I am a winter hiker. That was not always the case. My friend Chuck introduced me to hiking several years back during my local park’s fall hiking spree. I was hooked. Using my northern bicyclist logic, I naturally put my hiking shoes away with my bike at the onset of cold weather.
Some time passed, and I decided to venture out on a hike on a winter day. It was then that I realized winter hiking has a lot to offer. It’s a different experience from fair weather hiking that I would not have known until I set out on that first snowy hike.
- It’s hot!
The most common reason people give for not hiking in the winter is that it is too cold. You would be surprised how warm you get during a winter hike. The best way to protect you from the cold is to dress in layers. Start with a wicking base layer and add a warm shirt, topping it off with a breathable winter parka. Wool socks, insulated gloves and a warm stocking cap keep your feet, hands and head warm. Layering allows you to shed or add layers as needed during the hike.
- It’s sensual!
Winter is a special time in the outdoors. Textures become more visual and interesting without the cover of green on the ground. The starkness of trees captures sunlight and shadows. The sounds of water are amplified as it rushes under ice and over rocks. The crunching of snow under your boots echoes in the silence. It is that silence that heightens your senses. When else can you hear and see your breath.
- It’s fit!
It’s January and most people head off to the gym or step onto their home treadmill. By Groundhog Day, that excitement has waned and they return to the couch. Hiking is much more enjoyable than exercising on a machine while watching the Food Network. Hiking burns calories. A person may burn 300-400 calories/hour at a normal walking pace. A more strenuous hike might burn 400-500+ calories/hour. Getting in the habit of walking an hour daily and venturing out on a longer more strenuous hike can yield very good weight loss and fitness results.
- It’s free!
Health clubs ae costly. You do get a good bit of benefits in terms of state of the art exercise equipment and classes. If that membership fee is not in your budget, hiking is an excellent alterative to get some activity into your life on a small budget. Most people are unaware of the extensive park networks in their area. The variety of hiking and all-purpose trails is ever expanding. Hiking gives you a chance to explore the park systems. Find a new park to visit and a trail to hike. The change in scenery makes hiking an even more enjoyable experience.
- IT’s fun!
Above all hiking is fun. It makes me happy. It can be a social activity and a day out with friends. In my area, there are many meet-up groups for outdoor activities including hiking. My local county, state and national parks have a full calendar of ranger and volunteer led hikes. Many have educational and fun themes. Some include lessons on snowshoeing, geocaching, orienteering or backpacking. There is more to a hike than the miles you put under your boots. The social aspect of hiking is good for your mental state.
Bundle up and put on your hiking boots. Find a local park and trail to explore. Invite a friend to meet you at the trailhead. You are on your way to a winter full of good fit times that only gets better through the year.