Showing posts from February, 2014

At the Murray Street rink again

By happy chance, my parents live just a short walk away from the Murray Street Park rink in Orillia. After discovering it for Great Skate #9, it has become familiar territory.

I was able to skate there twice this month. The first time, my mother joined me. I have photos to prove it.

I thought mum was very brave to try skating again after many years off the ice. She was dismayed at how unsteady she felt, but made it to one side of the rink and back again.

I was impressed. Mum was not. "I can't believe it, I thought it would be like riding a bike." (The question arises, when was the last time mum was on a bike?)

The next weekend, the entire family was up for a visit. We headed to the rink on Sunday morning, fired up about Canada's gold-medal men's hockey game.

This time my dad was brave enough to put his skates on. No photographic evidence this time, but he made it about as far - and felt just as unsteady - as my mum did the previous weekend. The lesson here, I th…

Great Skate #25 - Washago Rink (Simcoe County)

After the disappointment of Great Skate #24, my dad and I headed up Highway 11 to Washago, on the north end of Lake Couchiching.

This tiny town has a skating rink that's pretty close to the platonic ideal. It restored my faith in small community rinks.

Surrounded by boards (and snow drifts), the rink has easy access to the warmth (and washrooms) of the community centre next door. A picnic table surrounded by rubber mats makes it easy to change into and out of your skates. The ice was in decent shape, a bit rough but certainly skateworthy.

The rink is big enough to accommodate a hockey game, which means there's lots of room for kids to play shinny while other skaters do laps and practice their glides. There were about a dozen people there when we arrived, and more coming on when we left.

I was hoping my dad would join me on this rink, but he changed his mind.

Maybe I shouldn't have made fun of his skates. (If mine are vintage, his look like antiques.)

Great Skate #24 - Couchiching Beach Park (Orillia)

Last Saturday I was at the Couchiching Beach Park skating rink in Orillia. It was the first time the Great Skate Project visited a rink that was actually on a lake. Unfortunately, it was a disappointment.

The weather was perfect - brilliant blue skies, lots of sunshine, crisp cold temperatures and no wind. It hadn’t snowed for a few weeks, but the landscape was still transformed by the snow that had fallen, drifted and been piled up earlier this winter. 
According to the City of Orillia website, the rink’s ice condition is “dependent on ice thickness.” That’s impressively obvious yet vague. “Not good” would have been a more accurate description.
The rink is a very big rectangle near the marina. The easiest access point is from the boat launch ramp, about 20 feet from the rink. 
When my dad and I got to the rink, there were just a few people there. The deepest snow had been cleared from the ice previously but there was still a thick layer of frost on the surface. Two guys had brought t…

Cold winters, now and then

Last winter I spent a lot of time wishing it was colder. Mild weather made the ice mushy, and I idealized the frosty conditions that would lead to a perfect rink.

This winter I got what I wished for. The ice rinks have been in excellent shape. But just getting home from work without hypothermia seemed like a triumph some days. (I exaggerate, but not by much.) Summoning the energy to leave my cosy house to voluntarily spend time in arctic weather was daunting. I wondered if I should start a new blog called the Great Hibernation Project.

Now the days are getting lighter and the cold snap is easing. My Great Skate adventure isn't over yet! This weekend, I'll be looking for a new rink to skate on in Orillia.

Until then, here are some photos of my grandmother, taken when she was in her late teens, enjoying a frosty day of skating in North Bay. (I miss you, Grandma!)

This snapshot was taken in 1941.

There's no date on this photo. Love the mittens!

The last two photos are both fr…

Great Skate #23 - Orchard Park

When people talk about outdoor rinks in Toronto, they are usually talking about the 53 artificial ice rinks operated by the city, plus the ones at Harbourfront and the Brickworks.

But there's another whole category of outdoor rinks in Toronto - the ones I call neighbourhood rinks. Unlisted on the city website, maintained by volunteers and completely dependent on the weather conditions, these natural ice rinks feel like secret spaces. You learn about them from people who live nearby, or by stumbling across them when you take a shortcut through a park. Or, when your five-year-old niece gets invited to a skating party and excitedly tells you about the rink afterward.
That's how I learned about the rink at Orchard Park (near Dundas and Coxwell). I checked it out on January 26.
The rink was empty when I arrived at noon, but the ice was clean and smooth. I sat on a nearby picnic bench to put on my skates. As I was lacing up, a woman passing by said "There's a skating party …