A Winter Hike

narrow snowy track through woods
traversing a slope on the Knobstone Trail

Today the husband and I went for a walk in the woods.

Okay, it wasn’t a walk, it was a hike. We did about 8.5 miles of the Knobstone Trail, with our two dogs. (Yes, on-leash, of course, and of course we packed out all solid waste. We’re responsible people.) It was a chilly 20 degrees or so, and it snowed during part of the hike, which made it even better.

We started alongside a lake with singing ice. I didn’t catch it on video, but this is what I’m talking about:

The lake was just singing on its own as we walked along it. When we returned later, it was silent, but I skipped a rock to prompt a little more. How cool is that?

coated dogs walking side-by-side in snowy forest
The dogs wore coats for much of the trail. No giggles — it was single digits when we started, and the Doberman has a slick coat and no body fat. They don’t get dressed up for normal outings.

We worked hard and burned a lot of Christmas goodies. My Fitbit logged 150+ flights of stairs on the hills, and my heart rate was embarrassingly high. I blame my heavy pack full of water and emergency gear, sure, but I’m gonna feel this tomorrow.

“I’m not slow on the uphill. I’m just letting the dog sniff.”

“She’s done sniffing.” /looks at dog watching expectantly/

“No, she’s not. She’s processing. She needs another minute.”

But it was worth it. The forest was beautiful, we had a good workout in a much more fun environment than a sweaty gym with blaring televisions, and we had a chance to hike before it’s gone, as Indiana’s public forests are somewhat endangered.

Despite heavy opposition from both citizens and scientists, the state of Indiana is selling public forests for timber. The argument is that the Department of Forestry must fund itself, which is completely bogus to start — government divisions don’t have to show profits like corporations, they exist to serve the state and so receive state funding. Does the Department of Revenue host annual bake sales to pay its employees and office utilities? Does the Department of Child Services need to sell product in order to do its job protecting kids? What a ridiculous statement. But even if that were somehow true, it’s clearly not the case here: When 300 acres of Yellowwood State Forest were put up for sale for timber, a competing conservation offer was proposed at nearly 150% of what would be paid for timber rights — and the offer was refused. So clearly it’s not about the money, either.

(It’s also clearly not about the 21 endangered species found there, or the public who actually uses and owns the public land. Hiking access will be closed for 6 months while they cut up to 25% of the largest remaining closed canopy hardwood forest in the state and damage surrounding trees and terrain for future hikers, hunters, backpackers, etc.)

Cameron Clark, director of Indiana’s DNR, says the forest “barely existed until the [state] foresters planted it” in the 1950s and therefore can be harvested for state funds. Those state foresters are really, really good at their jobs, to produce old growth forest with trees a century or two old since the 1950s.

If you want to help protest this pillaging of public land, you can get details and contact information at Save Yellowwood.

But the day was not all about doom. It was about connecting with nature and each other. I fully believe that appreciating nature is critical to mental health and social responsibility. I believe that mental health days are a thing. And my experience is that hiking in the winter is the best time if you want to avoid crowded trails, because a lot of people don’t see the attraction in hiking in freezing weather. (Hint: Clothes matter. Wicking base layers, wool socks, and of course no jeans.)

So get outside. It’s good for your everything, from reducing anxiety to increasing creativity. And it’s fun. Just be sure to take care of our land when you go. Happy trails!

white and blue rectangles painted on a tree in snowy forest
Blazes mark trails for navigation. The white blaze denotes the Knobstone Trail, and the blue indicates the Backcountry Trail, at this point sharing a track.
Three red painted slashes on tree in snowy forest.
This blaze indicates that you are in werewolf country and should be prepared to run.
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  1. I didn’t hike 8 miles, but I did take a 1-mile walk to our creek through the snow in the gloaming. No singing lakes, but lovely crunching snow. :) Also, I’ve discovered that in addition to layering properly, adding a cloak made of two distinct layers of wool is a great idea to make winter hiking comfortable. :) The only cold parts of me were my cheeks because I absolutely can’t stand to have a scarf or my buff covering my face.

    Also with you 100% on the sale of trees in the Yellowwood, but I’m sure you’re not shocked by that. I believe in maintaining a healthy forest, and that does occasionally mean cutting deadwood. But that’s also clearly not what’s going on in this case.

    Good old Gov Holcomb is great at not standing for anything, and I tend to be of the Hamilton opinion on that: If you stand for nothing, what will you fall for?

    • I love crunching snow! Bad for ninja-like stealthing, wonderful for wintry goodness. And a cloak is rarely a bad idea, from practical warmth to just looking badass.

      Wouldn’t it be great if we someday got politicians who ran on an actual platform that wasn’t “I’m not my opponent” and had long-term benefits rather than short-term deals, and then stuck to it?

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