I really enjoy winter in Wisconsin and await the first snowfall eagerly like a child waiting for Christmas. I love how the landscape is suddenly altered over night. Plants in the garden that were looking worn out and dead suddenly are given new life. The nocturnal wanderings of wildlife become apparent in the fresh white carpet. The sunshine seems brighter and the sky bluer. Sounds seem to carry further across the landscape, and I cherish the feel of the crisp air against my cheeks.
|Skeletons of echinacea.|
I feel sorry for people who lament the coming of winter and focus only on the problems it can create with shoveling or hazardous driving conditions. If they took the time to get outdoors and open up their senses to the new smells, sounds, sights, and feelings that winter brings with it, maybe they'd dread winter less. Though the trails were laden with prints, I only crossed paths with three other individuals during this particular hike. One couple was at a trail map kiosk looking for the quickest way to the parking lot. The kickoff times of Packer games have a heavy influence on the Sunday schedules of most Wisconsinites--especially playoff games. The third individual was an older gentleman coming down a side trail wearing leather chaps, a hardhat, smoking a cigarillo, and carrying a chainsaw. He quickly informed me that he was cutting snowshoe paths--not coming to cut me into little pieces. That was a relief. Nothing puts a damper on a nice hike like a rampaging chainsaw murderer.
The area of Wisconsin I reside in is known for its hilly topography. The biking portion of the Iron Man actually passes through my community each summer as a result of the challenging peaks and valleys. These peaks and valleys also provide a nice challenge to my hikes, as well as intimidating challenges to those learning to drive their husband's manual transmission pickup. (Don't even get me started on the five roundabouts in town!) The path I chose through the park today provided several steep ascents that got my heart rate elevated and my legs burning. At the top of an open vista, amidst steady clouds of exhales, I mused about the benefits of winter hiking and how people unexposed to this pasttime are really missing out. I wasn't just out for a walk. I was getting in the day's workout, absorbing sunshine for my body's vitamin D production, clearing my mind, relieving stress, and appreciating the nature around me. It felt fantastic!
As the sun began to dip below the canopy, I heard the punctual melody from the church bells on
I'm looking forward to more snowfalls this winter so I can get out the cross country skis and snowshoes I enjoy, but until then I'll keep my boots and gators handy for more winter hikes. There's nothing like the quiet, crisp air and blue shadows falling in the woods to decompress one's mind and open one's thoughts to the smallness of mankind and the grandeur of nature.