. Numbskull drivers without winter tires spin wheels and slide about, making crossing streets a near contact sport for the pedestrians. Snow plows leave curbside snow ridges to be jumped, and snow blowers with unobservant operators make snowstorms to pass through.
Our winters, in truth, are not that long or severe compared to other parts of Canada. Usually it’s cold for about 3-4 months and there will be warm spells in there too, so when we get a cold snap and a bit of snow it’s more of a taste of real winter than a meal. Torontonians whine about winter, but we know deep down that we’re wimps compared to our fellow Canadians in Edmonton, Winnipeg, or Montreal. Walking on a day like today is a chance to pat ourselves on our red flannel backs while we sip our Tim Hortons double-doubles and dream of spring.