Sharing her passion for nature and our winter wonderland

November 2022

A few weeks ago, I had an interesting conversation with a stranger. The warm weather we were enjoying in the early fall had changed and a bitter north wind was making the day cold, wet and miserable.

“Looks like winter is just around the corner,” I said. “Yes, looks like I’m going to have to hibernate,” he replied. I laughed. But then I gave him a serious look. “Really?” I asked.

He then went onto explain that he hated the cold, the snow and all of those things that were winter, and even though some of his friends went out snowshoeing and skiing, he never had the inkling to set out into the bush and see what nature had to offer in the barren months.

“You should try it,” I suggested. “You may like it.”

Our conversation was interrupted, but later that day, I thought about how there seems to be two kinds of people in Thunder Bay: those who embrace winter and those who hibernate.
My thoughts then turned to last winter, when I went for a snowshoe with a new friend who introduced me to a whole new way of thinking about this snowy season.

Leanne Coderre took me on quite the adventure that day, leading the way with her 20+ lb. pack, breaking trail through 2-and 3-foot drifts, pausing to take a photo or two, then trudging on, with me following, as the distance between us slowly, but surely, increased.

I could not be outdone by someone seven years older than me. I picked up my pace and hoped she would stop several more times to take photos so I could catch up. Argh.

Leanne has been snowshoeing and skiing the winter trails for eons.

“I’ve always liked the outdoors, and growing up in Kakabeka was the perfect place to enjoy nature. My mom always encouraged us to get outside, and never stopped us from doing anything. I guess I have a lot of my mom in me,” she laughs.

Last winter Leanne trekked to 34 different lakes, heading out 4 to 5 times a week, averaging about 10 to 15 kms per trip. “If the sun is shining, I gotta get out there – no matter what!”

Using Google Earth, My Backroads Maps book, a Stock Lake book, and her Strava app, Leanne sets out on her adventures well prepared. She has three pack sacks ready, depending on whatever length and intensity her journey may be, filled with everything from a thermos of tea and homemade soup and snacks, to rope, a tarp, and extra mitts and socks.

“I love my tea and bush picnic!” she says with a grin. “I set out my tarp, then my meal, and just sit back and enjoy the scenery. I really feel at peace in the wilderness, and it’s like a little reward for the long trek, but also for getting through the day and all of its responsibilities.”

And then there’s the photos.

Each hike, no matter how long or short, Leanne has a camera slung over her neck, ready to take in those “Isn’t that beautiful” moments – and share with those who can’t take the trips with her.

“There are so many beautiful places out here and I like to share them with others. People who can’t get out, live vicariously through me and enjoy my posts on Facebook and Instagram. My posts are always positive and bring a lot of joy to others.”

Leanne’s family shares her passion for nature and knows how to make her special days even more special.

One Mother’s Day, her son joined her on a trek to Aldina Lake. Leanne had tried six times to make it to the lake, but the bush surrounding the lake was too thick and the snow much too wet and deep. “It was a fantastic Mother’s Day gift: spending time with my son, bush whacking, trudging through the deep snow, laughing, and feeling a sense of pride that we had accomplished it – together.”

There’s also stone skipping with her grandson - when a short hike to Whitefish River is rewarded with time spent tossing stones into the water. Just the two of them, and nature. And there’s the boat trips to an island followed by a birthday picnic with her daughters, which are always cherished.

“I don’t need fancy,” Leanne says. “I love being in nature. As soon as I step onto the trail, my body and my mind go “Ahhh” and I relax. The outdoors is my way of coping with life and I feel good when I’m out there. I guess, I’m just me being me.”

And that, dear reader, is a great way to be. So, what’s it going to be? Embrace the winter and all it has to offer, or hibernate? Hmm…

Donna White is an accomplished author and Jubilee Medal winner for her volunteer work with World Vision. Visit her website at

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