3 Hot Drinks to Pack on a Cold Day

This winter has been the coldest and snowiest in about 30 years in BC.

I am a Quebec girl and I was raised with snow banks four times my height, 4-5 snow days every winter and temperatures colder than below 20 as the norm.

That being said, I have lived in more temperate climates for almost half of my lifetime by now and therefore I am completely de-acclimatised to cold. Cold has been bothering so much this year that I had to turn down a few days of skiing earlier this winter, and believe me, this was though.

For once, I was also quite happy to be working an office job and sip a warm cup of tea at my desk while my husband was working on the mountain as a ski patrol all day by 35 below plus windchill index.

Every morning however, in addition to packing high-calory food to bring him energy and warmth throughout the day, I would see him religiously prepare a hot concoction of some sort to put in his thermos.

There are a thing or two that I learned over the years about hydration, exercise and cold weather (and that I confirmed through a few reliable sources referenced below).

The first important thing is that we don’t feel the thirst as much when it’s cold; and the thought of a cold drink is less than appealing, which makes most of us drink less.

However, dehydration also occurs in cold weather from three mechanisms: perspiration, urination and the vapour exhaled from the lungs. As we climb in elevation, the air gets drier and the loss of vapour is even more rapid. Dehydration in cold weather would reduce the blood flow into the fingers and feet, causing this pain and discomfort and eventually leading to frost bites.

The second thing is that caffeine is a diuretic and contributes to dehydration which means tea and coffee must be avoided when adventuring outdoors during any season.

Sodium also contributes to dehydration and is contained in high quantity in most commercial energy drinks. Although some sodium is necessary to help balance the level of electrolytes in the blood during high intensity – high perspiration activity, it should be consumed in moderation. The human metabolism needs more water to balance the level of sodium in the blood which causes an even worst feeling of thirst and accelerates dehydration.

Needless to say that alcohol, although providing a “feeling” of warmth, is the enemy #1 in cold temperatures. With the effect of bringing more blood to the surface of the skin and the extremities through dilation of blood vessels, alcohol is more likely to speed up hypothermia than provide a positive warming effect in the long run. Moreover, it anhililates one’s ability to sense and feel cold and proactively work toward warming the body up. We’ve heard more than one stories about some guys drunk on “Caribou”, a house-made alcoholic drink drank from a red hollow cane, being found frozen on a snow bank the morning following an epic Carnaval night…

Finally, sugar contained in drinks shouldn’t be of more than 10% of the content for optimal hydration, which transfers to no more than 2 table spoons per liter of liquid. Most commercial energy drink also present a higher concentration in sugar then necessary.

Mug of hot-chocolate in the snow
Hot & Steamy credit: pixabay

I must say that I find my husband’s favourite recipe delicious, hot & spicy and so comforting that I decided to steal it from him to write this post. Some spices such as turmeric, ginger root and hot peppers are known to provide instant warming and increase blood circulation and I love the idea of incorporating them (moderately !) into a drink. I have named his recipe  “Honey’s Hot & Spicy Tea”.

I am also sharing two other hot drinks recipe that I like, just for the sake of changing it up once in a while or for the ones who don’t quite enjoy the heat of cayenne and prefer sweeter tasting options. Here we go.

Mug with hot tea on a wooden railing

Useful tip: I usually like to heat up the thermos bottle first by letting some boiling water sit in it with the lid closed while I prepare the drink. It keeps the beverage warmer throughout a cold day.

For a  500 ml thermos bottle

Honey’s Hot & Spicy Tea

2 cups boiling water
1 lemon – juiced
2 tbsp fresh ginger root – grated
1 pinch ground cayenne pepper
1 tbsp raw honey
1 pinch sea salt

Anti-inflammatory Hot Choc

1 cup milk (Cow’s, soy, almond…)- heated
1 cup boiling water
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tbsp raw honey
1 pinch sea salt

Hot Apple-Maple Cider

1 cup natural apple juice – heated
1 cup boiling water
2 tbsp Real Quebec Maple Syrup
1 pinch sea salt

Finally, don’t forget to drink even if you’re not thirsty. Drink up! Do you happen to have some good hot drink recipes?

Some good reads on exercice, hydration and nutrition in cold weather:

Abigail Meisel, Stay Hydrated in Cold Weather, Summit Medical Group, Feb. 2016, http://www.summitmedicalgroup.com
Dr Felicia Stoler, 8 Tips for Hydrating in Cold Weather, http://www.active.com
Odile Dumais, La Gastronomie en Plein Air, Québec – Amérique, 1999
Dr Michel Batard, Sports de Montagne et Nutrition, Editions Artulen, 1993

Two and a Half Paddlers in the Valhalla Kingdom

There is just no word to describe BC’s Valhalla Provincial Park. The granite spires of the Devils range stand proud and tall over the forest-covered & rolling hills, steep talus, pristine alpine meadows, glacier-fed lakes and deep unpopulated valleys.

With only a few access points up endless kilometres of rough forest service roads, this little enclave in the majestic Selkirk mountains has little to no amenities to serve its adventurous visitors.  It’s most iconic mountain, Mt. Gimli is slowly starting to get more attention from climbers and hikers escaping from the crowds. At its base, a rustic camping site and no other amenities. Most of the year, one can count more white fluffy mountain goats then humans there.

The “Valhalla” are, if not a heaven for warriors killed at war, as suggested in the Norse mythology, a real Eldorado for alpine climbing, with certainly many firsts yet to be completed.

Mt Gimli Valhalla
Mount Gimli and the classical South Ridge route during our first visit to the Park in 2011

From those high peaks and the thin remnants of ancient glaciers flows pure water, into raging creeks, down thick and impenetrable forest, into steep thalweg, down high drops creating impressive waterfalls and, finally, into the deep turquoise of Slocan Lake. The West side of Lake, as the locals refer to it; the wild side of this 40-kilometre long lake.

If the mineral world up high is inhospitable to the living, down below, by the lake, plants & creatures thrive. Crystal water, home to thousands of fish, bushes fat and heavy with berries and other delicacies to the animal reign.

The quietness and the beauty are not quite disturbed by the few motorboats circling around on hot summer afternoons. Not yet….but certainly soon.

The lake is calling. A canoe is the perfect vessel to explore it. At the marina in Silverton, one of the few settlements on the East side of the lake, we get ready for our 3-day paddle. Filled with food, a shelter, some clothes, our canoe is ready for its passengers. The lake is renowned for unexpected weather changes and wind gusts. We would like to get across quickly.

Absolute cuteness moment in this stunning nature

But only after a few strides, the charm operates. We all relax and tune ourselves to the lake’s pace.

For us, humble mountaineers, being on the water is unusual, but not completely foreign. For now we enjoy letting the canoe carry our heavy load…and our 15-kg 3-year old. Some have had the same brilliant idea…we are not the only family with small children on the water.

My crew in its new environment

We soon reach the wild side and the first sandy beach where we enjoy our first of many daily swims. Inviting beaches are plentiful which makes it easy to find the privacy we want to lay in the sun and enjoy our the moment in peace. For those who prefer, company is also easy to find in July and August.

There, far from any distraction, quality family time just happens

We set up our first camp next to the freezing cold Nemo creek, directly on the sand. Tent pads, food cache, fire rings and an outhouse are also available a few metres away in the forest, sheltered from the wind. The evening is beautiful and warm. After a late afternoon swim, we enjoy a simple and tasty meal together, make a fire and roast some marshmallows.

Our home for the night

The next morning, after a restful night and a polar bear dip in the creek, we enjoy a hearty breakfast before exploring the land around us. A good trail is set along the creek and we are able to observe the waterfalls. The moss on the ground, the trees and the oversized ferns really add something magical to this surreal nature. We don’t hike the whole trail as we don’t have our child carrier…and the lake awaits.

Just soaking it all up

That day we paddle, slowly but steadily, sometimes in silence, sometimes to the sound of our own songs and laughter. Our daughter sleeps in a small cave we made in the canoe with thermarests. She rests, recharges her batteries. We paddle in peace and avoid stopping not to wake her up. The sun is hot but the cool of the lake tempers the air and makes it very comfortable. The heat must be almost unbearable ashore, we think.

A restful nap, gently rocked by the motion of the boat and steady sound of the paddles diving in the water

We reach Evans creek by the middle of the afternoon and set up camp for our second night. Two young guys have already set camp near us on the beach. Later, around the campfire, we learn that they’ve been traversing the park by its ridgeline for over a week. They are two 23-year old local twin brothers. Evans Creek is their finish point and their father is picking them up with his power boat. “They have been fishing and hunting in the area since they were kids”, say their dad. There are no climbers, per say…but certainly hardcore adventurers…They ask us about climbing, what gear we use, how heavy our pack is when we climb and such.

They tell us that around Lake Beatrice, the bush was so thick and they were so tired they built a raft to cross the lake as they didn’t want to bushwack their way around it…Their mom sent their dad to pick them up with bacon, eggs and potatoes that they eat with a lot of appetite. Their appetite for food certainly equals their appetite for adventure.

That night, as we get ready to go to sleep, a huge thunderstorm hits us. Our little one is so tired from her day of swimming and being outdoors in the sun, she drifts off to sleep while the wind gusts shake our small tent and the thunder rages around us…

On the second morning, we feel we now have our camping routine well established. It doesn’t take us long to be all packed up and ready to go. Too bad this is our last day. We are really enjoying the simplicity of living with only what our canoe contains.

Slocan City, our final destination, is only a few kilometres away. We know we can reach it in very little time. Eva still finds the opportunity to have one last restful nap in the canoe. On the way, we take time to make a swim stop, jump off rocks and make the delight and pleasure of this trip last a little longer.

Water so clear we can see the texture of the lake’s bottom

In the Valhalla Kingdom we will be back, by land. On this lake we will be back, as it is the perfect summer journey to enjoy with the family and certainly how we like to experience lake life.