Monday, February 29, 2016

Reasons to Hike in the Late Winter and Early Spring

hiking in the winter


We have been really capitalizing on the mild weather this winter in the Chicago area and have taken quite a few opportunities to hike. I know that the lack of foliage and drab gray skies are not the most inviting for some. However, late winter and early spring hikes provided a unique way to see nature unlike other time of year!


Why hike now?

  • Peace: Winter hikes do not attract the same crowds that warmer weather hikes do. With fewer out-and-about hiking, you can really get the escape you are looking for!
  • Wildlife: The lack of foliage as well as lack of other hikers make it a bit easier to spot wildlife. This past weekend between a walk through our neighborhood and a hike at Crabtree Nature Center we saw two bluebirds, a downy woodpecker, an Eastern king bird, hawks, red-winged blackbirds, geese, squirrels and more. As migratory birds begin to return, you chances of seeing more types of birds increases.
  • Nests: The lack of foliage also makes it easier to see nests in the trees.
  • Lack of insects: During summer hikes, we inevitably encounter "buggy" days. Winter affords a respite from this hazard. However, still remain cautious about ticks--some types can be active any day above freezing.
  • Awakening: Slowly, you will see the world come back alive over the weeks to come. Birds return, waterways thaw, plants spring to life--seeing the gradually changing landscape can be motivational and inspiring!
  • Fresh air and exercise: Both are great for your health! In winter, we tend to stay in the stale air of the indoors. A hike is a great way to get the blood flowing and to enjoy fresh air!
partially frozen puddle in the woods
A partially frozen puddle found at Crabtree Nature Center.
Tips:

  • Monitor time: Preserves may have winter hours, so be sure that you know when you need to be off of the trails and need to leave the preserve. 
  • Watch the weather: Weather can be changeable, so check the weather and be aware of any possible sudden changes.
  • Watch out for muddy terrain: With snow melting and rains, the terrain can be muddy. So, use caution and common sense--and wear hiking shoes that you don't mind getting muddied! The mud, though, does afford an opportunity to see animal tracks so be on the lookout!
  • Water + snacks: As on any hike, bring water and snacks. With temperatures being low, it may not feel like you need to focus on hydrating. However, hydration is very important and you want to make sure you are well hydrated!
  • Dress in layers: Temperatures can turn quickly this time of year. Layers make it easy to adjust to the temperature.
  • Sunscreen: It is also tempting to skip out on sunscreen in the winter. However, winter does not protect you from sun damage!
  • Change of shoes: If the trails are muddy, you will thank me for this. Having a change of shoes ready in the car will handy, especially if you are heading somewhere after a hike. You may also want to bring a bag to put your muddy shoes in. Extra socks are also handy in case your socks get wet.
Ready for a hike? Check out my list of places to hike in the Chicago suburbs.
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