First hike of the winter season

renee's picture
Submitted by renee on

Wow, that is some lame title. But it's 9:30pm, too close to bedtime for me to come up with anything more clever.

Last weekend we hiked part of this same trail, attempting to reach the summit of Speckled Mountain, instead inadvertently veering off on a snowmobile route up Mount Adams. No matter, we decided to return this week to attempt once again, this time on the correct trail.

But this week was winter in earnest. In some places the snow was at least a foot deep and we broke trail the whole way. The fun part about this snow of course is seeing all the animals tracks. Mouse, squirrel, deer, vole(?), rabbit, undetermined canine - though we're guessing coyote since there was no accompanying human tracks, and moose.

Snow is fun. But it's also cold. This was the first real cold we've encountered in the mountains since well... last winter. We almost called it off half way up. Actually we did call it off and turned around because Laurent and I were so cold. But in Laurent's enthusiasm to turn back (very unlike him, he truly must of been cold) he started to warm up and I was just bound and determined not to quit if we didn't have to. So we turned ourselves back around and up the mountain.

We never did make it to the top. By 12:30 pm, after hiking for 3 hours through all that snow our 7 year old was more than ready for lunch and a well deserved break. So we called it good, dropped the packs, set up the stove to boil water for lunch (someday we'll share our new Japanese inspired wicked awesome trail lunch) and took a break. But not too long of a break or we'd get cold again. Just enough time to slurp lunch, use the "facilities", pack up again and be on our way down.

The trail down was fun and fast, taking maybe an hour and 45 minutes. Having already broke trail we didn't use so much energy but as the day had warmed up we weren't cold either, as long as we kept moving.

Personally, I struggled early on with a photographic disappointment and then with cold toes. But after pushing through those I enjoyed the hiking high. Experiencing the thrill of my body working (my muscles feel a delicious ache tonight from all that up hill trail breaking), the absolute stillness in the air (except for the woodpecker and the kiddos) and the refreshing solitude of the woods - neither seeing nor hearing another human soul for miles around and knowing we were the only ones on the trail today.

All of those, not to mention the invigorating conversations we had, the tears and laughter we shared, the sense of accomplishment we all felt for having done it in spite of initial hardships, were the gifts of today's winter hike. Who says the only presents this time of year are under a tree.




How cold is cold?

I'm trying to get psyched up for more winter activities outside with the kids this year (especially since we've had some great snow!), but I'm trying to decide when it's too cold to go out. Today I felt it was too bitter to be out (-1, not including windchill). What's your temperature threshold? Do you remember what the temp was when you were on your hike?

On this particular outing,

On this particular outing, the temperature started out at around 20F and then warmed to around 30F by the afternoon.

Honestly, I have no idea what our temperature threshold is. We are still very much in the learning stages for doing winter activities (hence the "in-progress" of our blog title ;-) As we learn more about how to be comfortable in various conditions we will continue to share what we find with others. Being on the East coast, we will not experience the types of weather conditions typically found in the Rockies, and so may never have first-hand experience as to how to be comfortable in those situations.

There are basic principles however that can be applied in many winter situations. One in particular is to dress lighter (slightly cold) when doing physical activity, and bring an extra layer of insulation for rest stops. All you have to figure out is how much insulation is required for each person for the weather conditions you will be encountering. Each person has a different "thermostat", and thus will require a little more or less depending on how they are wired.

I think that the best thing you can do is try some field-testing close to home whenever the opportunity arises. On really cold days, do something outside, close-to-home (even if just going for a long walk around town), and experiment to see what works and what doesn't. You will gain valuable experience, confidence in your clothing systems, and will learn first-hand what your thresholds are. You may find that as you gain more experience, your threshold will increase. As your confidence increases, you will feel more comfortable venturing further away from home for longer periods of time.

This kind of strategy can be used all year round. We did it this past summer for learning to be more comfortable hiking in the rain. On rainy days, rather than hitting the trail far away from home, we went for urban hikes and tested our clothing systems. By then end of the summer we were much more comfortable hiking away from home in inclement weather.

Winter hiking is a different

Winter hiking is a different deal, that's for sure. As always, good on you for listening to and watching your kids, and calling it when it's still fun. I'm learning about how to do better at that from reading your writing.

Last year, I took my 11 year old on a hike up Mt Major near Lake Winnipisaukee in NH. It was a spectacular January day. She is older, and completely game to go. You can see it on YouTube here:

Good video, thanks for

Good video, thanks for sharing that! Looks like you guys had a great trip.

It really is great to see and hear about other families getting out like this, it is very inspirational.