What Can I Do Outdoors This Winter?
By Trish Fries, Wissahickon Environmental Center
Are you one of the thousands of people who has rediscovered the great outdoors and the Wissahickon Valley since the pandemic began? With the cold weather approaching, you might wonder how you can possibly keep feeling that peace and energy that being outdoors has given you during the winter.
At the Tree House, our staff lives by the Scandinavian saying “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.” Meaning, if you are dressed appropriately for the weather, you can handle your time outdoors and even enjoy it. Remember when your mom bundled you up with the boots and the plastic bread bags around your feet to keep your socks dry? And you wore so many layers upon layers of sweaters that you could barely zip your coat? But you could stay outdoors for hours playing in the snow, couldn’t you? Kids are extremely resilient in what adults see as bad weather. It’s time to find your inner child and rediscover the fun that can be experienced in the cold weather.
This might be the year you invest in snowshoes or cross-country skis. On those magical days when we have a fresh snowfall, find your way to the Wissahickon. You probably won’t be able to drive up the Tree House driveway, but park along Northwestern Avenue and take a hike up the hill. Look for animal tracks in the snow, take in the beauty of the snow-covered branches, and enjoy the peace and quiet of sounds muffled by the snow. A hike to Andorra Meadow is a favorite of mine. You can even bring the kids and a sled and slide down the hill in back of the Tree House.
Even if we don’t get snow, there’s plenty to see in the winter. The views across the valley will be longer, and the evergreen trees will contrast with the grays and browns of the deciduous tree trunks. Look for the Christmas fern, one of the evergreen ferns, whose leaves look like a Christmas stocking. You may find bird nests from the past season, icicles along Forbidden Drive, or the fabulous rock outcroppings in the valley.
Before you head out, be prepared. Check the weather report and remember that the Wissahickon Valley is shadier and cooler than the surrounding neighborhoods. Trails can be icy, so wear boots with traction, or you might even want traction cleats that attach over your boots. Keep your feet dry and warm—cold toes can make life miserable. Whatever you do, embrace this time to slow down, discover the outdoors in a new season, and stay healthy.
Trish Fries is an Environmental Education Specialist at the Wissahickon Environmental Center.