Longing for Winter in January

Is it the end of January already? It can’t be- it was 80 degrees last week in Columbia!  I’ve even seen some yellow daffodils breaking through the soil to check out this spring-like weather we are having.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about the beautiful weather we have been enjoying in January, I just don’t want to get my hopes up too soon. I have this sneaking suspicion that winter is not over yet. It’s happened before- warm temperatures lure us into the thought that spring is just around the corner, then suddenly the “polar vortex” (or is it the Polar Express?) brings down cold air from Canada. Either way, winter reappears. January 2017 has been one of those months. I have seen more flip flops this months than hiking boots! Come to think of it, I miss winter. I know what you are thinking: “Why would anyone miss winter with spring-like weeks in January?” Let me remind you that I grew up here in South Carolina and my idea of winter is measured in weeks not months and while I love when it snows, I’m equally excited when it melts away a couple of days later. But I do enjoy winter and the magic that it brings to our parks, if only for a few weeks.  So it’s almost February and time for winter, at least for a few weeks, as I have winter things to do in state parks! 


One of my favorite things to do in the winter is combine hiking with a cabin stay. There is nothing like winter in a state park cabin. I love staying in one of CCC cabins that has a fireplace and watching the flames dance, listening to the pop and crackle of the wood and experiencing the glow that surrounds the room from a fireplace that showcases the craftsmanship of the CCC.  Feet propped up, shoes off, feeling the warmth on the soles of your feet while the world’s problems seem to go up the chimney with the smoke. Once the fire dies down it’s time to sleep as tomorrow there are trails to hike and falling water to find. 


There's the anticipation of the hike and the smell of coffee. I grab a fresh cup and press both hands tightly around as I venture out the door onto the porch to greet the morning. The cold hits my face and my hands squeeze the cup instinctively.   The child in me also awakens as I breathe that breath we all did on a cold morning just to see the smoke on our breath. Yep, it’s cold! Back inside the warmth of the cabin, the second cup of coffee is as good as the first. Now it’s time for a hike: layers, hat, gloves and no bugs! As I walk up the trail following a creek I notice the sounds of the creek seem louder than usual. Maybe the leafless trees have something to do with it, perhaps it’s the cold air or possibly it’s my senses in tune with the creek on a cold morning. The sounds direct me to the flow of the water and you just know the water is cold. It looks colder than in the spring or summer. There’s no ice, but you know it’s got to be freezing cold. The child in me has to know as I reach down, take off the gloves to see, or feel, for myself.  I knew it.  


Winter. The overlooks and sky seem more clear and the sky more blue. Embrace winter when it reappears. Awaken the child in you, go outside “see your breath,” squeeze that coffee cup, feel the warmth of a fire, “see” how cold the water is. Experiencing winter will make the arrival and anticipation of spring even better!   I’m ready for winter…at least for a couple of weeks! 


 
See you in the parks!
Phil