Yesterday a group of us went for a 10K cross-country ski. Saturday 10am out the door. Pick up friends. 10:30 we’re parking in a field by rolling snow-covered hills in Gatineau park with others piling out of vehicles brightly colored jackets and hats, packs on backs. At the top of the trail, we gather around making some jokes about our abilities to keep the pace; some of us are better than others! We click boots onto skis with a professional snap that gives a confident sound to starting out. The trail begins a gentle descent across a frozen stream then climbs steeply up into the forest. Once in the woods, the trail twists back and forth up small hills around curves through the snow-laden limbs of the northern woods. It’s like a landscape one reads about in classic Russian novels.

Skiers glide past, some wait at tops of hills for others further back. There is fresh snow atop the 2 feet of packed snow from late November. Every now and then if you get ahead of your party, the quiet of the blanketed forest surrounds you, the milky light amplifying the quiet of the landscape. But often we ski beside each other or catch up with someone else or ski right behind our friend and talk for awhile, then go ahead or fall behind in the natural rhythm of exertion. It’s fun to share being out of breath! (And it’s addictive too. As I write this, I’m texting people for another ski outing this week!)

Wood stoves warm the cabins that are spread throughout the 90,000 acres of the park. We reach the Heannesy cabin and hang mitts and outer layers up to dry, throw our things on the picnic tables. Other skiers are already in full lunch mode. Packs are open. Soups, stews, hot chocolate, bagels, fruit, chocolate…. Kids take sandwiches to the stove.  The air smells of wood, wind and melting cheese.  We all sit and smile for a minute before we even want to eat anything; the zen-ish peacefulness of physical exertion making everyone drowsy for a minute. Then we share our small plates meal like good travelers on the road of recreation.

Later that night, Andrew and I go to a new restaurant, “Earl’s Variety” – it’s all small plates, blond wood, open kitchen kind of place. It’s got that same air of woods, wind and happiness of the local.