Get Outside This Winter — For the Health of It!

Hibernating all winter is not exactly the best way to feel a shared connection to wildlife.

When temperatures drop below zero, it’s certainly tempting to let your love of the outdoors grow cold.

However, winter months in the Great White North are actually a great time to get in touch with your inner Canadian: the one that knows what a toque and mukluks are, who understands the joy of sitting on a well-waxed wooden toboggan at the crest of a snow-covered hill, and who longs for a sheet of natural ice and a Sunday afternoon game of pond-hockey.

Playing outside during the winter months is not just a fun way to get in touch with your eight-year-old igloo-building self; there are many health benefits to staying active, especially if you’re someone whose mood turns grey during the colder months, matching the winter sky.

On route to Mount Romulus, our 18-kilometre day.
@Silvana Botros

The Human Species Shouldn’t Hibernate

Avoiding the effects of the aptly-named Seasonal Affective Disorder (a.k.a. SAD) by soaking up the sun’s natural Vitamin D supply is a good start. Getting outside helps your insides in many different ways.

Cold weather activity can help boost your brain, burn more calories and help combat risks of obesity and depression that come from spending a sedentary life indoors all winter. Bears and bats need to store their fat to get through the winter: humans, not so much!

Outdoor exercise and winter sunlight work together to help get your blood flowing, providing your organs with energy-boosting nutrients that can curb winter blues and keep your waistline in check. Of course, there’s a few things to remember before you head into the cold winter air to ensure  you’re protected:

  • First, layer well. Start with a layer of material designed to draw sweat from your body, like a dry wick top. Add an insulating layer such as fleece to keep you warm and also allow water vapour to pass through. Top it off with a waterproof outer layer to protect you from the elements.
  • Protect your extremities, the vulnerable areas of your body like fingers, toes, ears and nose, from frostbites. Cover up with warm waterproof gloves, hats, scarves and ear-muffs.
  • Don’t forget the sunscreen! Winter sun rays are reflected by snow, so be sure to apply sunscreen to exposed areas.

Just For the Health of It

The new year is a great time to make a lifestyle change designed to improve your health. Living leaner, staying active, reducing stress and getting outside are all wise ideas. Of course, getting outside is also a way to ensure you maintain a year-round connection to wildlife and your natural surroundings.

Download our free iNaturalist Canada app and use it on your next hike. And if you’re stuck for ideas on what to do outside, check out the CWF Below Zero page for 50 great things to do this winter.

Canada is a winter wonderland, so get outside – just for the health of it!

 

No More Excuses — Time to Get Outside With Your Kids!

There are very few things that I like more than spending time in nature with my two kids.

My son, a lively ten year old loves mountain biking, exploring and building caves in the snow. My daughter, who is just 16 months old, loves the feeling of dirt on her toes and the wind in her hair.

I love watching them play, laugh and learn while they explore the world around them, and I know that this type of learning is vitally important for them as they grow up.

kids running outside dusk field
The days of going out and playing and coming home when the street lights come on is gone.

I also know that kids don’t get these experiences as much as they used to. In so many neighbourhoods, the days of going out and playing and coming home when the street lights come on is gone. That means that kids are losing vital outdoor time to learn about themselves and the world around them.

That’s why the Canadian Wildlife Federation started the WILD Family Nature Club program here in Canada. Every week, in communities across our country, families get together to explore and enjoy the world around them. Each week, programming is supported by hosts — people like you and I who just want to be outside, and want to share their time outside with friends.

kids outside nature
Start a Wild Family Nature Club in your area.

Start a Club

I’d like to invite you to start a club in your community by becoming a host. There are so many benefits:

  1. You know that there will be a club in your community, because you started it.
  2. You’ll get to meet other moms and dads who enjoy time outside with their kids. So many parents tell me that they’ve made so many new friends in family nature clubs!
  3. Want to go hiking with people who know how to change diapers in the backcountry? We’ve got you covered!
  4. Likewise, be with people who understand that your kid is having a meltdown, has a cold or just isn’t up to it today.
  5. Our programs are fully insured and we give you training so you’re not going into their programming without support. We want to make it easier for you!

There are so many more benefits that I just don’t have space to fill. We’d love to have you join us. Learn more at Wild Family Nature Club page, or sign up with our partner Taking it Global.

Why 10 Days Kayaking With Chronic Pain Was The Best Choice I Ever Made

I have always been sheltered from the world, and have watched in complete wonder at its immense beauty. So when asked to participate in the Canadian Conservation Corps (pilot) Outward Bound Adventure, I was struck with both desire and apprehension.

Brittany Quesnel Canadian Conservation Corps

The adventure included joining a team of nine strangers for 10 days of camping, hiking and kayaking along the coastlines of Clayoquot Sound, British Columbia. For the duration of the trip we were responsible for setting up and taking down camp, cooking and cleaning, navigating to our next campsite and kayaking five hours everyday to get there. Perhaps I should have led with the facts that I had never been camping or kayaking before. Additionally, I have struggled with severe chronic neck and shoulder pain for the past six years. Everything on this trip was a new experience to me, and the thought of jeopardizing the progress I’ve made addressing my chronic pain struck extreme anxiety within me. After careful consideration, I decided it was time to step outside of my comfort zone and take advantage of this incredible opportunity.

When we first arrived, we were instructed to hand over all of our personal belongings. Keys, wallet, cell phone – all of the things that I familiarized with. We also had very little space for additional items, since we had to carry everything with us. We were allocated one hatch of a kayak for the absolute essentials. This included a sleeping bag, tarp, ground sheet, thermarest and then our personal belongings such as clothing: one pair of dry clothes, one pair of wet clothes, and three pairs of socks and underwear for a 10 day trip – yikes.

Cedar Tree of LifeAfter a few days, I felt a shift within me. I began to forget about my phone, and showering became more of want than a need. I started to feel connected to my surroundings. Beginning to appreciate being mindful of the present, I felt incredibly bound to nature – the sand beneath my toes, the sound of the trees rustling in the wind, fog cascading the mountains with a pink and purple sky from the setting sun.

A memorable moment for me was seeing the Cedar Tree of Life. You couldn’t even take in the entirety of it at a first glimpse – it was so enormous. When I walked up to this incredibly massive being that took more than 1,000 years to grow to its current stature, and placed my hands and forehead on its rough bark, I swear I could feel its energy pulsing through my palms. Imagining what life was like when it was just a sapling and hearing the stories of the protests that happened to protect the old growth forests fed my mind and awoke my soul, inspiring me to remember how important it is to protect and cherish our natural world.

This was just one of the many moments that really resonated with me. Saying that this 10 day trip was an adventure is an understatement. I laughed, cried, learned new things and met new people that quickly transitioned from strangers to friends. The moments we shared together allowed us to form very special bonds with one another. These were experiences that most of us had never had, and will possibly never have the opportunity to do again.

Despite being in pain and outside of my comfort zone, I allowed myself to absorb all of these new sights, sounds and smells. Embracing the wonders of our big, wonderful world and all it has to offer was the best decision of my life.

Canadian Conservation Corps

The 8 Best Canadian Winter Activities Ever

When there’s so many cold-weather months in Canada, we definitely have destinations perfect for a winter family getaway. And if you aren’t travelling, take this as inspiration and look up what your own city offers with these ideas in mind:

1. Skating

Skating

So many communities create outdoor rinks. If you’re lucky, some lakeside neighbours might also clear the snow for some fun too! You probably already know about Ottawa’s Rideau Canal, but did you know about the World Pond Hockey Championships?

Destination Idea: Plaster Rock, New Brunswick for the World Pond Hockey Championships February 8-11, 2018

2. Snowshoeing

Snowshoeing

Check into your local provincial or national park to see if they offer rentals or guided walks. A great idea is also to check out retailers like Canadian Tire, or even second-hand websites such as Kijiji to see if any neighbours are selling theirs for an inexpensive family adventure nearby.

Destination idea: Jasper National Park, Guided Snowshoe Walk, Alberta

3. Maple Syrup

You probably can’t get more Canadian than maple syrup in the snow. It’s a fun and rewarding experience for the family, especially the tasting part (if you are visiting a location that already has some for purchase, even better!).

Destination idea: Sugar Moon Farm, tours tasting & hiking, outside Halifax, Nova Scotia

4. Photography

Winter Photography

There is lots to be seen and just because there may be snow on the ground doesn’t mean it isn’t a great time to share. CWF has teamed up with iNaturalist to create an app that is ideal for sharing your wilderness experience with Canada.

Destination idea: Your backyard, local trails, or community park!

5. Skiing/Snowboarding

Snowboarding

Fresh air and adventure at all levels, from beginner to expert. Snowboarding and skiing are great ways to get fresh and be right there amongst the trees, mountains and Canadian winter habitat. CWF is equally interested in environmental best practices for the hills. Learn more about what My Sustainable Canada has put in place to ensure the hills work together with the environment.

Advocacy idea: Ask the owners at your ski hill if they follow best practices for wildlife and habitat, and encourage them to follow suit if they haven’t already!

6. Tobogganing

Tobogganing

Sledding down the smallest hill on your front lawn, local park, or “the big hill” most places seem to have, is a popular winter pastime. Remember to bundle up! There are some cozy new winter CWF toques on our online store, support wildlife conservation while staying warm!

Destination bonus: It’s FREE! At the top of the hill, stop and take a deep breath. Winter may be long and extremely cold, but sledding is a fantastic way to have fun.

7. Winter Carnivals

Check your community website to see if your town hosts winter festivals. These usually bring out hot chocolate, sometimes ice sculptures, games and activities.

Search idea: Just type “Winter Festival” followed by your town or closest big city to see what comes up.

8. Last but not least…Treasure Hunt

No snow in your neck of the woods? Look no further. GeoCache! You’ll need:

  • A mobile phone with GPS enabled (or GPS unit)
  • Warm clothing & snacks
  • Log onto the CWF Geocache website
  • Start your treasure hunt!

Decide on a cache, enter its coordinates on your GPS, and go out and try to find it. Caches are hidden in nearly every major (and minor!) town across the world. Currently, there are more than 800,000 hidden geocaches. All caches contain a logbook or paper scroll to sign when you find it; some caches contain small treasures. You can also hide your own caches and post them online for others to find. It’s a worldwide treasure hunt.

Learn more about the wonders of winter by joining CWF’s Below Zero campaign.

Ways to explore wildlife in Calgary this fall

CWF has been a proud supporter of Calgary Zoo and its Centre for Conservation research since 2008. We are continually impressed by the programming, innovation and dedication of this dedicated team.

It’s inspiring to welcome new initiatives such as ILLUMINASIA which celebrate our deep connections to wildlife and habitat that are part of our rich cultural heritages. The festival launches Sept. 17 with Chinese lanterns which will turn a spotlight on some of the zoo’s animals while showcasing culturally symbolic animals such as the crane and iconic Chinese symbols like the Phoenix. After the Chinese celebrations (Sept 17-27) the zoo will be transformed again with a Japanese theme (Oct 1-11) followed by a celebration of India (Oct 15-25).

The Calgary Zoo will also play host to a CWF Wild Family Nature Club training session on September 25th and 26th. Registration for this activity is now open at: :  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/wild-family-nature-clubs-tickets-18278701087. Wild Family Nature Clubs provide parents and their children with social activities and tools to get them outside playing together in nature and connects them to other families doing the same thing. This popular program offers a variety of on-resources including a multilingual tool kit. Find out about activities taking place in the Calgary area on our events calendar here.

We hope you have a wild and wonderful fall.

A Video That Reminds Us To Re-Connect With Nature!

Let’s face it – most of use some sort of social media to keep in touch with family and friends and we all have our favourite electronic gadgets. And, for most times anyway, they make life easier! But I came across this video featuring Bert (from Sesame Street) and Zachary Levi that reminds us to step away from our screens and to re-connect with nature. It’s called A Lovely Sunny Day.

 

Check it out  by clicking here!

Capture2

Hey B.C.! Bike for Wildlife is now in YOUR province!

angella goranThe first leg of the Canadian Wildlife Federation Bike for Wildlife is about to kick off and CWF hopes to see you along the route.

British Columbia flagCWF Athletic Ambassador Angella Goran is cycling 6,000 kilometres from Victoria to Halifax to raise awareness about wildlife conservation and the importance of getting outdoors to connect with nature. She’ll visit schools and community centres along the way, and use social media to update her progress.

“Being outside can inspire all of us,” Goran says. “Whether your passion is cycling, walking, swimming or bird-watching, experiencing our natural world is an incredible opportunity as well as a gift.”

The Bike for Wildlife kicks off in Victoria, B.C. on August 14th and will be making the first seven stops of the ride in British Columbia. At each stop, Angella will be hosting a variety of activities from conservation presentations to biking with local cycling groups.  The goal remains the same: encouraging Canadians to get outside and raise awareness for CWF’s wildlife conservation programs.  For a full list of event stops, see the schedule below.

CWF’s Bike for Wildlife will highlight how the organization has been connecting Canadians to nature and making a difference to at-risk wildlife. CWF is urging Canadians to explore all that nature has to offer and take this unique opportunity to make a connection with the great outdoors in your own communities. For more information about how get involved, visit bikeforwildlife.ca or contact CWF at 1-800-563-9453.