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Humanity has yet to find cure for winter

I have never been snowshoeing, perhaps because the opportunity has never presented itself, but more likely because I am not a winter person.
To the untrained eye, it may appear as though I am having a great time snowshoeing when, in fact, snot and tears have frozen my face into a grimace of pain. Okay, maybe I am having a little bit of fun.

I have never been snowshoeing, perhaps because the opportunity has never presented itself, but more likely because I am not a winter person.

But when I heard Fort Battleford was offering snowshoeing every Tuesday and Thursday at noon from now until Mar. 31, I decided it was time I give it a try.

Jan. 20, the temperature was -18 C, but with the wind chill, it was -31 C.

I was not aware of this, because I'm under the false impression that if I don't know how cold it is, I will feel warmer.

Not that I have much time to judge the temperature, because I usually run screaming from my car to the office like the Wicked Witch of the West when she's exposed to water.

That morning, I dressed for the Armageddon. I put on more layers than Star Jones' wedding cake, and imagined my grandmother smiling down from heaven as I unearthed the pair of long johns she had given me years before.

I arrived at the Fort, impressed with my bravery. I chose to ignore the bite in the wind as I ran from my car to the doors of the Fort, screaming.

The fact no one besides me showed up should have alerted me something was wrong.

Tami Conley-Blais, the Fort's interpretation officer and co-ordinator, seemed surprised to see me. Once again, my self-preservation instincts should have kicked in.

Instead, I was distracted from the fact we would soon be heading out into the cold by the flashy new snowshoes Tami produced.

I had imagined we would be using the old-fashioned ones that look like tennis rackets. Perhaps we would also find a small animal on a trap line, build a fire and eat skewered meat while warming our fingers and drying out a hide for fur trim. Not that I thought it was a real possibility, but what do you imagine when you think of "braving the elements at Fort Battleford?"

Tami explained this is the first year snowshoeing has been offered to the public. She said the snowshoes were purchased for a program for area schools, and they decided they might as well make use of the snowshoes.

Tami said she enjoys the school excursions, adding although the students are instructed to dress for the weather, older students typically arrive underdressed. This, however, seems to make them more sympathetic of and interested in the struggles faced by early settlers.

I, too, gained a newfound appreciation of what people must have gone through before handy inventions like furnaces and heated cars to shuttle us from one heated area to another.

I gained this appreciation approximately 0.0384 seconds after walking outside. As a gust of air whipped my face like a cat o' nine tails, I almost ran back inside, screaming, only remembering at the last minute I was in public.

Instead I let Tami help me adjust my straps. That's right, I let her sacrifice her hands (the wind was that cold) to fasten my snowshoes. Clearly, I am not the "turn around on Mt. Everest to rescue someone suffering from altitude sickness" type.

As we headed out towards the stockade, Tami was my Good King Wenceslas, as I tread in her footsteps boldly and the winter's rage froze my blood less coldly.

Snot froze to my face, my eyes filled with tears and my glasses fogged up, but my hands were too cold to solve either problem.

I couldn't see anything but icy white, couldn't feel anything but the sting of icy wind. I thought I was going to die.

Then, all of a sudden, we reached the stockade. The wind stopped abruptly as it was blocked by the wall of the stockade.


I cleaned my glasses and rubbed the snot off my face. I snapped a couple of photos. I chatted with Tami. I was euphoric.

I even began to entertain thoughts about the next time I would go snowshoeing.

The walk back wasn't nearly as bad, even after we left the shelter of the stockade, because the wind was at our backs and we were warm from plodding through the deep snow.

Even so, I couldn't think of the last time I had seen something so beautiful as a cup of hot chocolate. I didn't even mind the Styrofoam.

As my toes defrosted, I ate my lunch with Tami and Yvonne Michnik, business manager for Friends of Fort Battleford.

I learned the Fort is more exciting than one would think. For example, Tami has been busy the past while assembling artefacts for the team re-filming the introductory video for the Batoche National Historic Site.

There will also be many changes to the summer programming, which will potentially see geo-caching added to the list of activities provided by the Fort.

In the meantime, Fort Battleford is hosting Films at the Fort every Wednesday at 12:15 p.m. until March 30. The program features Parks Canada films detailing the history of national parks and historic sites throughout Canada, with a different film being shown every week.

"It's an opportunity for people who are planning a summer vacation or even for those who will never get to some of these sites," said Tami.

Alternatively, you could come snowshoeing with me. But you know what? I'll be checking the forecast before I go.

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