Submitted by: Leah
Growing up, I was not a big fan of winter. I was in the mindset that it was too cold, dark, and that there was just never anything to do. Then in 2015, I went on a week long snowshoeing trip through the outdoor education program at the U of A’s Augustana campus. The course involved eight Canadian students, and seven Japanese and Chinese students. The trip took place in mid-February and was led by Morten Asfeldt and Takako Takano.
Before leaving, we got all of our food and clothes ready, and constructed our own toboggans to pull our gear. Right when we got the Lac la Biche area, where we were going to start, we got both vehicles stuck in the snow and had to spend four hours getting them out. By the time we got unpacked and moved the trailers, we were not able to get very far before nightfall.
Every night we winter camped in four different wall tents. One tent was for the leadership, and all of the students were mixed in the other three tents. I had two international students and two Augustana students in my tent. I loved seeing the international students experience snow for the first time, their eyes would light up in the morning when we would hit the walls of the tent to shake off the snow. They also got to see the beautiful northern lights for the first time! I had never seen them either, so we were all in the same boat.
Each day we would pack all of our gear onto the toboggans and travel in our tent groups, taking turns pulling the heavy sleds. My white winter boots were a size too big, and really heavy. I was wearing so many layers it was difficult to move, but I was warm! Wearing snowshoes took a long time to get used to, if you didn’t step properly you would trip and fall all over the place. You didn’t realize how much snow there was, until took your snowshoes off and sunk to your knees. We mostly travelled and camped alongside the lakes.
Around supper time, we would stop for the day to gather wood and set up the wall tents. We cooked all of our meals over small campfires. In the evenings we would gather around the fire at the leadership tent to share stories. One story was about the mad trapper, others were about the Iditarod and the grey owl. The international students would bring up discussion questions, and we would share about the cultures of our home countries. They only had one word for environment, nature. It was a more romanticized word, which was interesting. At points there was a language barrier, so we had to be more attentive to their words and pronunciation. However, it didn’t stop us from having a lot of laughs!
In the middle of the trip, we had a layover day where we didn’t have to travel. That morning we ate pancakes. We then spent the rest of the day together hiking around, and identifying various animal tracks. It was nice to be able to relax and explore without having to pull a heavy toboggan.
It was sad to part ways at the end of the trip, after spending so much time together. We created a lot of memories, and learn more about each other’s cultures from a student perspective. I gained a new appreciation for winter and all of it’s beauty, you just have to get outdoors and enjoy it!