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Wonderful World of Winter

by: Ice Man

I know there are a lot of haters out there so I want to set the record straight. The best time to go for a hike is when it’s cold. In most cases, the colder and the more snow the better. Sure there are exceptions; I’ve struggled to sleep at negative 20 degrees, or labored through five feet of fresh snow before. But my most active months for local trips are always January and February.

Let’s compare the draw backs of the seasons. Summer hiking you are constantly sweating, constantly wet, getting swarmed by mosquitoes, nervous to step on a snake, your tent feels like an oven in the morning, and the trails get too crowded to find a campsite. Winter, you need a heavier coat. Boom! See, no contest. In all seriousness, let’s talk about the positive attributes of a winter hike. For me, I love the solitude! The trails are way more secluded in the winter and the harsher the conditions, the less likely you are to see someone else. The views are spectacular in winter and completely different than what you see in the summer. The leaves have fallen and ridges have more open views, the landscape has a sparkle as the sun hits the snow, and giant icicles rest over cliff lines and waterfalls. Fresh animal tracks are easy to spot and as the ground cover thins out even spotting wildlife is a bit easier. You know what else changes in the winter? Your diet. It’s like a freezer out there, bring ice cream if you want, carry out more meats or cheeses, what ever your hearts desire.

Worried about staying warm? That’s the easy part. It is way easier to regulate your temperature when it is cold outside and ideally you barely break a sweat. With a little layering 101 there are plenty of tips to maintaining a balanced temperature. A popular quote when backpacking is “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear.” This quote is typically applied to a nasty rainstorm but applies to winter weather as well. There is not a challenge that you cannot be prepared for.

New adventures await when you build confidence in cold environments. Perhaps you can set your sights on some light mountaineering, snow shoeing, skiing, or ice climbing next. If the avoidance of itching a sunburned mosquito bite on the back of your neck while sweating on top of your sleeping bag isn’t convincing enough, I’m not sure what will be. I’ll be tucked into my puffy down sleeping bag, a warm belly of hot chocolate, catching some z’s.

So what is there to fear? Come by our next cold weather presentation for tips or stop by and see any of us winter walkers at RRT. Get geared up with the right equipment and hit the trails. Oh, and all this winter gear I’ve accumulated also means I’m the warmest person scraping my car in the morning.