Posted February 24, 2022
Cold weather, snowy trails, and depressingly early sunsets can cause people to stop spending time outside. But with a little planning and a slightly different approach, time outdoors in winter can still be enjoyable. Here are 10 ideas to help you enjoy nature in the winter:
1. Suit up. As the Scandinavian saying goes, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.” Never have truer words been spoken. If well dressed, I have happily enjoyed days outdoors in sub-zero temperatures. While outfitting yourself like a polar explorer can quickly become quite expensive, a handful of targeted apparel purchases can make all the difference. My three biggest suggestions: 1.) a windproof/waterproof outer jacket, big enough for extra layers underneath, 2.) insulated pants, and 3.) warm, waterproof shoes with good traction.
2. Tweak your schedule. Sunset comes early this time of year. And you may spend the prime sunshine hours in an office, only to leave after 5pm to darkness. Try making small adjustments to your schedule so you can take an early morning walk before work or during your lunch break.
3. Find a room with a view. For the really frigid or stormy days, going outside even with the right clothes may still not be appealing. Grab a seat near a window, cozy up with a blanket and a warm beverage, and watch the world outside. You’ll be surprised what kind of shenanigans the birds and critters will get into right in your own backyard.
4. Become a birder. It may seem like an odd hobby to pick up in the middle of the winter, but winter birding has a number of benefits. You get to see species that are only here during the cold season. You also get clear views of forest birds while the branches are bare. I tend to throw in the towel by May when it comes to birding because I get frustrated that I can hear birds that I can’t find high in the leafy canopy. And finally, birds are interesting and active year round. Perhaps your true passion is butterflies or wildflowers; winter is a hard time to observe those organisms in their full glory. Not so for birds. They’re out there right now doing interesting things for you to see.
5. Learn to love lichens. You likely pass dozens of lichen species every day and don’t even notice them. These fascinating “combo organisms” (lichens are a composite of a fungus and an alga) are present year round on soil, rocks and trees, making them perfect subjects for winter study.
6. Read. For those days when you can’t physically be out in nature, your mind can explore the natural world through books. Find a great winter-themed non-fiction book or review your field guides to hone your ID skills for warmer months.
7. Track animals in the snow. The goings and comings of most mammals are unseen to most of us. But with a fresh coating of snow, the maze of wildlife trails becomes visible. MassWildlife has an online field guide you can use to identify any tracks you find.
8. Take a hike. Getting outside for a hike, or engaging in another active outdoor activity, like cross country skiing or snowshoeing, can warm you up even on the coldest days.
9. Keep a nature journal. This activity can be adapted to your desire/tolerance for being out in the cold. You can bring home seed pods, sea shells, or dried flower heads and draw them inside. On sunny, calm days, it can be enjoyable to journal outdoors.
10. Embrace your inner child. As adults, the sight of snow often invokes anxiety about driving in unsafe conditions, annoyance at the knowledge that we’ll have to shovel the driveway and scrape off the car (again!), and fear that the grocery store will be annoyingly out of milk and bread. But can you remember back to a time when snow meant time off from school, and fun days of sledding and building snowmen? Even if you’re too old for snow angels (although, in my opinion, there’s no such thing as being “too old” for anything if it makes you happy), don’t forget to stop and appreciate the beauty, sparkle, and magic of falling snow.
What other ideas and methods do you have for enjoying nature during the cold season?
Written by Elise Leduc-Fleming, WLT Executive Director