There is snow on the ground; get on the trail!

There is snow on the ground; get on the trail!

#52hikechallenge2018 Week 6

Winter beauty on the Appalachian Trail in winter

I do not consider myself a lover of winter weather.  My body gets cold easily, so if I am not actively moving or covered in heavy sweaters and cozy blankets, I am rather miserable.  Why, then, do I hike in the snow?  The first almost obvious answer is that I like hiking more than I dislike the cold weather.  The thought of missing out on my weekly “reboot” session is enough to motivate me to layer up in warm clothes, don a hat and gloves, and brave the chilly temperatures.

The second reason is that if my pack of pups don’t get some serious weekend exercise, the rest of the household will suffer from their hyperactive shenannigans.  I also get great enjoyment from watching them run, jump and play on the trails.  I especially like when they push their snouts into the snow like a plow, covering their faces with white masks.


Reason number 3 is that hiking on slippery surfaces or in deep snow increases the exercise intensity. My leg and core muscles work harder to keep my body stable. The deeper the snow, the more resistance against my legs, so both my heart and lower body muscles work harder and I get a better workout.

The main reason that I hike all year round is that I have a deep love, respect and appreciation of the great outdoors.  No matter the season, hiking is peaceful.  But in the winter, it seems far more serene and tranquil. The birds are absent and most other animals are hibernating, therefore we don’t hear chirping, singing or the shuffling of animals throughout the brush.  Snow on the ground seems to insulate the earth from sound.  The crunch of boots on the ice-crusted snow, the heavy breathing of our dogs and the occasional drop of a tree branch is all that I hear.  Often the trail is void of footprints, reinforcing my feeling of solitude.  The lack of foliage on the trees provides a clear view through the forest and from overlooks.  The white snow brightens the trail and is a beautiful contrast to the stark brown tree trunks.  The silence and the pure beauty is what pulls me to the trails even on the coldest of wintery days.

The downed trees on the AT can block the trail
In winter, tree branches often cover the trail.  Use caution when tying to avoid the trees.

 

To keep winter hiking fun, take precautions to stay safe.

  • Wear appropriate winter clothing.  Wear layers so that you can easily adapt to your temperature level.  Always have a hat and gloves and something to protect your neck.
  • If you are walking a distance that will keep you outside for more than 2 hours, carry a backpack with water, first aid supplies and additional warm clothing such as a face mask.  I also carry hand and toe warmer packs just in case I have an emergency and need fast warmth.
  • Recognize the signs of hypothermia: uncontrollable shivering, mental confusion, slurred speech and exhaustion.  Know  first aid steps.  CDC Winter Weather Safety  
  • Most trails are not maintained by parks or organizations over the winter, so use caution while hiking.  Often there are downed trees and large branches due to wind and heavy snow or ice breaking off dead limbs.  If possible, move the branch to the side so that others can pass by more easily, too.  If you need to go around, be cautious that there is solid ground off of the trail.
  • Winter trails can be slippery, so use caution while walking.  Wear winter boots or shoes that provide warmth and good traction.  To prevent falls, slow your pace if an area is extremely icy.
  • Often trails intersect with streams or run along ponds and small lakes.  Do not attempt to walk on an ice covered body of water, as the ice could be too thin to hold your body weight.  Also keep dogs away from these areas as well.
  • If you are hiking with dogs, be aware that the ice can cut the pads of your pets’ feet.  Carry pet first aid supplies in case of injury and take time to monitor your pet along the route.

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Where we hiked during week 6:

Download the pdf map

Alltrails map

 

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