Sunday, January 21, 2018

Intro to Winter Hiking - Maxwell Mays

It was a new experience for me: Winter hiking.  I knew the weather would be good and there would be a guide.  Plus, I wanted to meet like-minded people.  So I decided to give this Meetup group a try.  
I had been on several hikes organized by land trusts, ASRI, and RI Families in Nature.  I enjoyed them all, especially the family-friendly ones I brought my daughter to.  But when I went to several hikes where I knew no one, I was a bit disappointed not to get more out of it had I gone alone.  This was not true of the Earthen Fellowship.  Sean, our guide, was very gentle and spiritual and shared some of the more holistic and medicinal aspects of hiking with us, without forcing any particular belief.  Being in nature is very spiritual and calming for me as well.  On some hikes I had joined with other groups, it felt like the participants were on a race to get to one point, then go home.  (One of my trips to Carter Notch was almost ruined by hikers that came close to pushing you out of the way, snobbery towards my "gear", and general rudeness overall; but the less said about that, the better.)  On this hike, however, we kept a moderate pace and I was able to keep up with the group after stopping to take photos.  I also had some great conversations with like-minded people.

A light snow dots the forest. Having found few signs of animals on a night hike at Caratunk the evening before, I hoped to find tracks in the snow, perhaps some birds. Our guide Sean had heard rumor of mountain lions...

Even in the snow, chartreuse-bright moss peaked through.

As always, I was drawn to the textures and colors of moss and lichen.  
I saw lichen species new to me, the biodiversity high.

A gall of some unknown wasp.  I found several oak galls as well. 

Light shines all the brighter off iced-over Carr pond.

At last, some tracks!

My best guess (from online research) is that these were made by a fisher, a member of the weasel family.

 Mysterious hollows (perfect for a fisher!).

The forest supports much and many.

The deer have come through recently. 
I saw what looked like a single dog print on the trail. 
Coyote or bobcat maybe?

Hikes are always more exciting with elevation.  Day to day, I walk from room to room, up and down the same stairs, my brain switching from one class I'm teaching to the next.  Or I'm leaving or entering a place of work, play, or meals, and into or out of sleep.  Ascending into nature, you're not just walking into a forest, but entering another world. 

Make sure you dress in layers for this. I wore wool socks with hiking socks on top, then opted for hiking shoes for their traction over non-hiking boots which were very warm.  I also wore thermal underwear I found at Savers new for $12, yoga pants to lock in more heat and still be mobile, and thick sweat pants.  My top was a fuzzy acrylic sweater (NOT water-resistant, but warm), used, also from Savers ($8) and a North Aware Smart Parka I invested in because of my scleroderma and got a lot cheaper because I supported the Kickstarter.  I was quite comfortable and only had to unzip my coat to cool down.  My point is, you can spend a little or a lot on clothing.  I plan on getting some micro-spikes to put on my shoes.  Snowshoes are recommended for 8" of snow or more.  Work with your budget and stick with fabric that will wick moisture away.  Clothing cold with sweat can be worse than the outside cold!

One item I didn't have was a way to keep my neck warm. I had misplaced my scarf and it was warm enough to not worry too much about it.  But now I understood the value of the kerchiefs I kept reading about. You can wrap them around your neck, tie them on your head, cover your nose and mouth to retain moisture, use it as a sling, or even have a mini picnic! After researching some more, I opted for a 6 piece seamless face mask bandana headband set for $12.

More interesting lichen!

I wondered if some of these granite boulders were glacial erratics.

Busy beetles writing in elvish again!

A star mushroom Sean found on another hike.

There be woodpeckers...

Who's cairn be this?

Or who's nest?

Sean's hike took us through all the trails and a brief detour: a 150 year old residence, in ruins. I thought the structure pictured above was a stove, but Sean thought it was for objects, the fire being common to the center of the building.  I wondered how long the trees had been growing through it and who had lived there.

 Crossing the water.

Beautiful fruit.

Beautiful hike!