Usually December and January can be counted on to give us some snow. Out come the sleighs and families take their little ones to local hills, for some fun and games.
As a child, my sledding adventures in England were rather poor. Barely an inch of wet snow, with all sorts of rocks and twigs to poke at the unwary legs or bottom, usually resulting in very wet clothes and numerous bruises.
My first taste of real Canadian snow, dry, deep and soft and falling in huge flakes, was a wonderful experience. I wanted to play in it like a six year old and I made my fort snow angels at age 39.
When we first came to Canada, we settled in Port Coquitlam and every winter we did our share of taking the kids to the local mountains. Our particular one was Burnaby Mountain or sometimes, Cypress Bowl about a half hours drive away. I would pack up a thermos of hot wieners and a bag of buns, another thermos of hot chocolate and a smaller one of coffee.
The kids would tire themselves out sledding down and walking back up the hill, time after time. Dave and I would always amuse them by managing or fall off the sleds or end up in a heap of snow, head first.
One year we got a couple of truck inner tubes which travelled at tremendous speed down the hill and over the berm of snow that was piled up at the bottom. It was supposed to slow the sled down but acted as a ski jump for the inner tubes, causing groans of pain from the riders, who then promptly set off for the next ride down.
After a couple of hours the exhausted foursome ate the hotdogs with enthusiasm then back to the hill for more fun. By three pm the sun was going behind the hill and it was time to head home. Piles of wet mittens, socks and coats would go into the back of the big station wagon and the girls would snuggle under the blankets with home made chocolate chip cookies and the last of the hot chocolate.
Total cost of this day out would be the cost of the lunch, which we would have needed at home anyway. Benefit from the day out, happy kids, happy parents and everyone tired and ready to settle down with books after supper.
None of our outings with our girls cost us money as we had none to spend but our kids got the benefit of seeing all our local mountains, lakes, hiking trails in fact, anything that was free. Round the lower mainland, as around here, there are so many things to take advantage of if you just look.
During or first years in Canada we learned of all the free, or very cheap, things to do. In the school holidays we would drive to the ferry terminals, park the car, and go as foot passengers to the various Gulf Islands. The cost was less than $20 for the whole family. We always took swim suits and a picnic and had fantastic times exploring. The ferry ride itself was always a thrill for the girls as we could let them roam the decks unaccompanied.
Another time I took them all on the bus to Vancouver, with transfers, we were able to go to on the Sea Bus to North Vancouver, explore the waterfront there and have our picnic. If the girls had money to spend we would visit the market. We could also take another bus on the same transfer, and ride to Horseshoe Bay, which we sometimes did and bought fish and chips to eat on the beach, a real treat from the usual home made picnic. An entire day out for the cost of a bus ride and enjoyed by all.
We took our girls away from the sea wall, and instead, walked the trails in Stanley Park. Once you get on those trails it is so quiet that the birds will actually come and eat right out of your hand. He dogs can explore the undergrowth of the rain forest and there is so much to be seen amongst the fallen trees and moss. Nature abounds, and all sorts of little creatures venture out if you are still.
My daughters all grew up with a love of the outdoors and have shared that with their own children. It is free and God’s handiwork is everywhere you look, a wonderful thing to expose young people to.