Winter Solstice Hike
The woods and trails near me can be crowded most weekends. A lot people like to hike, walk, hunt or otherwise wander through the woods and solitude in the forest can be difficult to find, unless, it’s a cold winter morning and three days before Christmas.
The woods and trails near me can be crowded most weekends. A lot people like to hike, walk, hunt or otherwise wander through the woods and solitude in the forest can be difficult to find, unless, it’s a cold winter morning and three days before Christmas. It seems then, all those others, are off to the mall, getting an Amazon fix or simply waiting for spring. Its not that I don’t like people, ok, I’m not a huge fan of humanity but I do like some people. In fact, I even have a few friends, you know who you are. I generally try to avoid the masses so I have to admit to being happy to find mine was the only vehicle at the trailhead.
The woods in the summer can seem claustrophobic. Sight distance is limited, there’s a canopy overhead allowing only a few shafts of light to penetrate, rays sneaking through the columns of tree trunks. On a hot summer’s day it can feel like the forest is following you, as if tentacles are reaching out to grab you as you go by. Winter, though, is different. You can see past the thin, gray branches to the hill beyond. The blindfold of leaves has been removed and you can see how the landscape has been folded and bent like sheets thrown back on a bed. This isn’t the western view of miles and miles, but it can still be measured in a hundred, maybe two hundred yards. If a hiker takes the time to look, they can see the tumble of boulders, the cliff face with its deep crevices hiding secrets and even the remains of someone’s search for iron. Be careful where you step. It might seem like you are first one here but these woods have been cut and bruised for centuries.
The winter woods are mostly silent, no buzzing of bugs, no rustling of leaves overhead, and, this day, even the leaves below are damp so there is no crunching as you walk. The wind in the trees sounds different in the winter, the brushing of leaves has turned to the clicking of sticks fighting against each other.
This day, the silence was broken by the cry of a wood pecker and the warning shout of a squirrel who seemed to feel the need to let all of nature know I was slinking through his territory. Other than those two, though, it seemed like the animals of the forest had gone, maybe moved south for the winter? I don’t think deer do that. I have been over this particular hill many times in the past few months, sitting, waiting statue-still for the buck I know is here to come by. I know he’s around, he leaves his mark to tease me. He’s still there, smarter in the forest than I.
The best part of the winter hike is the cold. Not the dangerous cold that might keep even a hardened hiker indoors, but the regular winter cold. The air is thinner than the hot, humid air of summer. It’s cleaner. The wind on your neck is chilly, the sweat on you back just a little cold. Its time for that hot chocolate and home-made granola bar.
I like winter.
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