Here is a great piece from our Guest Blogger, Mary Beth, about winter hiking with the family!
It is early December here in the Northern USA. The trees are bare, the lakes and rivers are well on their way to being totally covered with ice, and although it is warmer than normal, thanks to Mr. El Niño, the temperatures are still hovering in the freezing range. For all of these reasons and more, I have found that the very word “winter” scares the general population, both nature lovers and non, into submitting themselves to a life indoors for the season. While kicking one’s feet up next to a cozy fire surrounded by the joyous sounds of children’s laughter and the nostalgic smell of Christmas cookies baking in the oven doesn’t sound half bad, months upon months of this can drive even the sanest of people insane. Why? Because the magic of a home during the holidays will inevitable melt away into a cluttered, stuffy mess of antsy children, and exasperated parents desperately awaiting that first sign of spring to be able to frolic in the fresh air once more.
I’m here to remind everyone that, while the air may be frigid and the landscape barren, there are still so many amazing aspects to hitting the trails with your families in the wintertime. If you dress appropriately and pay attention to the weather, it may just become your favorite time of the year for hiking. Let me provide you with my top ten reasons for getting outdoors this winter…
1) Space – As I mentioned earlier, huddled up in the house with loved ones can be wonderful during the holidays or while there is a snowstorm outside, but nobody can argue that locking one’s self indoors for the entire winter season is downright brutal on both one’s mental and physical health. This goes for adults and children (especially children!). Getting outdoors will provide kids plenty of space to run around and burn off that energy that has been bottled up since the first snowstorm, and will allow mom and dad some much needed room to breathe.
2) Fresh air – Hand and hand with the much needed space topic, is much needed fresh air. Let’s be honest, kids can be stinky (especially if there are boys in your home)! Closed windows and doors that constantly harbor a number of human beings emitting their bodily odors will undoubtedly cause one’s home to begin smelling less like a Christmas-scented candle and more like a petting zoo. Getting outside for a couple of days during the week frees one from this array of odors, and if you’ve grown accustomed to the smells gracing your home and no longer notice any hint of a negative stench, try opening a window or two while you are away. When you return home, be prepared to be blown away by the difference. I know, from experience.
3) Peace and serenity– By surrounding yourself with wide open space and fresh air, a sense of overwhelming peace will most definitely find you on the trail. The sights, sounds and smells of nature have been scientifically proven to improve a variety of health issues, from depression to heart disease, not to mention claustrophobia.
4) Change of scenery – While your favorite sight in the world may be the loving faces of your children or your spouse, your home, or even your pet, a change of scenery is always welcome in the darkest part of the winter months. Many will flock to the local mall, indoor playground or movie theater, but one crucial element that these places lack is Vitamin D, which is brought to you by Mr. Golden Sun which can be found peeking through the clouds on any trail.
5) Exercise – Who can forget about what a great workout hiking is?! Especially if you are carrying (or busy chasing after) little ones! I don’t know about everyone else, but I almost always add on a couple of well-worth-it holiday pounds in the early part of winter. Hitting the trails in the winter is a great way to shed some of those pounds while also giving your mental health a much needed cleanse.
6) Challenging you inner self – It is one thing to say that you did it, but what about the process it takes to do it? You may be one of the lucky few who look forward to breaking a sweat in freezing temps, but for most of us, talking ourselves into bundling ourselves,and our kids, up only to exert massive amounts of energy can be a daunting task. However, each and every time we do it, we are happy that we did. Challenging ourselves can be one of the most fulfilling things we ever do and it good for our children to see.
7) A perfect excuse to not wear make-up, or get dressed up, or do our hair – This awesome reason is definitely geared towards my fellow stay-at-home mothers. Once upon a time I really didn’t mind painting my face and throwing on a fun, sassy outfit while styling my hair to the latest fashion… then came baby. I’m lucky if I get into my yoga pants and brush my teeth these days. The beauty of hiking in the winter? All you need to do is throw on your warmest clothes and cozy boots! Make-up and fancy-shmancy hair can wait!
8) Bonding with family, friends and partners – I’ve always said that a hike is a great first date. Your body is releasing those awesome endorphins so you’re feeling fantastic, and you have nothing but time to learn about each other while surrounded by the purest of environments. The same idea applies to growing closer to family and friends. Come March, when it has been a long, cold, snowy winter and everyone is at each others throats, getting outside will rejuvenate loving feelings for those people who have been breathing down your back for months.
9) Disconnection – This important benefit of hiking applies to any time of the year, but most definitely in the winter. If we are cooped up inside for months on end, it is only natural that we employ the wonders of technology to make us feel connected to the outside world (and by outside I don’t mean outdoors). We, without a doubt, live in the golden age of technology. It is available to us everywhere we go, and unfortunately has caused a great deal of loss-of-interest for the natural world. When you do decide to hit the trails this winter, leave the phone in the backpack and only use it in emergency situations. Life has survived for 4.6 billion years without Facebook, so chances are you won’t die without it for a couple of hours.
10) Experience and memories – Perhaps the greatest aspect of hiking in the winter months are the incredible experiences you will have and the memories your family will make. Picture yourself thirty years from now, possibly surrounded by your children and grandchildren, on Christmas Eve. Now picture one of your children looking at you, with love in their eyes, saying, “Hey mom and dad, do you remember that time when we went hiking in the snow and built a snowman next to that frozen lake…?” I know that I have memories like this with my parents, who are the reason I have such an intense love for the outdoors during all seasons.
Hiking with your family anytime of the year is special, but there is something even more special about conquering your fear of the weather and exposing your little ones to something completely, and beautifully, different. I encourage everyone to challenge themselves to go for at least one hike a week this winter!
Happy trails and Happy Holidays!
Mary Beth Burgstahler was born and raised in the Southern California Mountains and attended college at Cal State University Monterey Bay where she majored in Human Communications. Having lived her entire life in Wilderness areas, she gained an affinity for the outdoors and outdoor activities, one of the main reasons Mary Beth agreed to moved to her husband’s home-state of Minnesota in June of 2013. Outdoor adventure abounds in the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes. Shortly after their move, Mary Beth and her husband, Jacob, welcomed their first son, Jackson, in August of 2014. They now reside in White Bear Lake, MN.
Do you have special reasons for hiking in the winter? Tell us about them! If you have any inspirational stories to share with the community, email them to : firstname.lastname@example.org