Wednesday, December 7, 2011

'Tis The Season For Winter Hiking

Photo by OHventures

If you're anything like me, the winter blues hit you hard and fast this time of the year (and it's not even technically winter yet). Save for all of the holiday fun and excitement buzzing around, motivation tends to set as early as the sun does. A lack of daylight hours and warm weather can really make one want to do nothing but curl up by a fireplace wearing a Snuggie and drinking hot cocoa.

But also, if you're anything like me, you would realize that the whole cozying up indoors scenario is for wimps! And you don't want to be a wimp do you?! The cold wintry weather in Ohio is comes year after year whether you like it or not. There's nothing you can do to change that, but you certainly CAN change your gloomy attitude and get your lazy bum outside!

Winter hiking is a relatively new activity in my life. When I was first introduced to the idea of winter hiking I was rather skeptical. I figured I'd just wait until the snow melted before I threw on my hiking boots and busted out the walking stick again. Alas, I just couldn't sit around and do nothing all winter. I was itching for an adventure, and needed a change of scenery - something different than the 4 walls of my office or the inside of the apartment.

So, thanks to the Central Ohio Metro Parks, I started winter hiking...and I fell in love.

The Metro Parks holds a winter hike series each year (the 2012 schedule is out now, so mark your calendars) where they arrange organized hikes at various Metro Parks from Glacier Ridge in Plain City to Chestnut Ridge in Carroll. Staff from the Metro Parks are present to guide you on your hike and provide refreshments such as hot cocoa and bean soup. You also get a card you get a hole punched in for each winter hike you participate in. This is a wonerful and extremely popular program that I give credit to for opening my eyes to the activity of hiking during the "off season."

But you certainly do not need to wait around for an organized winter hike to take place. Take matters into your own hands and venture off into the great white yonder on your own wintertime hiking excursion any day of the week!

Winter Hikes in Ohio are FUN!
Should you choose to embark on a frigid adventure such as this, there are a few things to keep in mind. The most important thing is to map out your hike before you take off. This is especially important in wintertime because there are few hours of sunlight and you do not want to get lost in the cold when night falls. Also, you will want to make sure you are hiking on pre-set paths. Ice and snow can get dangerous, and you do not want to hurt yourself trying to go off the beaten path. Save those types of thrills for springtime. Any of the 10 Great Ohio Hiking Spots I wrote about earlier are fair game, but of course there are dozens - if not hundreds - of other fun hiking locales at your fingertips.

In addition to the regular hiking essentials I wrote about in the past (including a compass, first aid kit, trail mix, etc.) you will want to bring a few extra special items on a winter hike. These include: hand and/or foot warmers, a thermos of hot cocoa or tea, and extra gloves, scarves, socks, and hats. It's also smart to wear sunglasses in case the snow is blinding. And it is especially important to bring (or find) a walking stick so you can check how deep the snow is.

This should go without being said, but DRESS IN LAYERS! Lots of layers! More layers than an onion! Wear thermal underwear, waterproof pants, a fleece sweater, a hat, scarf, waterproof gloves, multiple pairs of socks, and a heavy duty waterproof winter coat (my favorite brand being The North Face of course). Be sure to wear excellent hiking boots as well, such as Carhartt brand.

Follow these tips and you're in for a great winter excursion. And AFTER your stimulating hike, THEN you can treat yourself to a lazy fireside nap!

(Be on the lookout for posts about my winter hiking trips to places like Clearcreek in Rockbridge and Prairie Oaks in Hilliard in the following weeks)

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