Need ideas for a safe, fun, and unique activity to do over this Family Day weekend? Why not head out to your favourite local Trans Canada Trail and enjoy various winter activities suited for the whole family? We chatted with Trans Canada Trail chief communications and marketing officer Meghan Reddick to learn about all the fun rec opportunities available on the trail! —Noa Nichol
Hi Meghan! With Family Day weekend coming up, what opportunities does the Trans Canada Trail provide for people to get out and enjoy various winter activities suited for all?
As the longest trail in the world, Trans Canada Trail offers a wide range of activities across a variety of landscapes. From hiking, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, horseback riding, cross country skiing to photography and even dancing, there is lots to do on the Trail. Some fun things for kids: create your own winter scavenger hunt. This is so much fun to help kids get out and active in nature. You can download this one online that we created. Parents needs a little inspiration for some fun ideas, here is a list of winter fun you can try! You can also unleash your creative side with photography on the Trail, or any other artistic hobby. Winter can offer spectacular scenery for photographers.
We hear that the second annual #Blahs2Ahhhs campaign is currently on. What is it all about?
We created this campaign last year, out of a response to the global pandemic. Here we are today, still dealing with the effects! Not only are people worried about their physical health, but we are also seeing heightened anxiety, depression, social isolation, and loneliness which is impacting everyone. Even without COVID, this time of year can be a challenging one for many people, with long cold nights, the arrival of holiday bills and even the dropping of your New Year’s resolutions. The Trail can be a perfect antidote for some of this. That’s why we created this campaign, to encourage Canadians to get outside, get out on the Trans Canada Trail, connect with nature, to friends and to family. Getting outside is good for our inside! We are encouraging Canadians to turn their Blahs into Ahhhs out on the trail. We have also launched a #Blahs2Ahhhs contest right now, to encourage people to get outside. All you have to do is to get outside on the Trail, and to share your photos or videos with us over Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin and/or Facebook using both #TransCanadaTrail and #Blahs2Ahhhs hashtags. We have mayors across Canada, celebrities and athletes joining in on the fun so far! National Ballet of Canada principal dancer and associate choreographer, Guillaume Côté, likes to dance on the trail, and he shared with us how he turns his winter ‘blahs to ahhhs’ in this video. And I particularly love this one: social media sensation, Gurdeep Pandher of the Yukon is also encouraging people to get out on the trail. He’s been spreading joy and positivity for years now. Check out our video where he is teaching people how to do the dance and encouraging people to get out on the Trail. Getting outside, and on the trail is also good for our local business and help us build back better. As the pandemic travel restrictions start to ease up, we hope people will travel to other parts of the country to explore this magnificent asset we have! The trail is made up of 500 different trail sections across Canada, and no two trails are alike. It’s a great way to discover the beauty of the land.
What are some of the physical and mental health benefits that come from spending time outdoors?
The Trans Canada Trail is more than just a physical trail, it is a pathway to joy, connection and to increased mental and physical benefits. We conducted a Leger poll, and 95 per cent of Canadians told us that one of the reasons for using trails, was to boost their mental health. Activities like mindful walking in the outdoors can help free our minds from “mental clutter” and everyday stress. It can instill a sense of inner calm. Hundreds of studies over several decades show that access to nature and being outside gives you increased energy, reduces stress and anxiety, improves hearth health, improves mood, increases your creativity, reduces blood pressure and diabetes. It’s one of the best things you can do to improve your health! You can learn more about the science behind the benefits of nature in a recent expert panel discussion we did featuring Dr. Melissa Lem of Park Prescriptions, a B.C.-based family physician who prescribes time in nature to her patients.
What are your top tips on how to keep safe while being outdoors?
Our partners at AdventureSmart remind us to always follow the Three Ts: Trip Planning, Training, and Taking the Essentials. Before you explore a new trail section, always plan ahead. Check out the map route online and plan out where you want to go. During the winter, I like to plan my hikes within the daylight hours to maximize the benefits of vitamin-d sunshine! However, always best to bring extra stuff with you if you are stuck past sunset (a flashlight, blanket or fire making kit). As always, look at the weather conditions. The key is wearing adequate clothing and bring extra clothes. As the oft-quoted Norwegian saying goes: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing!”. It’s important to choose activities that suit your family’s physical fitness levels, so you can avoid injuries. Accidents can happen, so be prepared, and bring a first aid kit with you also. I always pack extra drinks and snacks, especially because my youngest son is always hungry!
What’s some of your best advice to families who want to work more nature into their busy everyday lives?
You don’t have to be an epic gold medallist cross country skier to get out and enjoy yourself in the winter. If time is an issue, then just start small—aim for just 20 minutes. You can reap lots of the outdoor benefits even short walks. Maybe keep a backpack ready to go with the travel essentials already, to make it faster and easier to get out of the house with little ones. And most of all, a great way to model behaviour for your kids is to have fun.
What’s your favourite section of the trail and why?
Oh gosh this is a hard one! The Trans Canada Trail is literally 28,000 kilometres across Canada, so I haven’t been everywhere yet. I spend most of my time on the Waterfront Trail in Toronto, since I live here in the Beach, and love walking along the water. I also love the Stanley Park Seawall in Vancouver, surrounded by water and mountain vistas, which is also a part of the Trans Canada Trail. And of course, the High Rockies Trail in Alberta is absolutely stunning! So many beautiful locations it’s hard to pick just one.