The Day I Fell in Love with Winter Hiking

Hello Winter, My Old Friend

The road into Uniake Estates was well plowed. And it was half-way down this road that I experienced my first breath-taking moment. I stopped, right in the middle of the snow tree-lined drive to capture it. It was that moment when you realise how very beautiful “outside” is, and are grateful that you chose to be there, rather than anywhere else.

I may not have, without the gentle nudge of a few friends online. Even after I became a bonafide “outdoor” person I was still never a Winter person. My blood seems to run a bit thin. I have too many bad memories of wet childhood snowsuits, and frozen toes and noses.

But today I promised I would. It was by all accounts a beautiful Winter day, perhaps the most perfect. Only -5 Celcius (about 20F), sunny and glowing. No wind. In truth, I’d taken to waiting out Winter a bit and playing chicken with a Spring I hoped was just around the corner. Thinking perhaps I could just coast on it, until I could skip the whole thing and be taking pictures of wildflowers instead of frozen waterfalls.

As I parked and got out of the car I was instantly thrilled by the fact that I was very not alone. This was a busy Winter trail system. People and couples of all ages were unloading showshoes and dogs from their cars.

This was my second uplifted heart moment. I was in the right place. I was with my tribe.

And then the grin appeared. The grin that I had not felt for a couple of months since my last true adventure. The grin of LET’S DO THIS.

The trailhead tracks past the outer buildings of the Estate to the start of a few loop options. I decided to keep it fairly simple for my first snow hike. I did the whole trail system last year in Summer so knew what to expect. (Or I thought I did.)

There is a short section of forest trail to get to the beginning of the Lake Martha Trail that … predictably … tracks around Lake Martha. Again it was postcard perfect. Soft snow blanketed every branch of every tree. Arriving at the lake stopped me in my tracks. A vast, beautiful expanse of absolute purity. The Earth is not cleansed by fire, my friends, it is snow.

Now, hiking in snow, especially on inclines and declines is different. You will work harder, you just will. But every moment of that cool, crisp beauty will be worth it. I broke a serious sweat on the return section where I had to dig in hard on hillier parts. Some unused muscles complained.

But I was never cold and I was always exactly where I wanted and needed to be.

I ran into a woman walking hiking with her dog on the return leg, and they caught up with me again when I stopped to take some pictures. Her dog’s paw print is adorably imprinted on an HBF tribute I drew in the snow. We walked together the rest of the way back.

She took a shortcut back to the parking lot and I mulled it over very briefly and decided no … I would take the rest of the trail back. I just didn’t want it to be over yet.

While hikers always hang together, there is an even more intense kinship that forms between those who are willing to brave Winter. They (we?) are the ones who cannot stay inside for too long. They are the ones with hearts still so young, that they look at freshly fallen snow and think … let’s go play outside. 

For follow up:

Uniake Estate Museum Park: https://uniacke.novascotia.ca/

Winter Layering Basics: https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/layering-basics.html

Bernardine Wood aka Hiker Bee is an avid hiker, cyclist and kayaker. She is also a member of the #HBFCrew. She resides in Nova Scotia , Canada. She is committed to sharing her love and knowledge of the outdoors with others, especially those who may not have ventured out, without her excitement and support. Those who might also find healing and strength in nature.

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