A Walk in the Woods: Winter Hiking

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By: John Griffee


With the passing of another temperate beginning to winter, the harsh backend of another northern Indiana winter has started to unleash on the area. While the premise of hiking in these wintry conditions may seem quite unappealing to the average person, winter can be one of the best times to trudge out to the trails. 

Winter is traditionally seen as an offseason for the options offered at parks. Canoe rentals and swimming areas are closed down, while once rowdy high populated sections are eerily silent. Concession stands are darkened, displaying closed signs in the windows. All of this is silence is echoed by the lack of noise from the woods. 

The perception of winter’s wildlife availability truly doesn’t hold up. It only takes a few minutes of walking into most parks before tracks are visible, preserved in the snow like fossiled remains of a time long gone. Snow receives largely a bad rap in the northern reaches of country, and rightfully so, however it serves to show how alive the woods really are in winter. 

Activities available at parks in winter include guided walks, cross-country skiing, birdwatching, hiking with snowshoes and much more. Winter is not the hiatus for wildlife lovers, but merely a shift to a more passive stance. 

Many of Northern Indiana’s parks have one thing in common: featuring on the Indiana birding trail. This period of the year is one of the best times to focus on the avian activity around the area. Multiple parks like Rum Village and Potato Creek have areas specifically for viewing bird feeding stations. 

Food is the great motivator for birds and other animals alike right now. With scarce food availability, plenty of wildlife flock to bird feeders or salt blocks to get a fill for the day. At closer look, many birds may seem unfamiliar to the traditional flock that soars around the area for the majority of the year. Birds from further north, including Canada, find northern Indiana winters more amiable than those up north. 

With parks drawing lower numbers due to the cold, now is the perfect time to venture out and catch the still peace of our local nature perserves at this time of year. While winter’s reputation gives off the impression of limitation, it simply pushes parkgoers to focus more deeply on what’s been here all along. 

Winter is not the end of the vivid life in the woods, its merely the subtle spark before the explosion of life in spring. 

Is there a park or wildlife topic that you want to see covered? Email me at jgriffee@iu.edu with suggestions.

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