In a city renowned for its trails, Whitehorse has several informal walking groups to help us connect socially – and stay fit mentally and physically – all year-round.
Most Sundays and sometimes Wednesdays, Peter Long and his partner, Wynne Krangle, plan “Blue Moon” hikes with a group of friends and “anyone willing to join us.”
The walks (Long uses “hikes” and “walks” interchangeably) began on a “blue moon” five years ago.
“Most people don’t want to hike alone, either for safety or because they don’t know local trails,” Krangle said.
Using an informal mailing-list of more than 100 people, Krangle sends out details of upcoming hikes mid-week.
“On average two to seven people will show up, depending on the weather and route,” Long said. One sunny September afternoon saw 23 hikers enjoy the trails connecting the hospital with Long Lake.
Many routes are easy and chosen for their scenic views. Others, like the still-under-construction Grey Mountain’s Summit Dream Trail, “are also fun for their exercise value,” Long said.
Dogs are welcome if they’re under control.
Long sometimes leads walks with the Elder Active Recreation Group on Tuesday afternoons (twice weekly in summer). He plans routes that reduce falling hazards, with easy-to-follow maps.
“A few walkers are over 80,” explained Long. “They’re my role models because I want to be that active at 80, too!”
Long won’t engage in the politics of motorized versus non-motorized trail use, but does press the City to consider walking routes in trail and neighbourhood plans.
His comprehensive website WhitehorseWalks.com offers information on “almost 100” local walks.
Long is always updating and mapping newly-discovered trails, preferring “loop” routes for his site. A recent Blue Moon hike explored Crestview’s trails.
“It’s the Wilderness City – we have the start of an awesome network of trails,” he says.
Whitehorse resident Susan Gleason started the private Facebook group Happy Hikers Yukon to connect with “like-minded” people who want to hike. The all-ages group helps its 117 members organize trail hikes, and encourages car-pooling to trailheads.
For a faster pace, there’s the Whitehorse Walkers. Formed 15 years ago, the women’s group meets Saturday mornings at 10 a.m. for two-hour speed-walks, starting from the Visitor Information Centre. The “out and back” routes usually cover 10-12 kms along Schwatka, Long Lake or Grey Mountain roads, followed by a leisurely lunch.
The group has helped launch some accomplished race walkers and teams, but itself is not competitive.
Ella LeGresley, a former fast walker, also organizes an informal group of mostly women day-hikers. They head out Mondays and Fridays on various trails around Whitehorse, and sometimes Carcross (“for the coffee”).
And Hospice Yukon offers walking sessions on the Millennium Trail during the spring and fall for those who have lost loved ones or beloved pets. “We know that nature heals,” said program manager Barb Evans-Ehricht. “And people feel better when they are not alone in their grief.”
Friendship, camaraderie and good conversation keep many groups walking.
“It helps get us through life’s ‘rough patches,’” observed Ruth Hall, who hikes with Whitehorse Walkers.
The year-round groups are informal, inclusive and welcome new members, though a certain level of fitness is needed to sustain faster or tougher walks.
Interested walkers should consider if they’re physically ready and able before joining those tougher walks advised Long, but added, “We’re not going to leave anybody alone out there, either.”
“You know where we are, each Saturday,” said Tanya Astika, of Whitehorse Walkers.
Or why not start your own group? Someone is sure to walk with you.