I am - among many things - a lover of winter. I love wearing layers and lacing up tall boots, glistening fresh snowflakes on the trail, sliding on snow and sipping hot drinks while wearing mittens and fleece caps and the weight of a warm, heavy blanket fighting off the cold at night.
No, this isn’t a swipe left or right ad, this is a hey, winter ain’t so bad story!
Winter changes the landscape and can change our outdoor experiences. It takes a familiar trail and transforms it into a new experience. But I also understand that this time of year, after enduring a couple months of overcast skies and damp, chill-you-to-the-bone, below-freezing temps can really start to wear on a person.
I’ve spent long winters out west and seemingly longer ones in the east searching for opportunities to stay active; anything to keep my body and mind functioning at an acceptable level. But we can’t accomplish it by waking up in the morning and sulking at the less than ideal temps or the all too familiar rain on snow events. No! We accomplish it by shifting our mindset and finding the silver lining - even if the patchwork grey is all we can see.
I’ve spent a lot of winters exploring outdoors spaces across the mid-Atlantic. And in the years spent trudging through anything from knee-deep snow to ankle deep mud, I’ve learned that sometimes it helps to have a few tricks in your back pocket to help motivate and survive the season.
I’m sure you are all well aware of the fact that the days are short this time of year. With only 9 hours of daylight (compared to ~15 in June), you “gotta get it while the gettin’s good”, as they say. Regardless of who “they” is, I think they’re right. Plan the night before and start your day early. I like to get to our destination before noon to ensure sufficient daylight hours for the activity.
Help others help you by holding you accountable. Earlier this season, I made plans to hike with friends. It was the only day the three of us could get away for a few hours and that morning, rain was in the forecast. If I was going alone, I would have bailed. But, because I made a commitment to others, I didn’t. Sometimes, it helps to make plans with a friend and even family to ensure you stay active - especially during a time of year that can easily convince you to reschedule.
As a mom, I write about trail treats...a lot. They postpone my kids’ meltdowns and fuel them through the final stretch of some activities. And while it’s not necessarily a “motivator”, yummy (and nutrient-rich, if you’re willing!) foods and tasty, warm beverages can transform a lackluster cold day outdoors into a memorable one. While it’s the simple pleasures of hot coffee en route to the trailhead or a crisp apple snack break after an uphill ride this time of year that can really motivate me, I have also brought thermoses of hot cocoa and pocket-fulls of dried mango to share with others.
Sharing good foods and beverage treats can boost morale, add to the experience and if the weather is less than idea, get our minds off the negative with a positive while creating some great memories. I have learned my favorite foods (and beverages) become part of the memory of an outdoor experience. What did you eat for dinner on your first backpacking trip? What’s your go-to meal after a long ride? What beverage is in the cooler waiting for you after a hard hike? What we eat and drink can really become part of the adventure.
My husband loves to fat bike in the snow, and I do too! However, my husband also loves to fat bike in any other winter condition, including ice. Me? Not so much. When that hard pack gains an ice layer, I would prefer to stay home. But, for instance, if I stayed home rather than join for an early January ride, I would have missed out on seeing herds of deer and experiencing the incredible crinkle-crack of a previously undisturbed path. Sometimes doing what you don’t think you want to do in a season you’re not always motivated in can have some incredible outcomes - like lots of smiles!
by Ryan Michelle Scavo, Outdoorswoman & Adventure Mama. Instagram: @Ryoutside
copyright Purple Lizard Maps 2021
I held my breath with each up and down, stopping every so often to let out some tears. The creek was rushing and beautiful this morning. The sun was bright, the sky was clear, and the temperature was perfect. Approaching the finish, I couldn’t hold back the tears anymore. Before the last climb, I took one more glance at the water and smelled the pine that surrounded me. I will always belong out here. The forest took care of me this week, I will forever be thankful.