Sure there’s a staunch group of diehard outdoor enthusiasts disbursed throughout the world that don’t mind the cold weather, But most folks take the winter off – in terms of outdoor activities in colder climates.
Truth be told: this is perfect hiking weather.
Cold. Quiet. Covered in snow. It’s a real hell of a time to wander in your wonder. The perfect time to reflect and plan the next few steps in life…
Are you ready to get on with it? Good! Leave the concept of time behind. Dress warm. Open your mind and be prepared to experience something different and soulfully rewarding!
There’s very little on the trees and those familiar vivid colors you may have just experienced a few weeks ago have been usurped by base grey and stark white.
Here and there you’ll catch those autumn hues in a Beech leaf, but for the most part you’re left with a blank canvas to create the path of your journey.
And of course, living in New England, you’ll be graced with paths of verdant conifers that remind you that life goes on even in the biting cold..
But, how to you see the trail?
Well that’s even easier than before – look for the break in the lines of trees, or for patterns in the way the trees ebb and flow. Generally speaking, in heavily wooded areas, trails follow the natural path of trees. So, you may not see the trail on the ground, but you’ll see it’s shadow in the tree line.
If you’re down for a bigger adventure, follow the footprints of the residents of the woods – deer, rabbit, fox, and even bear – all of whom will have all been wicked active last night and early this morning. They’ll lead you where you need to go (but, remember: it won’t be on the trail – it will be on theirs).
Pro Tip: no need to change up your gear selection, but pack your water inside your pack and keep it close to you back. Pack and extra sweatshirt or mid layer to insulate the inside of the pack and keep things in there warm. They’ll keep you warm later.
Bring a fatty or high carb snack, and possibly a tin of bourbon. You will get cold – and these things will fill your tank with energy and warmth. If you don’t drink, hot cocoa in an insulated vessel will do the trick.
A good walking stick and an added traction contraption on your boots are a great addition. If the snow is deeper than 6”, snowshoes could really change your game. But! The downside to snowshoes is that they hate rocks and mud – so keep that in mind when traversing this new and wild landscape.
Keep in mind that you may be sharing space with hunters – so wear something out of the ordinary – orange, red – something that pops. Hell, bring the right rifle and you too may bag something proper for a good stew – just make sure to follow the seasons and guidelines in your state.
Also! Depending on how dedicated you are to this plan – bring a little bag with you to collect tinder for a fire. Everyone thinks that just because you’re in the woods that you can stop anywhere and start a fire, and get fuel for that fire. That’s not always so – especially in the snow. You need small, dry stuff to get a spark to keep. Then, once you get that tinder bundle up and running, you can be a little less picky and grab some dead fall around the area.
Remember to start small and go bigger, in terms of the size of material you’re putting on that fire. Avoid leaves, and be sure to save some water – or gather some snow – to put that fire out when you’re done. Though it’s less common in this cold, snowy environment, you can still start a forest fire. #leavenotrace
Another tip – from me to you – would be to mind your endurance levels. If you can usually do 5 miles on the trail, plan for 2 1/2. If you’ve got to really stomp through the snow – either bring snowshoes – or plan in less mileage. You’re exerting more energy in temperatures where your body is going to fatigue quicker.
Keep it slow and steady and absorb what’s around you. The great thing about walking in a winter wonderland is that you will notice things that aren’t white and grey, easier. Cardinals are abundant right now and are a wonderful juxtaposition.
Winter weather hiking is rewarding but less popular amongst the common folk. It’s completely different than any other time of year. Head out there and catch the sun, feel the wind, and find yourself. We can all use a little self-reflection under normal circumstances, but in 2020, the more instances the better.