Green living: Get outdoors and enjoy winter

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 1/31/2020 11:55:03 AM

The natural beauty of the outdoors doesn’t all of a sudden go away when the leaves are done falling from the trees marking the transition to the winter months.

Sure, there are some days when the temperature hovers in the single digits and the brisk pace of the wind forces you to think twice about leaving the house if you don’t have to.

But winter is so much more than just slippery commutes, bitterly cold days and back breaking snow removal. All you have to do is dress the part and let your imagination run wild.

“Winter is such a great time to have an adventure as a family,” said Susie Spikol, a naturalist with the Harris Center in Hancock.

Spikol is a big fan of just heading out the door and seeing what happens. She has spent many days in the woods with adults and kids from all over the region and it still amazes her what they’re able to come up with on a winter day.

The benefit of freshly fallen snow is the ability to see what came before you.

“It’s this window of time where you get a look into the secret world of mammals,” Spikol said. “We can see things that aren’t visible in the summer.”

Seeing the wonder that happens when kids (and adults) come across animal tracks is a feeling of curiosity that should never be ignored.

“You don’t have to live anywhere special to find something to follow,” Spikol said.

With tracking – or hiking for that fact – it’s a little easier to go off trail because “you can always track yourself back,” Spikol said.

The imagination that happens when an animal track is found is unlike anything else. You can create a whole back story just by thinking about where it was coming from, what was it doing, where was it going – and what animal made them.

“Just following a track for however long you want to go for can be pretty enlightening,” said Eric Aldrich, a Hancock resident and outdoor enthusiast.

Spikol likes to take a picture of tracks so she can find out exactly what it was when she gets home.

For Aldrich, it’s just all about embracing the winter months and making the most of it.

“The more you get outside in the winter, the faster it goes,” he said.

There’s great opportunities for cross-country skiing like Windblown Cross Country Skiing and Snowshoeing and the Dublin School Nordic Center, snowshoeing and ice skating in the region. You can even use it as a chance to burn that big brush pile in the backyard.

“It doesn’t have to be anything special, just wear the right footwear and dress for the season,” Aldrich said.

And don’t forget about a simple hike.

“We have so many great trails,” Aldrich said. “There’s just so many places around here to enjoy winter.”

Aldrich is a big proponent of letting kids just explore in any way they feel like. Building a snow fort with tunnels, pulling out the sleds and heading down a hill or creating a pile of snowballs for an afternoon of fun. Add in making a snowman or ice fishing and the possibilities are endless.

“Kids can spend hours playing on a snow pile,” Aldrich said.

Giving them a shovel or other tools can also lead to a day of fun.

“I’m a big fan of snow shovels for kids, just to move snow around and pack it down,” Spikol said.

Walking through the woods or on a trail is a great way to observe an area without leaves restricting visibility. It’s about having an appreciation for by far the coldest of the four seasons. And don’t forget to let the kids be in charge some of the time.

“Always follow your child’s lead. Let them be the leader,” Spikol said.

Spikol said that spending time outdoors can really shift a person’s sense of the day. That fresh air and sunlight can do wonders in terms of turning around your mood.

She will be leading a pair of forest bathing by moonlight events at the Harris Center on Feb. 6 and March 12 as a way to reconnect to nature.

Aldrich is a seasoned tracker, mostly looking for bobcat and has been known to follow them for five or six miles. But he said winter is also a great time to keep an eye out for creatures like bald eagles, especially at water bodies like Halfmoon Pond and Nubanusit Lake in Hancock.

The Harris Center has a number of events upcoming geared toward getting people outside and is great for those unsure of where to go and what to do. There’s a hike along the Jaquith Rail Trail on Feb. 7 and a new four hike series called Hiking Through the Decades to honor the Harris Center’s 50th anniversary that will trace the history of the Harris Center’s land protection efforts starting at the Briggs Preserve on Feb. 8.

For more outdoor opportunities, visit


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