Monday, January 27, 2014

A Snowy Winter Hike

Hey everyone! This winter has proved to be a real winter so far, unlike the past couple of years. I know many are probably longing for the warmth of Summer and everything that comes with it, but personally I love the winter. Yes, it has been a tad colder than what I would prefer (walking to class with a windchill of -16 was surely interesting), but I've definitely enjoyed this winter so far. As I write this (January 27th, 2014), another Arctic vortex is making its way into the state, bringing temperatures that could hit as low as -30 with the windchill.

This past Saturday, however, I headed up to The Ridges to do some hiking in the snow-filled forests. Most of Ohio had experienced a snow storm Friday night into Saturday morning, and Athens received around 4-5 inches from what I saw.

I began my hike on part of the Nature Trail. I was not the first person on the trail that day, as multiple footprints showed many others had hiked around the area since dawn.

I soon found a pristine trail that no one had traveled that morning. Well, at least I use it as a trail. I think it's a pipeline-right-of-way and not technically an official trail, but construction crews had cut a pathway through the brush and trees this past Summer and I've been using it as a trail ever since.

The Pipeline Trail, at least that's what I call it, eventually leads to this broad and long opening. In the summer it's a massive grass field, but as you can see now the grass is gone (they actually cut it short in late Autumn) and it has become one giant snow field. As you know, animals leave prints in snow, which in turn allows you to see travel patterns. In this instance, all the tracks were confined to the edges of the forest. This makes sense; no animal wants to be exposed out in the middle of the field with no cover. Not one set of tracks could be found crossing the field.

Following the field, you end up on the Radar Hill Trail, which cuts perpendicularly across the field. I followed that trail to its namesake. This shot was taken atop Radar Hill. Snow covered foothills can be seen a couple miles away in the background. While I was hanging out on top of the hill, admiring the sights, some snow moved into the area...

...And within a few minutes I was in the middle of a snow squall. Look familiar? This photo was taken in the same place facing the same way as the previous one. With the whiteout conditions, the hills faded into oblivion, and even the trees almost faded completely.

After a few minutes of enjoying the serenity and isolation that the snow squall brought, I began heading back down the trail. The snow continued. The wind howled mercilessly, whipping the falling snow into swirling vortexes. It was truly amazing to be in. I learned a side-effect of being in a snow squall like this is looking like a snowman when it's all over!

Eventually the snow stopped as the sun began its way toward the horizon. The last leg of the hiking trip took me through a snow-blanketed forest with Dark-Eyed Juncos, Carolina Chickadees, and Tufted Titmice foraging all around me.

Honestly, I'm starting to really love Winter hiking, a lot. I've never done it really until this year, and it's very enjoyable if you prepare correctly. I actually overdressed on this trip and had to take my coat off because I was too hot, even though it was in the teens with windchills even lower. The key is layers; not just one thick, heavy layer, but many lighter, smaller layers. For example, I was wearing a base-layer long sleeve shirt, a short sleeve shirt, a sweater, and then an insulated flannel jacket along with two layers of active-wear long underwear with a water-resistant pair of sweatpants which I tucked into my boots. As for footwear, I wore two socks (a regular pair and a wool/synthetic pair) and water-proof Goretex boots. This kept my feet warm and dry, and the rest of my body was warm as well. Plus, if you get hot while wearing multiple thin layers, you can always take them off accordingly until you're at a perfect temperature. Wearing only one big layer prevents this; you either wear it and sweat, which is dangerous, or you take it off and freeze, which is dangerous. So, LAYERS!

2 comments:

  1. Great post! This is the first year that we have done much winter hiking too, and we've really enjoyed it. Loved the whiteout photos--must have been quite an experience!

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