How To Have The Best Winter Hikes

Matthew Krauss, Columnist •

The groundhog may have popped out and told us winter has six more weeks, but that doesn’t mean you should let his advice alter your plans when it comes to winter hiking. Winter may feel like its outstayed its welcome this point of the year and since going to some tropical beach may not be feasible (not to mention your friends, professors and project mates may not appreciate it) its best to shake the winter blues somewhere more locally.

The best way to make sure your winter hike is a success is knowing your terrain well. Is the area slick from snow, sleet or muddy from recent rains? These are the important considerations to keep in mind when finding trails that are navigable and while also keeping warm from the elements. Basically, you can never be too thorough in the planning stages.

If hiking near streams, it’s best not to plan your trip just after a recent snowstorm if the temperature has just warmed up because the streams may be too high for crossing. If you didn’t plan ahead, meeting such obstacles would force you to return home. If you had done research then you’d know about side trails, which lead to other great adventures. When stuck in a tight spot thinking of any kind, but especially in a clear manner, is not the easiest and you would otherwise miss out from great opportunities just because you didn’t know they existed.

However a word of caution to the picky hiker; no trail is perfect especially after winter weather. Expect recent storms to have knocked branches into the trail or moss and rocky patches to slow down your progress. Encounters with rough weather also happen frequently ,especially when hiking with a group, and though the temptation is to turn back or cancel the trip, having a good group of people to hike with can make the trip well worth.

I learned all of this advice on this last Sunday’s Outdoor program hike to a local waterfall. I picked that hike to go on instead of a caving adventure because a caving trip had too much unknown for me, but looking back the caving trip may have been the better option because at least I would have come out of it warm and dry. Hiking can be done all year round, that is if you have the right gear, preparation and a little knowledge of what to expect. Otherwise your great outdoor plan may turn into a disaster.

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