Happy New Year! Thanks for joining me in 2023 for another episode of Nature Boost. I'm Jill Pritchard with the Missouri Department of Conservation.
Winter is in full swing! One of my favorite things I have seen online is a meme that says, "this is once I get back home I'm not coming back out season." I can't say I disagree.
The days are shorter, it's colder, and the couch, a big warm blanket, and a hot drink are all so comforting and enticing. But, there is actually a lot of cool stuff you and your friends and family can see in nature this time of year as long as you prepare and bundle up. There is even a handful of benefits to hiking in the winter!
First, it's a great chance to see nature in a different light. After a snowfall, you can look for wildlife tracks. You can easily spot birds now that the leaves have fallen off the trees. And if you are really adventurous, this is a great time of year to go shed hunting after white tailed deer have shed their Antlers.
Second, we all know spending time outside does wonders for your mental health. Getting outdoors at this time of year when the days are much shorter may be more important than ever for those who suffer from seasonal affective disorder. Soaking in some sunlight and destressing outside can help improve your overall mental health.
Finally, it is a fun way to shake up your exercise routine. We all know that gyms will be packed in January with people sticking their New Year's resolutions to lose some weight. So why not get a change of scenery for your workout and get in some steps in nature?
So come along with me as I venture out on a winter hike.
So I am recording this day after Christmas, I am in my house right now. My social battery is a little spent so I thought this would be a great day to go for a hike, recharge, and a good chance to get some steps in. We will do this today. Normally I would take my dog Moose with me. He is looking at me, he heard me say his name. But I think it'd be a little tricky for me to handle my audio recorder and his leash. So he is going to stay here for a bit. But it's fine because I gave him a good walk this morning, so he will be totally good.
So let's see. Temperature wise let's check on that again. It is 26 right now and surprisingly, that is the warmest it has been for a few days. A bit balmy out. When I was out earlier, it was a bit windy out and my legs did get cold. So I am going to double up on my pants and maybe put on another pair of socks, too. Usually I would wear my hiking boots but they are not as waterproofed as I would like them to be. So I will put my snow boots on and then we can get ready to go.
A few last minute things that I always like to do. I like to put lotion on my face. Especially in the winter cold, I just don't want that wind to kind of chap my face and make it really dry. Also I load my lips up with chapstick. Then also I walk my dog all of the time. Rain, snow, sleet, this dog is getting a walk. Something I have learned is to always throw Kleenex in my pocket because it is just constantly running in the wintertime. Pro tip! Bring a handkerchief, or a pocketful of Kleenex. You will definitely thank me.
So I have my hat on, I've got my gloves, a scarf, and my big old pocketful of Kleenex. I got a bottle of water in the car. And I think we are ready to go. Let's head out!
I am very lucky. There is a great little hiking trail really close to my house that happens to be along the Missouri River. I love hiking it. There are so many times where I have seen deer, awesome Raptors flying around, lots of turkey vultures, red tailed hawks. This time of year in the wintertime is wonderful for bald eagle watching. If I am lucky, I may even see some bald eagles. I'm sure it will be a great little hike today.
Okay. We are here! Got my gloves on. I can already tell just looking at the tree branches that the wind has picked up a little bit. I am so glad that I decided to double up on my clothing. I actually put on a pair of gloves, too just to be safe. I've got my phone just in case I need it. I got my keys in my pocket. Bottle of water here. Alright! Let's head out to the trail!
I don't know if you can hear it because the snow that we had has started to melt a little bit. But that is actually one of my favorite sounds. Walking in the snow.
Oh my gosh. I've already come across some wildlife tracks. I'm going to say that it looks like it could be a rabbit because the back hind legs are a little bit elongated. I may be wrong, but I think it is a rabbit. We will keep going and see what we can see out here.
That is actually a fun game that you could do with your friends or family. Come out after it has snowed. See what type of animal tracks you can find in the snow. I have to say, it is a little odd for me to be out here without my dog. I am so used to any time I am going for a walk or hike having my dog with me. I feel a little incomplete. But at the same time, it's nice. It's nice to just be out here by myself.
Another thing that I always do is I always have my headphones in and I will be listening to a podcast or music. Recording this hiking is actually forcing myself to be more mindful and present of what I am doing and not be distracted and listen to my feet crunching in the snow, or listening to any birdsong that I hear. Or any squirrels or anything. I like it.
There is also something just really exhilarating about being outside in the wintertime. I know that we are all so used to being inside in the nice warm house with the heat on, snuggled up with a warm drink and a blanket, and a pet at our feet.
It is almost like cold therapy. They say there are benefits to kind of immersing yourself in ice water or taking a cold shower. I feel like this is another form of cold therapy, being outside in the winter time. I feel like I am in one of those commercials for that chewing gum. This is what it feels like to chew gum. It's refreshing. Nice.
I see my first little wildlife viewing here. It is one of my favorites. It is a male cardinal. I just have to say with the fallen snow, it just stands out even more against the white of the snow. It just looks gorgeous. It flew away. This is a great benefit of being outside in the wintertime is that now that all of the trees have lost their leaves it is so easy to spot birds and old birds nests up in the branches. That is another fun game that you could play. See how many species of birds that you can spot. See how many old bird nests you find. There are still lots to see in the wintertime.
Here I've already got a great view of the Missouri River. Snow covered. Big old blocks of ice floating down. It's gorgeous. I love it.
I'm walking along here and I see a formation of geese flying up above me.
That iconic V shape that they fly in. I see some more wildlife tracks here in the snow. I see the cute little prints from some birds here. Then of course some dog prints, too. People who have walked this trail with their pooches before. Some of these may be Moose's. Actually I'm sure that some of them are.
I feel like I am walking through a Christmas scene right now as the trail goes into the woods. It is so quiet. Except for a few bird calls above me. That's another thing that I love about the snow. It just blankets everything and it just absorbs all the sound. It's peaceful out here. It's really nice.
I want to say that's a blue jay. Oh my gosh, it's so quiet out here. I feel like I need to be quiet. I ran across some more wildlife tracks here. I'm pretty sure that's another rabbit. Something else I like to do is just look at the trees, too. Look at the bark on the trees. Try to identify. That is something I would like to get a little better at. Not only identifying the bird calls and the different species of birds, but also the different species of trees that we have here in Missouri.
One that I have learned is an easy one to pick out is the sycamore. You can tell because the crown of it has turned white. The bark has. Those are always really easy to pick out. I kind of pride myself on identifying sycamores. I found some deer tracks out here too. Those are always very easy to identify. I run into deer all the time out here and I just love it. Of course, my dog flips out whenever he sees them. What dog doesn't? I just think they look so cool with how high they can leap and as they run across these hills out here. You can probably tell by my labored breathing that I am going up an incline. They say you can always tell how fit you are if you can keep up a conversation
Something else I have learned is that walking in snow is actually really good on your joints. It is not as hard on your joints. You are cushioned. I hear the wind picking up. I am coming up on one of my favorite spots to take a look at the Missouri River. There is so much snow and ice going down. It is just as beautiful in the winter time as it is in the spring, summer, and fall.
Oh my gosh. I see a doe right up on this ridge ahead of me. She is looking at me too. I love how they just stare at you like they are staring straight into your soul. I love it. I don't know how close she will let me get before she ends up running off. She is a good way up there, though. I am probably not a threat to her at this point. There she goes! White tail weaving through the trees. I love love to see that.
You never know what you are going to find and discover whenever you venture out into nature. It's incredible. You never have a bad time! Or at least I never do. It always puts me in a better mood. Hiking is such a great exercise, too. I've even heard that hiking in the cold burns more calories. I'm not sure if they have proven that or not. I think they say because your body is shivering I think it can cause you to burn more calories but I'm not sure if that's been proven or not.
It definitely is a cool experience hiking in the winter versus hiking in the summertime. We all know those summers in Missouri can get so humid. But as long as you come out and you are prepared and you are bundled up with your gloves. Gosh, they even make heated gloves now. One of my friends I saw has one of those heated vests that you charge up or they plug into a battery or something. You know. There are all these different fancy techy things you can buy to keep you warm in the cold.
But you don't need all of that. As long as you've got the good old fashioned tried and true necessities you can definitely still enjoy being outside in the winter. Walking in the snow. It is almost like a whole new world out here in the winter time. I encourage everybody to try it out.
Plus it is a different change of pace, a different scenery. We can get so accustomed to being cooped up in our homes all season long. Don't get me wrong. I love being a couch potato. Sometimes I just got to get some of this energy out. It's a nice way to break up the day. Get some steps in. Boost your mood. Nature Boost, man! It's a total nature boost.
As I complete the trail here, we are coming up close to a neighborhood. You can hear how windy it is by some of these wind chimes going off the hook over there. I would say I've been out here probably about a half an hour or so. I'll tell you what. There is nothing like a winter hike that makes you appreciate a warm beverage even more. I'd say I've earned one.
As I mentioned earlier, hiking in the winter can be invigorating and it can also provide some really spectacular views. Missouri is incredibly lucky to have more than a thousand conservation areas across the state as well as more than a thousand miles of trails in Missouri State Parks.
Don't forget about MDC's nature centers. Not only do they each have walking trails around the properties, but they are always hosting free and fun programs to help you discover nature even in the winter. Find a program and events offered in your region on our website at missouriconservation.org.
Thanks again for joining me on this winter hike. I'm Jill Pritchard with the Missouri Department of Conservation urging you to get your daily dose of the outdoors.