An icy wind clawed at my face as I rushed from the car to the water’s edge. I was glad of the layers of clothes I had on, including two pairs of gloves. Through the blizzard my eyes searched for the spectacular sight I had waited to see for many years, but I could only see a tiny section of water immediately in front of me. The falling snow obliterated the rest. This was not the first sight of Niagara Falls I had hoped for.
The previous week I had arrived in Canada on holiday with my husband Neill to visit his relatives for Easter. We couldn’t have been made more welcome or had a better time, but one thing took us by surprise. The weather! It was supposedly spring, but no one had told that to Mother Nature as she threw snow storms and freezing winds our way. Toronto was experiencing its coldest April EVER! Luckily, we’d packed enough warm clothing to cope with even the chilliest of days. You’ll find the low down on what I wore later in this post, but first let’s set the scene.
Our adventures started in Sudbury, some 240 miles north of Toronto, staying with Neill’s brother Terry and his wife Maggie, who have a gorgeous house by a lake. From there, we got the bus heading west to Sault Ste. Marie, to stay with Maggie’s sister for a few days. She took us on a one-day road trip north to Wawa on the TransCanada highway, stopping here and there to photograph the stunning views across a frozen Lake Superior.
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We also visited Gilbertson’s maple farm on St Joseph Island to see the trees being tapped. Lunch in their restaurant started my addiction to Canadian French toast and bacon drizzled in maple syrup. St Joseph is a picturesque island I’d love to explore more one day. It looked enchanting under a coating of snow.
above and below: St Joseph Island, Ontario
above: Carolyn’s Kettle, the traditional way to make maple syrup
above and below: Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada. We were hoping for a little snow. We got snow!
The next day our return trip to Sudbury was delayed as a blizzard closed the roads, but the weather cleared by the following morning and we arrived heavily laden with home-cooked pies in time for lunch on Easter Sunday. With about a dozen or so relatives gathered around one large table, we enjoyed a fabulous Easter feast!
The weather, however, hadn’t finished misbehaving. While on one day the temperatures dropped as low as -20 °C, at other times the sun shone in a clear blue sky as we hiked across frozen lakes, walked and snowshoed through the woods.
From Sudbury we drove down to Toronto and had a great time exploring the city, making the most of the excellent food and drink scene there. The weather was still bitterly cold.
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We planned a day trip from Toronto to Niagara Falls and Niagara on the Lake. This was the furthest south we went, and we had expected warmer weather, but were deeply disappointed when a blizzard denied us a view of the falls. Undeterred, we jumped back in the car and drove to Niagara on the Lake.
above: A pint of Silversmith’s Black Lager at the Olde Angel Inn, Niagara on the Lake
By the time we got to Niagara on the Lake the sun was out and the temperature was rising. We spent a lovely couple of hours here. It’s a charming town, but we didn’t stay long as we wanted to get back to the falls. This time the weather played ball. It was fascinating to watch the falls plunging into the frozen river and to see the strange ice sculptures that had formed. A frozen Niagara Falls is pretty spectacular.
And so our two weeks in Canada came to an end. We said our goodbyes and headed home, with our heads full of a great many happy memories, not least the fabulous new Canadian friends and family I now have. I can’t wait to see them all again someday. The plan is to return next autumn to see a different side of Canada.
What to wear in Canada in the spring
Spring weather in Canada can vary greatly from one year to the next and depends very much on where in Canada you are and whether it’s early or late in the season. I’ve been swimming in the sea in June in temperatures in the high twenties and I’ve been caught in a blizzard in April with temperatures way below freezing.
When we had packed for this holiday we really hadn’t anticipated such extremes in weather, but my Rohan gear didn’t let me down. On chillier days, with my Stria Top as a base layer, my Troggings Jacket as a middle layer and the waterproof Elite Jacket as the outer layer, I kept warm and dry even out in the blizzard. My waterproof Dry Roamers trousers proved invaluable for walking in the deep snow and, with base layer leggings underneath, kept my legs warm and dry. On warmer days out in the sunshine, I had to strip off my two jackets, but they were so light and packed up so small that they were no trouble to carry.
I was most impressed by the Elite Jacket. It’s so very versatile. Not only was it great in the below-zero temperatures of Canada, I found it perfect for a downpour on the tropical Rodrigues Island in the Indian Ocean. The Stria Top also came in handy when snorkelling in Rodrigues, as it offers UV protection.
As Rohan’s website states, there’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing. I couldn’t agree more.
Coping with Raynaud’s Syndrome in cold weather
I suffer from a phenomenon called Raynaud’s, where my blood vessels overreact to a change in temperature and narrow, affecting circulation. It mostly affects my hands in cold weather. My fingers turn white and feel numb. When it’s at its worst I completely lose any sensation in my fingers and can’t pick anything up. It can be very painful. Even walking down the frozen food aisle in the supermarket can trigger it off.
In very cold weather one pair of gloves is not enough so I wear two. Rohan’s Weather System Gloves are the perfect for anyone suffering from Raynaud’s syndrome. I wear the lightweight Control gloves with touchscreen fingertips, under a pair of Winter Waterproof wadded gloves. Together they keep my hands lovely and warm. If I need to use my phone or camera, I can take off the outer pair and leave on the inner gloves so my hands are still protected as I surf the net or take a photograph. I can then put the outer gloves back on before my hands get too cold. The Control gloves also have a textured print on the palm, which improves their grip. I’ve found they’re ideal for driving in the UK in winter.
Gift your gear with Rohan
Twice a year Rohan partner with Gift your Gear so you can send your unwanted outdoor clothing on a new adventure. And it doesn’t have to be Rohan clothes. They’ll accept any brand, it just needs to be in a usable condition. To say thank you, you’ll receive 15% off your next Rohan purchase.
The clothes and equipment you donate will be passed on to UK community organisations, youth groups and charities working with young people in the outdoors. Gift your gear was founded by Sarah Howcroft (one of the original founders of Rohan). Such an excellent idea.
I’ve lost a lot of weight over the last couple of years, thanks to a healthier lifestyle and diet (maple syrup aside), so yesterday I popped along to my nearest Rohan store in Chichester and donated trousers and a winter jacket that I had once worn in Arctic Norway but were now far too big for me. I’m sure someone will find them very useful.
Rohan are accepting donations up until the end of September in any of their 57 shops across the UK. You can find your nearest store here. Give your unused and unwanted outdoor clothes a new lease of life.
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-20 °C is definitely chilly! I’m expecting similar temps in Lapland in January so the clothing tips are very handy – especially the two gloves trick, I always get such cold hands so this would be perfect.
Wearing two gloves has been a god send on numerous occasions. The right clothes are so important and can make the difference between a terrible experience and a fabulous one. Likewise with foot wear!
I could’ve done with more versatile clothing on many trips (not only Canada), there are at least a couple of Rohan items I’d consider for the future – especially the trousers, which are challenging for me to get right.
It such an excellent range. I wish I’d discovered them years ago.
‘There is no such thing as bad weather, only inadequate clothing’ (Capt. Helly Hansen)
Thanks Keith! I’ve also found it (or very similar) attributed to Alfred Wainwright, the British fell walker and guide book author.