Hey Winter! We’re ready for you! (No really!)
One emerging ‘tradition’ is the First Day Hike. Have you done one? As the holidays wind down, and the gatherings, gifts and gourmet trappings are a thing of the past, many people hit the post-holiday slump. To stave it off and start the new year out on the right foot, people are choosing to head to a park or conservation area for a hike on New Year’s Day. What a great way to launch into the new year on a high note
What about those days after Jan 1? How do you embrace winter, enjoy nature, and keep your spirits up? Winter settles in and many people are visited by the winter blues, the blahs, or SAD (seasonal affective disorder). Others go a little squirrely being indoors too much. So… dress for the weather in warm layers and get outside!
Conservation areas like Altona Forest have easy access and that means we can visit many times. And ours is free! Here are a few ideas for what you can do to embrace and enjoy winter along Altona’s trails:
- Extend the First Day hike to the ‘First Month Hikes’ and get together once a week with friends or family to walk some trails – it’s a great chance to connect with each other and nature.
- Make a snow angel. If you are 5 or 55… there is a small part of you that feels amazing just lying there and creating that snow impression. As a bonus – it’s virtually impossible to walk by a snow angel without smiling – so you’re sharing the joy. I watched someone make one in the forest the other day and couldn’t suppress the grin.
- Try a scavenger hunt. This is conservation land, and we don’t want to harm a forest already under so much stress – don’t collect and remove anything. So… do a scavenger hunt using a phone, camera or other device to capture images of the items sought.
- Try snowshoeing in the forest. Borrow some snowshoes – ask friends if they have some you can use for a few days and get out there and try it. It’s fun – and if you can walk, you can snowshoe! (PS it burns extra calories too!)
- Take your dog for a walk – exercise and companionship are the main reasons for having a dog so get out there. Just remember that Altona Forest is a leash-only area and you need to carry out all waste. Not a suggestion – it’s the law. Respect the safety, security and comfort of others walking the trails.
- Channel your inner photographer and take a photo expedition along a trail and capture the beauty of the winter landscape. Try to see things through fresh eyes and new angles. Challenge yourself to look more closely at light and shadow, texture, and nuance.
- Have a winter picnic. Take blankets, hot soup & sandwiches OR hot chocolate & dessert and pick a spot to sit and take in winter’s serene beauty. Yes; a picnic happens on the ground but the forest also offers some great spots to sit on logs (post 17) or benches (amphibian pond deck or post 35 or 15) or the picnic tables at the Altona Rd entrance.
- Go birdwatching. Birding is fun for all ages and with long sight-lines you can see through the forest. Take your binoculars and watch along the forest edges or near ponds to see the most activity. Or simply listen carefully and follow the tapping sounds of the woodpeckers.
- Throw snowballs! Yes at each other! Or if you are alone… throw them at a tree. I’m sure it wouldn’t mind. This takes that special packing snow… the one that compresses beautifully and just begs creativity. If you are even more inspired, make a snowman along the trail… using only forest floor items to give him features. I love to scoop out a little of his head and add some birdseed.
- Create a temporary ‘art installation’ worthy of forest magic; one that doesn’t harm the forest or leave waste behind. Freeze some fallen twigs, cedar fronds, or seed pods in a shallow bowl or lid. Add a drop of food colouring if you like. Add a small loop of garden twine (so it will decompose easily) into the water so you can hang it. When this ‘nature mandala’ is frozen, take it to the forest and hang it from a sturdy branch where it can sparkle in the light. You’ve created a nature sun-catcher that will last until a thaw. This is a great kids-project but also for anyone who loves nature, art or creativity!
Inspired yet? Just picture enjoying fresh cold air and sunshine before returning home to a fire, a seat by a window, warm socks, and/or hot chocolate … it’s what the Danes call ‘hygge’ and I’ll call ’embracing the cozy’ after winter fun on the trails!
**** Avoid the boardwalks or be extremely careful in using them – there are a number of broken boards and hazards
Winter Fun on the Trails ~ © 2018 Natasha G