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Is There a “Perfect” Time of Year to Hike?

January 12, 2021

By Jackson Hudecki, Special Programs Coordinator, Royal Botanical Gardens.

I try not to use the word “perfect” to describe much in life, but recently some friends of mine and I were reminiscing about how we used to go birding together (and what a novelty it now is). We talked about our fondness for our shared favourite pastimes — hikes! While one person longed for warmer weather and another for “spring migration”, we soon realized that there isn’t one particular time of year that is best to hike, but instead we surmised about ideal conditions. I thought I would take a moment to reflect on some of these conditions and what they evoke.

When the air is calm, there is more of a chance to hear what is occurring around you. Can you hear bird sounds? Leaves cracking? Ice shifting? Insects buzzing?

Mute swans sitting on a frozen waterway

When the air is moving it could mean there is a seasonal shift occurring, or the arrival of a stormfront. Can you see leaves blowing or hear them rustling? Birds migrating, soaring, or hovering? Feel the wind on your skin and hair?

When the temperatures are hot, creatures seek shelter from the powerful sun. Do you feel the change as you enter the shade? Can you encounter mammals seeking a drink? Reptiles or amphibians basking? Taste the humidity as you breathe in the summer air?

Amid a light rain, some seek shelter while others pitter patter. Do you stay dry? Or step outside and into the water cycle?

When the temps are cool, movement is key. Can you feel the crispness? Hear the crunch of frost or snow? Encounter a hunting predator or a foraging omnivore?

Weather events, both extreme or seasonal bring change both expected or unwelcomed by people. Nature is prepared to adapt to this occurrence, but what has it done for you? For us? Have we been caught off guard? Have you ever felt the force or the power of a major storm?

During a deep freeze, wildlife are strategic. Where are you observing them? How are they surviving and what are they doing?

Cootes Boardwalk in winter

While the latter can be baffling to those who prefer comfort, it also shows signs of resilience in the face of adversity. If you encounter animal tracks, you know something has been on the move. Squawking or chirping points out active birds and some of the more adaptive lifeforms in these particular climes. Trees, so stoic, exemplify patience and strength no matter what they are faced with, only to give way to nature as time and extreme forces cause them to shift. Life endures no matter what it faces, and we are part of that circle.

High Level Bridge from Pine Point Lookout December 29 2020

It then begs the question, is there a time of year that YOU like to hike most? Or does each outing bring its own magic that can only be experienced once you venture forth into the wonder of the outdoors. Perhaps this winter, while encouraged to be distant from humans and quell the spread of the virus, hiking RBG’s trails and sanctuaries can be the perfect pursuit.