COVID-19: Get active outdoors and fight depression

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Our Environment by Katharine Fletcher

People are suffering with depression as COVID-19 surges on and winter descends. Although the Spanish Influenza pandemic might have taught us that a second wave was to be expected, this virus’ resurgence has surprised many.

Our Environment by Katharine Fletcher

People are suffering with depression as COVID-19 surges on and winter descends. Although the Spanish Influenza pandemic might have taught us that a second wave was to be expected, this virus’ resurgence has surprised many.
One of the best-known antidotes for depression is to exercise outside in fresh air and sunshine. Enjoying a park-like setting or a historical walking tour gets us out and about – and thinking beyond ourselves.
Here in the Outaouais, we’re blessed with many places to go and things to
do where we can “forest bathe” amid nature. Here are some ideas.
Escapade Huskimo (formerly Escapade Eskimo)
Mush your team of enthusiastic huskies through forested trails near Otter Lake. As you swish through the snow-draped scenery, you will surely catch their exhilaration. If you like dogs and want to experience a traditional means of transportation – now a recreational sport – this is definitely a game-changer where you’ll soon discard “the blues.” Why not make this a Christmas present for your family?
Mont Chilly
With its motto “Ski here and you can ski anywhere,” you can rest assured “modest-seeming” Mont Chilly in Mansfield is anything but. With a 460 foot vertical, friends who are avid downhill skiers say this is a wicked set of nine runs. I contacted Mont Chilly owner Rick Hernberger and his daughter Lara Hernberger who explained, “As we rely completely on natural snow, our opening date is totally dependent on weather.”
Chutes Coulonge
Located in Mansfield, the Chutes Coulonge are an impressive site at any time of the year… including winter. Although closed for the season now, their website explains that the annual holiday festival, Light up
the Night at the Chutes, happens December 5, 6, 12, 13, 19, 20, 26 and 27 from 17:00-20:00h. Check the website for admission details, then venture out to enjoy a prettily illuminated heritage walk followed by a bonfire, hot chocolate and music.
Ski Pontiac
With more than 15 km of groomed and tracked trails, Bristol’s Ski Pontiac is ideal for beginners and those who wish to ease back into cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. As you venture through the woods, pause to listen for chickadees, nuthatches, blue jays and other resident winter birds.
Don’t have snowshoes? No worries. Borrow some for free on-site.
Portage-du-Fort
Although the historical plaques have been removed for the winter, you can still purchase the Historical Walking Tour of Portage-du-Fort guidebook ($10.00) at Thompson’s Dépanneur in the village and do the walk on your own. With fine views of the Ottawa River and the beautiful heritage buildings, this is an ideal way to explore this village and its fine history.
Gatineau Park
Extending from Gatineau to chemin Lac des Loups, Gatineau Park offers a network of excellent trails for all experience levels.
Although the Visitors’ Centre in Old Chelsea is only open to sell maps and
dispense information, the official network of trails is transitioning to winter
activities now. Some trails (Luskville Falls, for example) are closed for the season. Soon ski trails will open, and snowshoes may be used solely on designated snowshoe trails. Leashed dogs are only permitted to accompany their owners on four official hiking trails. Find Gatineau Park’s winter trail map: bit.ly/371umuo. Also browse: bit.ly/2JclOZZ
Camp Fortune
Located within Gatineau Park (access via Chelsea) your whole family can ski and snowboard here on 24 runs for experts through to beginners. And don’t forget to enjoy the night-time experience on 12 lit runs. I found that the night skiing was a very different experience: really fun!
Season passes are now available, as is equipment rental. Want to learn how to ski and board? Lessons are also available.
Forêt-la-Blanche
Visit this old-growth forest where some trees are more than 400 years old near Mayo. Fifteen kilometres of trails undulate through the forests.
Both the interpretation centre and library are open. Note: no dogs are permitted. Trails are open from 9:00h to 17:00h.