Wintertime and Early Spring Hiking

While the rest of the world is still stuck indoors, or has headed inside to curl up by a fire, the hiker with a bit of fortitude has been out for months, and seen a magical world of ice crystals and falling snow that is incomparable to anything you might see in the summer time.

Granted, the walking isn’t always easy and the time span to cover the same amount of time is a little longer.. well scratch that I suppose.. it could be as much as double, but what you get back makes it worth your extra time and effort. As you can see by some of the photos I’ve snapped on my winter hiking forays, the world outside in the wintertime is nothing short of magic.

Word to the wise: Dress in layers.. carry a walking stick or a ski pole, take a cell phone or walkie talkie in case you run into trouble and make sure someone knows where you’re going to be hiking or climbing if you’re going alone. Take some water, matches or a lighter and something high energy to snack on. Its fun and I recommend it, but its also got its down side.

Coming from Pennsylvania, my first experience as a winter hiker took place there and was in fact an accident. We’re not only hikers, we’re hunters and as such, the deer hunt usually takes place in the snow, or at least frigid temperatures.

My first successful hunt took place when I was 18. Let me back up and explain. We’re a family of walkers. Hunting deer doesn’t mean that we sit in a comfy tree stand and wait for someone to come to us. It means we walk, for literally miles until we find a deer crossing that looks promising and then we take a seat at the base of a tree and wait. If we don’t see what we’re looking for, we move on to another promising place.

Having found that promising place, I was seated when a buck of a fairly good size and a promising spread presented himself in front of me. Without accounting for the brush in between, I lifted, sighted and fired. He fell, stood, bounded about twenty steps, fell again and stood up and left.  I was shattered. First because it was a pride thing, and I didn’t like to miss. Second because he was injured and we weren’t allowed to come home til we’d found him and lastly, because it was cold, I was tired and I didn’t honestly feel like spending half a day tracking.

He was leaving a good blood trail on about two inches of new snow, so the tracking wasn’t hard, but with the underbrush covered, it wasn’t easy walking. Still as I looked around, saw the ice crystals sparkling on the tree tops, and  the new snow stretched over trees and underbrush for miles around me, and the complete silence of the Pennsylvania forest broken only by the occasional call of some bird or a scolding squirrel, the walking got to be a lot more fun and interesting.

Eventually I found the deer, an hour later. Of course, he’d walked down to the bottom of a ravine about twelve feet deep and had to be brought up, but I’d also found a new hobby that grew and evolved into winter hiking, winter camping and a whole lot more. Now I hike wintertime with a camera in hand. The wildlife are gorgeous when framed in a pristine snowfall, the world is quiet and usually, there aren’t too many people on that trail or in the woods so you’ve largely got the place to yourself.

Don’t let the cold or a snowfall keep you inside. The things you’re missing will absolutely amaze you and make you wish  you’d tackled that hill in the winter time a long time ago.

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