If you ask me if I consider myself a cross-country skier the answer would be yes but it’s complicated. There was a time in my youth when, as a family, we would venture north every weekend through the winter. With backpacks filled with snacks and hot chocolate, we would explore the trails for hours. These are still some of my most cherished memories. As life happens, work, family, new interests… my cross-country skiing was relinquished to just that, memories. So yes I consider myself a cross-country skier, I just don’t get to do it very often. So when I discovered that world class XC skiing can be had just minutes from Sault Ste. Marie, nothing was going to stand in the way of getting back on the skis, not even one of the coldest days of the season.
Day three of our five day Algoma winter adventure and Hiawatha Highlands here we come.
Hiawatha Highlands is a 3,000-acre wilderness preserve located on the edge of Sault Ste. Marie, a combination of park and conservation area it is an outdoor lovers year round slice of heaven. Renowned for its mountain bike, hike, snowshoe and fat bike trails, Hiawatha’s main claim to fame is its home to the 1200 members strong Soo Finnish Nordic Ski Club and the 45 kilometres of groomed cross-country ski trail goodness.
Unlike the season pass holders who can access the trails from a number of locations, for the visitor it all starts at the Kinsmen Centre. Here you will find trail passes, maps, rental gear, lessons and some good old fashion advice. Although our primary objective is cross-country skiing, when at a playground one should play and the promise of frozen waterfalls has us strapping on some snowshoes. There are 14 kilometres of marked snowshoe trails to explore with loop lengths worthy of a quick stroll or a pack your thermos adventure. Did I mention it’s cold, yes the waterfalls were frozen more so than usual due to the recent cold temperatures but the forest with its snow ladened trees and wall to wall white, pure magic.
Back at the Kinsmen Centre with a hot cider in hand, we trade in the snowshoes for skis.
The trails at Hiawatha Highlands are groomed for classic skis and skate skis. The combination of set track and corduroy looks almost too pristine to step on. There is something addictive about the act of cross-country skiing. It goes beyond the soothe the soul setting of a snow-filled forest, beyond the thrill of an on the edge of control downhill turn, it boils down to the very basic action of propelling yourself forward. Do it incorrectly and face frustration, but get it right and your effort is rewarded tenfold with a seemingly effortless glide down the trail. Link it all together and life slows down as you swoosh through the forest.
We have the trails to ourselves; we stop, inhale the cold air and listen to the sound of silence, then push on. Each stride brings back memories.
All that trail time does wonders for your appetite and although a snack and hot drink can be had at the Kinsmen Centre located on site we are in need of some more serious refuelling, breakfast anyone?
It’s 3:30 in the afternoon as we open our menus at The Breakfast Pig, home to the Best Breakfast On The Lake according to Lake Superior Magazine, a just reward for their ‘keep it local’ approach. We are here for lunch which is late enough in the day to qualify as dinner, so breakfast it is. I opt for today’s special, two poached eggs over a generous serving of thick, scrumptious bacon all on top of a heap of mac and cheese large enough to qualify as a meal on its own and, oh yeah, a side of home fries. Delicious absolutely, too much you bet, I’m not typically a doggie bag kinda person but I wasn’t about leave any of this behind. So the breakfast that was lunch, eaten for dinner, ended its day as a late night snack.
Day three of our five day Algoma winter adventure over and out, Hiawatha Highlands, highly anticipated and justly so awesome trails. I still consider myself a cross-country skier and thanks to today’s experience I realize that I need to do it more often.
What’s next on our Algoma winter adventure itinerary? Hint, hint, it involves ice but not skates, stay tuned.
Notes From The Road
Whatever your winter accommodation needs are—be it hotel or a backcountry lodge—Algoma has you covered. For our visit, we set up home base at the Quattro Hotel & Conference Centre. The super comfortable room was no surprise given the Quattro reputation but it’s the amenities the hotel provides, like a complimentary breakfast that is served early so we can hit the trails, a spa, pool, gym to workout the days kinks, access to wifi and a staff that can help you execute your plans or point you towards new experiences, that made our stay so much more enjoyable.
There is a restaurant at Quattro but it was under renovation during our stay. Not a problem there are numerous dining options within walking distance of the hotel.