I couldn’t believe my luck. On my day off, the weather decided to warm up to the mid 60s. What did I decide to do, go hiking! I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to get outside in the sunshine in the middle of winter. Winter is tough season for me. I thrive in the outdoors and HATE being cold, so you can imagine how I feel being cooped up indoors for months and trying to stay warm. It’s also not good for my waistline–too much sitting, too much eating!
I was smart this time–I wore appropriate footwear–calf length water proof boots. They were a little too warm for the weather, but my feet and legs stayed dry as I sloshed through the mud, melted snow, streams, and left over ice all along the trail.
It had been so long since I hiked miles, up hills, down hills, that my calves are sore today. It’s awesome!
January was a cold one, and I admit, I’ve taken advantage and stayed indoors to hibernate, or really veg on the couch. It’s hard to convince yourself to bundle up in twenty degree weather and go hiking. This last week, the ground has been covered in snow and ice, and as said before, I lack the best footwear for this hikes (until I buy hiking boots with my Christmas REI gift card! So exciting!). But last weekend, I got the opportunity to play in the snow and go cross county skiing! This was my first foray into winter sports and it was a blast. And by blast, I mean, I continued to have fun despite falling down, alot. a.l.o.t.
The drive to trails was boring and full of concrete, until all of a sudden, it wasn’t. As we entered the park, the snow was whiter, fresher, and beautiful. What a transformation! In the warming hut, we rented skis, along with the rest of western PA, and hit the trails. It was hard trying to find a rhythm, and I did my best to keep up with my trail mates Good news, I was at least better than the 4 year old, but otherwise, I was definitely the slowest.
After two hours, you would think I’d be more coordinated and better at managing the skis. I wasn’t. I felt I actually got worse the longer I was out. But it was worth it, because sometimes, I’d be down in the snow, and look around and find myself alone, surrounded by the beautiful quiet forest, completely blanketed in white. If you don’t live in a state with snow, it’s hard to describe the quietness it creates. Even in the city, when it snows, everything is just so….quiet, serene, calm.
I don’t know when it will snow enough again to embark on another winter skiing adventure, but I’m looking forward to it. Not the falling, or the day after soreness, but being surrounded by winter and the quiet I just can’t seem to find at any other time of year.
Although the official first day of winter was this week, amazingly we had a few days where it was in the sixties. How could I not take advantage of the weather and go for a hike? I decided to venture across the border into West Virginia this time, because why limit myself to PA State Parks only?
I left early in the morning, while the fog was still around, making the hike a little chilly and damp, but quiet and dreamy-like all at the same time. On the advice of a ranger, I choose a hike that followed a river. On the way out I was on top of a cliff looking down at the river gorge, but still able to hear the constant running of the water. As I looped around, I got the opportunity to walk even with the river and experience the foggy bottom of the gorge firsthand. Although I felt the hike go by fast, it lasted well over an hour. This to me is a sign of great time spent outdoors. I loved the constant water trickling throughout the entirety of the hike, and being enveloped in the morning mists of the season.
I ran into a little trouble towards the end of the hike, as I couldn’t find the path to cross the river to finish out the trail. I tried to walk along the upper back, but had no footing so I decided to blaze my own bridge and walk across a natural rock crossing. I’m sure I looked like a slapstick comedy routine slipping and sliding, until finally giving up and just walking in the river, getting my shoes, socks and pants sopping wet. Why not? It wasn’t too cold and what’s the harm in getting wet. I drove home in bare feet, but it was fun nonetheless.
This hike was also different for another reason. I actually didn’t want to be alone with my thoughts. As I started the walk I kept thinking back to my dream the night before. It was more like a nightmare, and all I wanted was to forget about it. Unfortunately, my mind was down that path already so when I tried to put it out of my mind other worries and negative thoughts entered my mind. It took the majority of the hike to get my mind clear, but luckily it did. Which, when I think about it, can be the purpose of taking a walk in the woods. To clear the mind and find some peace.