Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Five Fabulous Days at Arrowhead

After last year's visit to Arrowhead Provincial Park we decided that we had to go back. We thought it would be nice to stay in the park so we booked one of the park cabins. The cabins are pretty incredible. They come equipped with beds for 5 people, a dinning table and five chairs, a propane fireplace, mini-fridge, microwave, kettle, coffee maker and BBQ. Most of the cabins seemed to be less than 100 metres from the vault toilets. We stayed in the pod of cabins closest to the comfort station. The walk to the comfort station was less than 250 metres. In the comfort station there was a dishwashing room where we could do our dishes and get water. Talk about luxury camping!

Cabin at Night
Upon our arrival we checked in and proceeded to the parking lot for the cabins. There were toboggans at the trail head leading to the cabins. We loaded up a couple of toboggans and walked the less than 100 metres to the cabin, unloaded and did a couple more trips. We unpacked and setup our home away from home for the next four and a half days. The kids just loved the cabin. To them, this was the most luxurious place ever. 

Cabin Interior

We played a few games then heated some chicken fingers on the BBQ. We got the kids ready for bed and then I strapped on the skis to do some exploring. The weather was just perfect. It was a little below 0ÂșC and there were huge snow flakes falling from the sky. It was a beautiful winter's evening. I skied the East River Loop (Winter Map) and came upon Stubb's Falls. I figured this would make a great destination for us at some point during our stay. I headed back but rather than turning off to go back to the cabins I kept going. I passed the Big Bend Lookout and went as far as the connector to the Roe trail. Based on my short ski there would be lots for us to explore together with more day light.

The following morning we had a bit of a slow start. The youngest member of the family had been up sick much of the night. She seemed to be feeling fine during the day so we decided to do some exploring. We all skied to the Big Bend Lookout. The weather was great. It was sunny and quite warm.
En Route 
Riding in Style
Big Bend
Looking West 
Time for a Snack
After skiing we went back to the cabin and had some lunch. Everyone wanted to try out some tubing but the hill was not open. So a couple of us decided to give the skating trail a try. It was Friday afternoon so the crowd wasn't huge but it was certainly starting to build. The trail is 1.3 km in length with a couple of gentle ups and downs. It winds it's way through the beautiful forest. I couldn't imagine a cooler place to skate.
Great Skating Practice
Taking a Break
After skating our son wanted to do some skiing so he and I skied to the Bunny Loop. We had a great ski. It's great to see the kids wanting to be outside being active. We returned to the cabin and started the fire so that we could start cooking our dinner. While we were cooking the snow started coming down in huge flakes. It didn't seem like it was going to stop. It didn't take long for the items on the picnic table to be buried in snow.

 That evening I skied the Arrowhead Lake Loop and Beaver Meadow Trail. The fresh snow continued piling up making for an absolutely incredible outing.  

We had a slow morning at the cabin the next day. Our youngest daughter was still not feeling 100% so she decided to have a nap. Our older daughter wanted to play outside in the snow and our son wanted to ski. The snow was falling again and it was a great day to be outside. Since we hadn't had a chance to visit Stubb's Falls our son and I headed in that direction. The park looked amazing. The trees were just covered in snow. It was Saturday so there were all kinds of people out on the trails. It was a great site. We reached Stubb's Falls and took off our skis and made our way to the bridge.

Stubb's Falls or Bust
We Made It
Going Down
The Falls
The Bridge
The view was great and the water was loud. At some point we'll have to bring the rest of the family. We made our way back to the cabin and found the girls outside playing. We played for a bit and then headed inside. We had a relaxing afternoon and evening then got the kids ready for bed. I then skied the Lumby and Lumby North Loops as well as Roe. I think I preferred the North Loop a little more, perhaps because of the streams and the hills.

Th next morning I skied the Homesteader trail. The trail was challenging due to the climbs, but coming back down was exhilarating. The trail was so picturesque. I was the first skier of the day on the trail and I had beaten the groomer. The fresh snow from the night before made for great conditions.
Climbing Up Homesteader
As a result of the fresh snow the tubing hill was open. I rushed back to the cabin to grab the rest of the family. We headed to the hill and all had a chance to go for a ride. The ride was very fast and quite long. We made our way back up the hill and waited in line. As we neared the beginning of the line the park staff had to shut down the hill since it was too icy and too fast. The kids were a little disappointed but were excited to have had a chance to try it out. 

We had noticed that there was an opportunity to try skijoring (being pulled by a dog while on your skis) in the afternoon. It happens quite regularly at the park and we were lucky enough to have a chance to check it out. We watched how it worked and even had a chance to try it. It was pretty cool.
We skied back to the cabin and upon our arrival our older daughter decided that she wanted to go skating again. We couldn't convince everyone to go so I hung back at the cabin with the other kids while my wife (and daughter) went skating. While at the cabin we played some games and eventually our son asked if we could ski. Our youngest daughter who was still under the weather didn't want to leave so I told our son he could ski alone if he wanted to. He strapped on his skis and made his way around the cabins and he skied to the skating rink. He was happy to have some independence. I got our pasta dinner sorted out and waited for everyone to return. It was a very busy day and everyone was very tired.

There was one trail that I still hadn't skied so I headed for Hardwood Hill. It was a great ski. There was a lot of climbing to the top of the hill and the descent was great. It's too bad the trail is so short, but it would be any easy one to do two laps of if you had the time.

On our final day we packed up all of our belongings, loaded up the sleds and headed for the van. Although we were all packed we weren't quite ready to leave yet. We made our way to the Birches parking lot and I skied with the older kids while Sarah snowshoed with our youngest, who seemed to be feeling much better.
Final Ski
Checking out the Squirrel in the Bird Feeder
We made our way to the Mayflower Warmup Hut (with heated washrooms) and had some lunch. While the kids finished up I grabbed my skis and skied Hardwood Hill again. It was right next to the warmup hut and it seemed to be calling my name. I had a great ski and the kids were just finishing some snacks when I returned. The next step was to get everyone ready for the ride home.

What an incredible trip. There was so much to do. We brought lots of games and things to keep us busy but we hardly needed any of it. We didn't even really get to snowshoe! Staying in the park was such a great idea. We didn't need to drive anywhere. It was very easy for some of us to do one thing, while others did something else and having that home base within the park made it seem like the park was our backyard. We could come and go as we pleased. If you haven't tried winter 'camping' I'd highly recommend giving the roofed accommodations a try.