I love incorporating the outdoors into New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. Is there any other better way to kick off the start of a new year? Welcome Ardeen to the blog today and learn about her family’s tradition of snowshoeing on New Year’s Eve.
One New Year’s Eve long ago, I found myself all alone and with no plans.
I was in my twenties and living in a ski resort, and my closest friends were all going to be away for the 31st, while I had to stay in town and work. I’ve never loved New Year’s parties, but finding myself with no plans at all was a bit of a bummer.
A few days before New Year’s, I bumped into an acquaintance I hadn’t seen for awhile, and she immediately invited me along on their New Year’s’ adventure – snowshoeing to the top of a local mountain to watch the fireworks display down across the valley.
I borrowed snowshoes and a headlamp, put on my snowboard clothing, and prepared for a New Year’s Eve the likes of which I’d never experienced before.
It was AMAZING.
And it set the bar very high for all New Years’ to come.
The quiet of the woods was a far better soundtrack for the evening than a pounding loud bar, and watching the fireworks while sitting in the snow on a mountaintop, far removed from the loud craziness of the village, was the perfect start to a new year.
Fast forward about 15 years. Two kids, a shift-working husband, and having settled near the mountains but not quite in them, had led to a bit of a drought in the “fun new outdoor experiences” department.
We ski frequently, and hike, and snowshoe a bit, but we were missing a key part of my first experience – the friends.
Most of the friends we’d made in our area were not the type to spontaneously don snowshoes and tromp around in the dark.
Enter the Greg & Monicas.
(Yes, they have a last name, but my kids can’t remember it, so in our home these friends are known by their first names).
Monica and I work together in an outdoor retail store, so it’s a given that we like to play outside.
A few years ago neither of us had particular plans for New Year’s Eve.
The husbands and kids had never met, but we were pretty confident that they would all love each other.
And yes, they are the kinds of friends who will cheerfully spontaneously don snowshoes and tromp around in the dark!
We picked our route carefully.
With kids in tow we were aiming to keep everything positive and set the stage for future adventures.
We selected a trail called Dog Mountain, which we had both hiked before but not snowshoed. It has easy access – it is part of a provincial park with a ski resort, so the road is always plowed, there is ample parking which is semi-lit at night (anyone who has ever tried to put snowshoes on a 5-year-old will appreciate this!), washrooms, and warm buildings if we needed to bail early and go back for some hot chocolate.
We met at the trailhead and set off at around 7 p.m.
The trail is very well marked and packed down, and to be honest, we probably did not even really need snowshoes except for one 10-foot long section at the very end.
But where’s the fun in that?
As predicted, everyone got along very, very well.
The big people chatted, and in between eating snow and rolling around in it, the smaller people got to know each other as well.
Imagine our surprise when our two 11-year-old boys came charging back down the trail to announce that they had birthdays one day apart, and had been born in the same hospital, which is not a local one!
Having zero route finding stress definitely made the night more relaxing.
We initially passed a few people coming down from daytime trips, and were also passed by a few groups who were heading up at a much quicker rate than our “stop and examine each tree and snow-covered rock” speed.
As an open apology to any other user groups on the trail that night, I offer this: Five kids. Five happy and excited kids, clomping around in the dark woods on snowshoes.
It was a perfect example of why my husband and I call our kids “Bearbell #1” and “Bearbell #2”.
The kids were having a blast, exploring off the sides of the trail, peering down tree wells and telling epic stories of falling into some while skiing, and zooming around making fresh tracks when we passed through a meadow.
Almost everyone else that we encountered was also in a pretty festive mood, they just weren’t as loud as us!
We made great time – no, actually we made incredible time.
We purposely hadn’t set any time or distance goals, figuring that everyone having fun and staying happy was far more important than reaching the summit in a set amount of time, or even reaching it at all.
The point of the night was to be with friends and play in the snow. Which we did, but we underestimated the goal-oriented nature of our children.
Just before 9 p.m., we hit the most difficult part of the whole trail, the previously mentioned 10-foot steep and slippery section.
We could hear multiple voices up above us, which wasn’t a surprise, but we were not prepared for what we saw when we toe-cramponed our way up the last slope and around the final stand of trees.
There was a freaking party on the summit!
A handful of tents were scattered around behind us, with campers relaxing in snow chairs and cooking dinner.
To the front and right was a panorama of city lights, lit up ships on the ocean, and strings of lights on the tops of bridges.
We’ve been up here in the dark before, so we were expecting the view, but somehow didn’t realize there would be so many people who’d had the same idea.
There were probably 50 people around, in campsites or small groups, enjoying the view.
Everyone was just chill and happy, chatting and laughing and offering to take pictures of other groups.
We’d brought up juice and a bottle of wine and some creampuffs, and were just digging in to our fantastic picnic when the sky lit up.
Again, we somehow didn’t realize that we’d have a spectacular view of the 9 p.m.
It was such a happy accident that we got to the summit at exactly the right time, and it totally made the night.
The whole gang, high above Metro Vancouver.
After about half an hour on the summit we packed up and started down, eyeing the tent village as we passed, thinking, “Hmm…. next year maybe we should up the game a little and camp up here…”.
The moon and stars were even brighter on the way down, and the air got a little quieter as we moved from “past your bedtime” to “way past your bedtime” to “Holy smokes, I can’t even believe you’re still moving”.
There were still quite a few groups coming and going on the trail, and we found the path now lit by numerous glow-stick bracelets that someone had hung on trees, which was a perfect touch.
I don’t think any of us could have imagined or planned a better New Year’s Eve.
The kids were all pretty tired by the time we got back to the trailhead, but it was a smiley fresh air kind of tired.
For me, the best part of the whole awesome night was being able to introduce my kids to something that is a little out of the suburban norm and open their eyes to a new and different way to be in nature.
Forest, friends, food, fun.
And I bet you can guess our plans for ringing in next year!