“It is the full midwinter, the season of snow, ear-tingling cold, and skies into whose blue the earth reflects back its own intensity of light. It is not heat but light which is returning to the world, and so glittering is the morning air and so cloudless the sky that the sun rolls up over the eastern woods like a sudden miracle of radiant gold, borrowing no red from the lower atmosphere.
No sound is more characteristic of this leafless time than the cries of blue jays from the nearer woods and the trees and buildings of the farm. Again and again, when I am busy out of doors, I hear that single screaming call across the wilderness of snow. I hear it just as the austere shadows of winter are coming to life with the sunrise. I hear it, and hear it answered, through the bright hollow of high noon. There is as yet no touch of spring in the note; it is the familiar harsh call and nothing more. Yet… it is music, for it means that life in the air, daring, vigorous, and even jocular, is sharing the winter with us.”
-- Henry Beston, Especially Maine (The Stephen Greene Press, 1970)
* * * * *
As I’ve commented on over the years, winter is a problematic season for many people. Complaints about winter weather and cold temps are pretty widespread.
When it comes to hikers, we see a curious split in attitudes. Some people who have hiked with us for years wouldn’t think of doing a winter hike. Every year, in late fall, some hikers bid farewell for a few months and say “see you in the spring!”
Yet we also have an enthusiastic group who absolutely love winter hiking, who frequently rave about the beauty of the snow and the wonderful fresh cold air.
[To be complete, there's also a 3rd group of hikers who may not be passionate about winter but who aren't going to forego the pleasures of hiking just because it may be cold].
Personally, I somewhat understand the attitudes of those who find the cold intimidating, and who resist getting up early to head outside on a nippy day.
Some of us do feel a moment of resistance when we arise on a cold, dark morning. But if we’ve hiked in winter before, we know that a host of rewards await us.
Hiking is an exhilarating experience more often than not, regardless of the season. As someone who hikes an average of 3 times a week, I can’t imagine foregoing that pleasure for even one week, much less a period of several months each year.
Most people obviously aren’t as committed to hiking as I am, yet often tell me how terrific they feel during and after a hike. Many of you know what I mean.
We recently had a long stretch of frigid weather extending from late December through the first week of January, capped by near-record-breaking cold on 1/6-7.
Those were our first two hikes of the year – and yes, we did go, of course, in spite of the cold. Yes, we were super-bundled-up. And yes, everyone was just fine!
By that Sunday evening I had received several e-mail messages that included the following excerpts: “Today’s hike: 5 thumbs up.” “So glad I did this amazing hike.” “Thanks for a gorgeous day.” “Great hike… thank you…”
Those of you who are convinced that you hate the cold maybe can’t imagine what would cause people to send messages like those. And if you’re fine with the idea of doing mostly indoor activities for several months, that’s probably the way to go.
But I also know that lots of people struggle with Winter Blues each year. If that might be you, I’d suggest seeing if you can learn to “make friends with winter.”
One way is to learn how to dress for the cold (including LOTS of extra layers). And consider joining us on some hikes to see if that boosts your spirits. I’m willing to virtually guarantee it will! If you have any questions, call me at (845)357-3380.
Of course, we recently had a bout of spring-like weather, and temps may be returning to the 40s again next weekend -- making it easier to be outdoors, and reminding us that spring awaits us in the not-so-distant future (about 9 weeks from now, in fact...)
-- Charlie Cook