Hiking through the South Slave

From left, Tom Makepeace, Phuc-Vo, Marina Marshall, and Nancy Makepeace trek across a clearing on Jan. 12. They are part of a hiking club seeking to get people more active in the winter and more engaged with their surroundings. Photo courtesy of Kim Rapati

From left, Tom Makepeace, Phuc-Vo, Marina Marshall, and Nancy Makepeace trek across a clearing on Jan. 12. They are part of a hiking club seeking to get people more active in the winter and more engaged with their surroundings.
Photo courtesy of Kim Rapati

While walking the trails alone is always an option for most Hay River residents, a new hiking group in town provides the opportunity to socialize at the same time.

Ecology North and Nancy Makepeace have teamed up to revive a walking and hiking club that began two seasons ago. The organizers want to encourage people to get active during the coldest months of the year, as well as gain a greater understanding of their natural surroundings. They meet every week 1:00 pm. at the Sunday Winter Market at Ecole Boreale and decide where to go from there.

“We wanted to get people together in the winter and to explore some of the lesser known trails,” said Ecology North’s Kim Rapati. “The options are infinite and it’s so much nicer to hike here in the winter. There are no bugs and you can go a lot more places because everything is frozen over.”

Rapati said that although hikes in November and December drew three or four participants each, she is hoping word will spread and the popularity of the club will grow. While she enjoys the hikes themselves, Rapati said the group also fits with Ecology North’s mandate of trying to get residents if the Northwest Territories engaged with their natural surroundings.

“In my view, you can’t protect it or conserve it unless you know about it,” she said. “Ecology North started with people in Yellowknife just noticing things about where they lived, and it’s really important to get reconnected with nature. You have to get out there and experience it.”

Rapati said that while she wants the club to encourage people to be better stewards of the land, she also sees the more mundane potential for a sort of user group that could then lobby for the upkeep of trails and perhaps even the extension of their network in town.

Nancy Makepeace said she planned to lead hikers through what she called the Porcupine Trail, that leads from Mount Aven Campgrounds all the way back into New Town, and that the Oxbow is always a popular option.

“We went to Sandy Lake once as a bit of an outing,” she said, adding that she would also like to organize a larger trip to Fort Smith.

Makepeace said the hikes are tailored to whomever turns out for the day, and that by nature, the going is easy.

“We just don’t have much in the way of hills here,” she said. “Everything is flat so it makes for pretty easy hiking.”

The club is also looking to perhaps grow into an all-around outdoor club in order to continue activities into the summer, including hiking and canoeing. But for now, they will brave the cold weather.

“We’d like to encourage everyone to come out,” Makepeace said. “It’s a beautiful time of year to hike.”

-Sarah Ladik