STA Photo Contest wraps up

Congratulations to Mitch Serbu for winning the STA Photo Contest. This winning shot was taken at the Beechy Sandcastles along Lake Diefenbaker.

Thanks to everyone who entered the competition. There were some great photos to choose from!

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Toddlers on Trails – Preparation is key!

Toddler Trail

Getting out of the house can be important when you’re a new parent, and teaching toddlers about nature can protect them later in life. Exercise for you both might also be very welcome after being cooped up for the winter. However, if you’re planning on going hiking with your toddler, there are some hazards on the trail that we might be able to help you avoid! Let’s go over some trail tips and see if we can make the outing as child-friendly (and parent-friendly) as possible.

How to prepare:

1. Hit the trail solo:
Taking some time to scope out the lay of the land before hitting the trail with your little one can save you a lot of time and hassle. A vanguard solo venture will give you a chance to familiarize yourself with the trail length, any hazards that might be on the way, and will give you a better idea of how to prepare for the journey ahead. Are there wasp nests or poison ivy patches to avoid? You’re on top of it! Muddy spots that require rubber boots? You’ll know. Windy cold areas that require an extra layer? No problem. You’re sure to have more fun if you know what to look out for.

2. Set realistic time goals:
Everything takes longer with children, especially young children. While you may think that you’ve budgeted enough time for you to pack, get to the hiking site, conduct your trek, and return, it is likely that you’ll need more time yet. It is advisable to plan for much more time than you require. Not only does this flexibility keep the pressure off, but it leaves room for both disasters and fun, unexpected adventures! There’s nothing to stop you from exploring that beautiful flowered glade or to look for fossils along that shale outcropping when time isn’t an issue.

3. Set realistic distance goals:
Little legs tire far more easily than bigger ones, and you might end up walking for two. Does your little one walk independently all the time? Are you planning on using a carrying pack, and how far can YOU go walking for two? Kids in carriers can sleep when they are tired, but walking tots can get tired and cranky in a flash. Picking a trail that’s appropriate for your youngest hiker can hold you back a bit but will keep everyone happier in the long run.

4. Head out early, if that’s your jam:
The combination of fresh toddlers, fresh parents, and fresh air is magical… for some people! For those people, we recommend taking advantage of the magic, and heading to the trail before the morning coolness gives way to the midday heat. You could even be home in time for lunch (and a nap for you both!). For people who (by preference or circumstance) get a later start, it is advisable to still avoid the midday sun, which can burn both you and your little one fiercely and can sap energy levels with the heat that it brings. It is important to get back before the sun sets, however, for safety reasons.

What to bring:

1. Ten essentials for survival
Most responsible hiking blogs will suggest that you pack the Ten Essentials for every trip, on the off-chance that you might get lost. This hazard is even greater if you might be distracted (TODDLERS!) due to impatience (TODDLERS!) or if you are responsible for someone else’s life (TODDLERS!). It never hurts to be prepared, even if you don’t use everything in your pack. The worst that can happen is a bit of extra fitness from lugging around a few more items.

2. Water:
Bringing plenty of drinking water for everybody is key to happy trekkers. Even kids in carriers will need to stay hydrated. Remember, that everybody’s liquid requirements increase on hot days! Juice boxes can be a fun treat, but some hikers find them bulky and heavy to carry – your patience with carrying drinks other than water may come down to personal preference, distance, and how much other gear you have with you.

3. Food. So much food:
Food breaks can be fun and rewarding. It isn’t uncommon for meltdowns to happen on long walks, and unhappy hikers can be distracted by cereals, crackers, dried and fresh fruit, and softer nuts like cashews that can be easily broken up. If your little one is old enough to recognize checkpoints or to understand time/distance intervals, snack breaks can be used as motivation. While we don’t advocate using food itself as a primary reward (let’s keep our relationship with food healthy!), some parents restrict certain fun foods to the trail to encourage healthier physical activity. Sugar-free gummy worms or coconut chips are a healthier alternative to higher-calorie snacks.

4. Tools for exploring:
The types of tools that you’ll want to pack will depend on the type of topography that you’ll encounter. Is the ground sandy and soft? Maybe a bucket and shovel are your best allies. Expecting a field of flowers? Perhaps other curiosities may be found along the way. Containers for safekeeping will prevent them from being crushed and wilted in small fingers. Make sure you keep some pockets free for the extraordinary rocks that just HAVE to follow you home.

5. Day pack:
Plan for the day ahead! It might be a good idea to pack a carrier, even if you are confident that your little one can walk the trail alone. A blanket (with plastic backing to guard against wet terrain) is nice for sitting. Does any of your food require spoons? Maybe a spray bottle to keep cool? Should you bring diapers, or perhaps tissue paper for the trail? As much as we would all prefer to wait until convenient bathrooms appear, it might be advisable to pack some toilet paper to prevent the “trail tragedies” that might come from being ill-equipped.

6. Weather-appropriate clothing:
Hiking shoes or boots for you both are recommended and are preferable to open-toed shoes or sandals. Dressing in layers is recommended for adult hikers as well as for younger ones. Layers can come off or on as the person/environment warms and cools, and this adaptability helps with comfort and endurance. Also, long sleeves and pants can help to ward off insects without having to resort to repellents and can offer protection from the sun. Brimmed hats help to keep sun off faces and necks for both you and your little one, although we’ll forewarn you about wearing a hat with a wide brim in the back if you have a child in a back carrier – this is a fast way to a cranky passenger.

7. Sunscreen:
We probably don’t have to tell you that it is advisable to keep babies younger than 6 months old out of the sun, or to use sunscreen (sparingly) if that is not possible. Kid-friendly sunscreens exist and are less irritating if your little one should get some in his or her eyes.

8. Bug repellent:
Saskatchewan contains beautiful wildlife. Unfortunately, its insect life isn’t always so beautiful. Mosquitos can be unrelenting, and ticks can be unwelcome hitchhikers on little legs. The additional concern is that ticks can carry diseases. Clothing may be the best protection against bugs if they are not bad. Kid-safe repellents are always an option too, although there have been concerns with repellents with high DEET concentrations. It is important also to make sure that hands and eyes are avoided.

What to do on the trail:

1. Stay positive:
The whole point of getting out into nature is to have fun! Praise, encouragement, and a positive attitude go a long way in keeping both of your spirits high and in making your trail hike a bonding experience. The fresh air, lovely scenery, lush flora, and sunshine are not to be taken for granted these days. This IS your chance to stop and smell the flowers!

2. Weather-watch:
In this land of living skies, the weather can turn on a dime! Checking the forecast the day before (and even the day of!) the hike can mean the difference between success and sorry. You won’t be caught unprepared if you’re forewarned, and you’ll know if you can sit and wait out this little drizzle, or if it is the signal to pack up and head back.

3. Keep your expectations in check:
How far your child can wander, curiosity, and tolerance to the elements will depend on how old they are. Your own stamina and your child’s will largely determine the rest, although there are other considerations. Are you using a carrier? Are you or your little one used to the carrier, or will the extra weight or confinement be distressing to either of you?

4. Rest often:
Breaking often might be frustrating for seasoned hikers, but it’s important to remember everyone’s limitations. It’s tempting to forge ahead but accommodating for little legs and small attention spans means that breaks to rest and refuel will be frequent. Goal-directed hiking is a good way to proceed with toddlers and encouraging them to check out the scenery ahead might be a great way to set achievable objectives before giving them a chance to rest.

5. Play games:
Educational and fun games help to pass the time and can distract cranky kids from their distress. Sit down beforehand with a book of local bugs and flora so that you can recognize them together with your tyke. Sing songs, play chase, and tell stories along the trail to keep children interested in the activity of hiking. If you encounter stairs or fenceposts, you can practice counting. Bodies of water can never have too many rocks skipped into them, or objects floated downriver.

6. Explore!
Toddlers get fidgety and cranky when they haven’t been moving around enough. If your passenger is fussing in his or her carrier, you might try letting them wander for a bit to see if that is the remedy. Letting them walk until they are tired enough to need carrying again may be the way to avoid fussiness. Kids love to collect, dig, explore, and learn in a hands-on environment. Collecting and exploring is a great way for them to connect with nature and to enjoy the sensations and smells of the trail.

We hope that this list contains some advice that will help you prep for your trail hike with your toddler and that will make it more fun for both of you. Remember, it is your job to do all the planning and to bring all the gear! Our final piece of advice is to check and double check your packing before your leave. Make a list and make sure that you remember all items. Have a great time on Saskatchewan’s trails!

Summer researcher position available

The Saskatchewan Trails Association (STA) is seeking to hire an enthusiastic summer student who is passionate about the outdoors and has a strong research skillset. The successful candidate will be serving as the lead on a research project called the State of Saskatchewan Trails Report. The project will help the STA determine what the current states of trails are in the province, identify existing gaps and develop potential solutions.

Those who apply for the position should have the ability to manage a project with numerous moving parts. Duties will include developing and distributing a couple of surveys. One will be geared toward those who own, operate and maintain trails. Another will be used to obtain information from a user’s perspective to determine if our province’s trails meet current and future needs. The project will also involve conducting key informant interviews with STA key stakeholders to review their current situation and future direction. A final aspect of this research is to review how our provincial trail association compares with other provincial associations.

To be successful in this position, a number of skills are required. The candidate should be extremely well-organized. They will need to gather large quantities of data, document it appropriately and interpret this data to write a report. Strong interpersonal skills are also important, as the student will be collaborating directly and indirectly with many different recreation groups. The student should therefore have an outgoing personality and be comfortable around people. The student should also be able to communicate their findings clearly in a written document.

The STA loves working with students who are passionate about trails. In your cover letter, please talk about your love for the outdoors and the ways in which you enjoy exploring our province’s trail network. Please submit your resume to info@sasktrails.ca.

A new old trail

Trail enthusiast Russ Hodgins has made many trips to Pasqua Lake over the years, but on March 31 he discovered a new trail and a new adventure. Learn more in this guest blog post.

Maybe I don’t get out enough but there is something special about finding a trail you have never been on before and exploring new country. Last weekend, I took advantage of the fact that winter has extended into spring and headed off across the lake ice at my wife’s family cabin. The norm for this time of year would be slushy snow, mud and wet feet but the minus-18 temperature made for solid footing on top of the crusty snow. The plan was to explore along the far shoreline and turn around when I got tired. Snowmobile tracks heading off the lake were calling to me so I followed to see where it might take me and was rewarded with a trail that ran parallel to the lake, just inside the tree line. I wasn’t sure who had built it but had the feeling it may have been used at one time for trail rides with horses. After a scenic mile through the forest with beautiful lake views, I came out onto a hay field and for fun, followed the snowmobile trail along the edge of the field.

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It turned out to be a good decision as a short time later, the snowmobile tracks forked with one heading up into a side valley. This led to almost two more miles of exploration, following an old road in a side valley that climbed to the top fields. I imagined I was taking the same laboured steps as horse drawn hay wagons doing the climb in the days before motorized traffic. The trail made good use of the topography, following a route with more gentle climbs and when the valley split, the trail followed the left fork. I was high enough now to get a great all around view of the area with the beaver ponds in the bottom and the country behind me from where I started this adventure. It all has me wanting to return in the other seasons of the year for a different perspective.

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This was on the return trip. Just as nice a view with the bonus of being gravity assisted!

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AGM held over the weekend

Trail builders, administrators and enthusiasts braved the snow-covered streets and made their way to our AGM on Saturday, March 24 in Regina.

Some great conversations took place about issues affecting the trail and outdoor recreation community.

Following the AGM, the new STA executive team is:

President – Saul Lipton
Vice President – David Powell
Treasurer – Sharon Elder
Secretary – Ryan Goolevitch

Newly elected board members include:

Russ Hodgins
Paul Cutting
Trish German

Returning board members include:

Alan Otterbein
John Meed
Curt Schroeder
Pat Rediger (Administrator, Ex-Officio Member
Joe Milligan (Ex-Officio Member)
Andrew Exelby (Ex-Officio Member)

The STA would like to express its gratitude to the following board members who are stepping down:

Margaret Moran
Dean Cattel
Natalie Letts

Thanks for your dedication to improving Saskatchewan’s trail system.

If you didn’t attend the AGM, check out our 2017 STA Annual Report to get up-to-date on our activities over the past year and our goals for the future.

During our AGM, attendees were treated to three diverse presentations, covering everything from trail building to planning family adventures.

Let’s Build a Trail – Joe Milligan, Recreation/Interpretive Specialist, Ministry of Parks, Culture and Sport

JoeJoe said that trails are more about building an experience than creating a straight line from point A to B. He discussed the guiding principles that the Ministry reviews when making trail decisions in provincial parks. There are numerous elements the Ministry considers in developing a positive experience for users such as design, environment and safety. When planning and building trails the Ministry has several considerations but the main concern is that they want to give life to that piece of land. He noted there are various building manuals available and the Ministry has a list of criteria it uses before hiring contractors such as the type of equipment they use, the resumes of people involved, etc. Signage is important especially at the trailheads before people begin their treks. Once trails are created it is important to control weeds. Other issues that can emerge are keeping dogs under control while other users are on the trail; keeping cattle off the trail as they can do considerable damage to surface; ensuring proper sized culverts have been used, and water management. Once the trail is completed you need to make sure your trail is special and consider how it is marketed. You may want to consider races and special events to encourage people to use the trail. The Maah Daah Hey trail in North Dakota is a good example of how a trail can be marketed.

Trail Outings: Fun for the Whole Family – Paul Cutting, Travel Blogger http://www.cuttingintoadventure.com

Paul and his wife CaPaulmbri have been avid hikers for many years and operate the blog cuttingintodadventure, which documents many of their trail experiences. When they had a baby they needed to change the way they approached hikes and he shared his insights. Hikes now require much more planning and more supplies are required, but there are still opportunities to have outstanding hikes. He suggested that you pack more water, diaper change pad, diapers, treats, change of clothes, potty and hand sanitizer. He also purchased new gear such as a backpack carrier and chariot. Hikes should be planned with the child’s schedule in mind – if he or she takes afternoon naps, then plan your excursion for the morning. Usually 1.5 to 2 km long hikes are good for kids. Sometimes adding games like hide and seek make it more enjoyable for kids. Taking hikes with toddlers is important because it promotes an active physical lifestyle to kids and can lead to life-long memories.

Fat Tire Trails – Jeff Hehn, Fatlanders Fat Tire Brigade

JeffJeff made a presentation on the fat tire trails they are developing in Saskatoon (the group received a $1,000 grant from STA to assist this project). Their trail project is called St. Barbe (formerly Man of the Trees). Jeff noted that the popularity of fat tire bikes has been on the increase and there are more groomed trails available nation-wide. This is the first groomed fat bike trail in Saskatchewan. The Fatlanders started in 2014 with 50 members and has now increased to 75 members. They offer a variety of club rides to encourage people to try fat bikes. The club has been working with the city and Meewasin Valley Authority on the fat bike trail and has created several km of trail this year. The club uses Trail Forks as a mapping tool for their trail.

STA 2017 Annual Report Now Available

The STA has released its 2017 Annual Report. Click here to view it.

It was a busy year for the STA. We increased the level of funding through our Members Grant program, created a new on-line trail directory so trail enthusiasts could research trails in their area, introduced a new Trail Ambassador program to recognize people who have shared their trail experiences and we created our first-ever trail photo contest. The STA provided educational sessions for members and the general public on trail insurance and openstreet mapping.

2017 STA Annual Report

STA Releases AGM Agenda

The STA has finalized the presenters and agenda for its 2018 AGM, which is scheduled for Saturday, March 24, from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the George Bothwell Library in the Southland Mall in Regina (2965 Gordon Rd). Check out the posters below or click here to view a PDF.

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STA announces recipients of Member Grant funding

STA logo high res cmykThe Saskatchewan Trails Association (STA) is pleased to announce that the Fatlanders Fat Tire Brigade, Timber Trail Sno Riders Snowmobile Club and Whiteswan Snow Hawks Snowmobile Club are the latest recipients of funding through the STA Member Grant program.

Through the program, grants of up to $1,000 for building new trails or undergoing maintenance projects such as updating maps, fixing signs, purchasing maintenance tools or adding GPS capabilities are available to STA members through an application process. The grants are reviewed by a volunteer committee.

“We are pleased to fund these worthy projects that will help to strengthen the trail network in Saskatchewan,” said STA President Saul Lipton. “This year’s funding will assist with new trails being built and existing trails undergoing much-needed renovation, while also help with the development of a new winter sport that’s generating widespread interest in our province.”

Fatlanders Fat Tire Brigade is receiving $1,000 to support their Winter Fat Bike Groomed Trail Network. Fat bikes are off-road bicycles with oversized tires that are designed for low ground pressure to allow riding on soft, unstable terrain such as snow, sand, bogs and mud. The group has been working with the City of Saskatoon and the Meewasin Valley Authority to establish a winter fat bike specific groomed trail network “Man of the Trees Winter Trail Network” in an abandoned tree farm at the edge of the city limits.

The STA is giving Timber Trail Sno Riders Snowmobile Club $500 toward the upkeep of their trail in Big River. Whiteswan Snow Hawks Snowmobile Club is also receiving $500. The group is looking to build a trail to be used by ATVs and snowmobiles running from East Trout Lake to Little Bear Lake. STA Member Grants are handed out annually.

The next application deadline is Dec. 31, 2018. Further information on STA funding programs is available at http://sasktrails.ca/trail-builders/#funding.

STA AGM is the ultimate networking event to discuss trails and outdoor recreational activities

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We’re excited to reveal more details about the STA AGM, which is scheduled for Saturday, March 24, from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the George Bothwell Library in Regina (2965 Gordon Rd).

This is a can’t-miss event that attracts a diverse group of people who are passionate about Saskatchewan’s trail network. While we reflect on the year that was for the STA and our diverse membership base, we also look to the future and discuss ways in which we can continue to improve the trail system in the province.

You will hear from trail administrators who are working tirelessly to maintain their trails and provide recreational opportunities for the public. You will meet the trailblazers who are doing incredible work to promote trails and physical activity. You will learn more about the national trail movement and how our province fits into the picture.

The AGM features a fantastic group of presenters and there’s also an opportunity for interested persons to step forward and join our volunteer board of directors. Whether you’re part of a trail group or just love the outdoors, we’d love to see you at the 2018 STA AGM.

Featuring great presentations…

Let’s Build a Trail – Joe Milligan, Recreation/Interpretive Specialist, Ministry of Parks, Culture and Sport
Saskatchewan has thousands of kilometres of trails that can be used for snowmobiling, ATV’ing, hiking, cross-country skiing, cycling, backpacking, walking and paddling. Volunteers play a vital role in the initiating, building and maintaining the province’s diverse trail network. This session will provide an overview of the process involved in creating the vison for a trail, from the construction to the necessity of volunteers to the celebrations that follow during the grand opening.

Trail Outings: Fun for the Whole Family – Paul & Cambri Cutting, Travel Bloggers http://www.cuttingintoadventure.com
Paul & Cambri Cutting love to explore Saskatchewan’s trail network with their young daughter Vaeanna. As a young family in southern Saskatchewan that is always busy, the Cuttings have found that going on trail outings are a great way to stay active and spend quality time as a family. On the family’s blog they share their love of the outdoors, tales of their authentic adventures and tips they learn along the way. In this presentation, you’ll learn about how they plan great trail adventures that involve a toddler.

2018 AGM AGENDA

10:30 a.m.

Welcome from STA President Saul Lipton
Member Roundtable
Presentation by Joe Milligan of the Ministry of Parks, Culture and Sport on the trail building process
Presentation by Paul & Cambri Cutting on planning great trail adventures that involve a toddler

12 p.m. Lunch
(on your own)

12:45 p.m. Call to Order
Review of the Previous Meeting Minutes
Business Arising From the Minutes
President’s Report
Approval of Financial Statements
Approval of Auditor
Bylaw Amendments
Resolutions
Board of Directors Election
New Business
Adjournment

The holiday trail

A guest post by Russ Hodgins

Christmas day of 2017 was a cold one outside the walls of the cabin full of relatives. The temperature inside was quite pleasant while outside, it was a balmy -31 Celsius. Add the ever present wind of the sunny south, it felt more like -42.

One of the perks of this cabin is the number of trails just a short dash out the back door that climb up and down the hills and through the trees, something most don’t envision when talking about the south. As the turkey cooked, the sun was shining and the trails were calling. A wise person once said “there is no bad weather for running, just bad clothing”, so after piling on the layers and covering as much exposed skin as I could, I was off.Russ H Jan 1

I stopped for a photo to document the insanity, and while the sunglasses seemed like a great idea at the time, they instantly fogged up and were quickly stowed away. The tree cover blocked the majority of the wind and I was quite comfortable in my many layers. With the snow less than ankle deep, the running was easy (relatively speaking) as the sun lit up the country around me.

On a long uphill, some ATV, snowmobile and boot tracks came in from a side trail so I assumed someone had been out the day before. Then, coming around a bend in the trail, I came up behind two kids on a mini snowmobile with dad walking behind, keeping the parade moving. The fourth member of their family was up ahead on the side by side ATV with one dog running and the other comfortably perched on the front seat. We had a short visit, but it was keep moving to keep warm so I passed them and carried on, happy that others were sharing the trail on a less than ideal day.

The next downhill brought more company, this time in the form of a whitetail deer who had been bedded in the sun a short distance off the trail. He was feeling the cold far more than I and had no warm cabin to return to. As such, he was in no hurry to move but simply stood and was watching me. As I didn’t want him to bolt and burn off much needed energy, I did the running and hurried off so he could relax.

The daylight was disappearing but I managed to explore one more trail that took me out onto an open field where a snowy owl took flight from the tree top.

The run ended back at the cabin as the sun was setting with no regrets and a lot of fun had on the trails.

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