Photo Copyright 2009 by Snowbelt Parson
See also Christmas in Warren PA
by Snowbelt Parson
There's a silence in the winter woods unlike any other season. No insects. No people. No birds.
Winter hiking can be less exciting because the plant life is all hidden away, as are the old industrial artifacts. Parking near trailheads can be difficult, too, since the pull-offs usually aren't cleared. You can only cover about half your normal distances in the snow. And yet, winter hikes are worth the pain.
It's the profound silence that I love, "the silence of eternity." Once you get out there beyond the noise of the road, there's a deep hush over all the frozen landscape. That intense quiet takes me by surprise every time, even if it's the very thing that called me to the woods in the first place. It's an unexpected visit from an all-too-rare friend. The only sounds are the gurgling brooks, not yet frozen, the creaking branches, the snow underfoot.
Today's trek covered the southern terminus of the much neglected Mill Creek Trail. You gotta love making the only set of tracks in the snow, even if it does bode ill for the trail's future. (In the Darwinian cycle of funds apportionment, the upkeep goes to the most utilized facilities...like the ATV trails.)
When I was a kid, I used to think it was weird that, in the woods, Christmas Day looks just like any other. The squirrels are still holed up; the wind still rattles bare, snowy branches; the same supreme silence reigns. There's nothing special about the day, no music, no lights, no feasts or gifts. The childhood magic of Christmas ends where the woods begins, stark and cold. I used to think it was a little sad, how December 25 was just another day in the wintry forest.
Now it makes me want to spend Christmas in...the woods. The silence is a gift.
Snowbelt Parson lives in Kane, Pennsylvania.
You can go hiking with him whenever you want at his blog.
Christmas in Warren PA