Winter Hiking

On or about December 30, I remember my annual resolution to go on more hikes. To get a running start on my New Year’s resolutions, I start lining them up around late October or early November. By the time January 1 arrives, I’ve broken in the resolutions worth inviting to the party. Those resolutions proving to be dull or disingenuous are discretely escorted out the back door until next year.

Every year I resolve to get out and hike. The fact that this particular resolution continually shows up and is continually forgotten until the end of December means that I make my yearly trek to the mountains in winter.

Advantages to winter hiking: no rattlesnakes, no poison ivy, and very few people.

The forest outside Oslo, Norway being the only exception, I get to the hills or mountains once or twice per year. I have no excuse for not hiking more: I grew up in Montana, lived in the Pacific NW, in North Carolina not far from the Blue Smokey Mountains, in the Texas Hill Country, then back to Butte and SW Montana’s Rocky Mountains, on to the Badlands of North Dakota, and now the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Yesterday, I woke thinking my two-year-old niece’s sore throat menace settled into my healthful self. While inconvenient for children, I know from experience that toddler illnesses produce the same effect as a CDC Level 5 bio-weapon for adults. Those who do not frequent densely populated youngling hangouts lack military grade immune systems.

Wasting no time, I moved my study materials to the bedroom, and set up my personal triage center on my bed complete with water, a thermos full of black coffee, enough reading to see me into the next millennium, my laptop, small bed table, and colored pens. Snuggling down under a stratigraphic column of blankets, I alternated between naps and study, black coffee and water. My Sweetie brought me the omelet of the day from a favorite diner: shaved ham, feta cheese, red onion and sriracha sauce. And hashbrowns.

I cheerfully indulged in my imagined sore throat and got quite a lot of work done besides.

Today I decided that after such a day, I must not be as sick as I believed. Plus, the sun shone brightly outside and I tired of sitting inside. Thus, I unfurled my book holding posture and prepared for winter hiking.

Norwegians, so I have read, take along an orange and a chocolate bar when cross country skiing. To that custom, I added my personal mix of unsalted cashews, raw almonds, and dried cherries and blueberries; two water bottles (one for hiking and one for afterward); gloves, a hat, and a balaclava. All of this went into the little hiking backpack my sister gave me.

Peter Walsh described the hikes that most people take to be sporty little walks. My ambitions went no further than this expectation, but I did put on gaiters, thermals, a fleece vest, and a light jacket. Start off cool and go to warm. Going from warm to hot stifles enthusiasm.

The trailhead for Buzzard’s Roost is located in the Black Hills National Forest, six miles out of town. It took longer to assemble my adventure accouterment than it did to drive to the trail head.

Five steps up the trail and my gait went ebullient. I threw my arms open wide, inhaled the fresh-aired trees, and made the pronounced sound of snow underfoot. As there is no other substance like snow, I cannot describe the sound and feel it makes as I tromp along. Crunching autumn leaves comes in a very close second for tromping satisfaction, but snow tromping remains my favorite.

The video below shows a breathtaking view of the Black Hills. I’ll stop writing. You stop reading. Go for a sporty little walk.

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