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Winter Hiking

Updated on March 1, 2015
Hemlock Cliffs Hoosier National Forest:
Hemlock Cliffs, Hoosier National Forest, Union, IN 47118, USA

get directions

Hiking in the Cold

I love hiking, and thought I loved it because I always went during the best times of year when the temperature was pleasant. In the summer, I would hike to a waterfall or some other waterhole to cool off when I became hot on the hiking trail.

What about winter? Why do I not hike in the winter? I pondered this question. Still more questions came. Are trails open? Do I not want to trek out into the snow or cold temperatures? Is there snow and ice to drive through to get to my destination? The answer to these questions is-Yes...but I should go anyway. Right? What's out on those same trails I hike the rest of the seasons?

After thinking on this a bit, I became curious. I was interested to see what the forest looked like in winter with the beauty of the other seasons gone. Normally, green patches of grass and wild flowers sprouted out through the thickness of bare trees in spring. Longer grasses, fully loaded trees, vines and poison ivy tried to overtake the trails in summer, and fall never let me down with it's richness of colors, red, orange and yellow.

I had to get out there! I was a little nervous that the forest may seem full of echoes and sadness as the sounds of the trees swayed in the winter breezes. Everything may seem dead out there in the woods. Surely no one else would be on the trails, but I would face it when I got to my destination. I had to see these trails!

It Snowed!

The trails may be slippery. It had snowed recently, but the main roads to the forest were clear. My husband and I found the road down into the state park was snow covered. Inching down the long hill into the trail-head was slow going. Going off the road in the forest when no one else was around, and with no cell service would not be a good idea.

Once parked safely in the snow covered parking lot, I started to see signs we were not alone. Little prints of raccoons, deer, and who knows what else were stamped down into the snow all around our vehicle. I took out the camera and snapped a few photos of the trees and rocks covered in snow. It was a beautiful site.

I became so excited as I thought how well I may see some deer as their normal coverage of foliage would be missing. We grabbed our water bottles and camera, zipped up our heavy winter coats, and exited the vehicle.

I had taken precautions and worn a good pair of hiking shoes. I picked my pair with good grip on the bottom. I imagined the trails being slippery with all this snow. I also wore an ear warmer headband, two pairs of pants and socks, and thick gloves.

We were quiet when we walked toward the start of the trail. We both were thinking that we didn't want to ruin our chances of seeing some animals. Like I said before, without the foliage between us and the deer, we might see them if we were quiet.

The sun was out, somewhat melting the snow. It made the trail even more slippery. It was a hard icy snow covered in wetness. I picked good shoes for this. We walked a bit into the trees, and I realized how cold it was in the forest with no greenery blocking winds whipping at us. We pushed on, and saw more and more animal prints.

I started to recognize some familiar rocks that I had seen in the other seasons. Normally they spilled water over themselves splashing out a small chest high waterfall. Today they were frozen into stillness. No sounds of water trickling into a small water reservoir. I took out the camera for a second time and captured what I saw.

The Danger of Winter Hiking

The hike was going well. Beautiful snow on dormant ground and tall timbers made me turn my head around and around. I couldn't get enough of my surroundings. It was blinding with the sun shining through the forest. The sun was also warming, but I was getting warm from the hike itself. I was constantly watching my step. My pace would get pretty fast, and my husband would remind me that it was slippery. I started to fall a few times. My husband was sliding around too.

We came to a portion of the trail that was a set of rock steps. They were covered in ice. We started towards them, and thought twice about descending. They were glistening in the sun just waiting for us to step and go flying towards the bottom. The bottom was fifty feet down. It was too dangerous.

The trail we were on was a one mile loop. We decided to go back the way we came, and hike the rest of the trail. You see, there was something special on this trial we were trying to get to that we couldn't reach this direction because of the steps.

I know now that even if I want to see something on the winter trail, I have to be safe trying to get to the special site. We continued to slip and almost fall our entire hike. Our decision to go back the way we came was smart. We worked up a sweat in our winter layers. Our hearts were pumping fast as we walked slow, but steady.

Always be careful on hard snow, and especially wet snow. I still got a good workout on this hike with all the steady firm movements I made over the trail. Good gripping shoes was a good move too.

The Upper Portion of the Falls as it Hangs over the Cliff

The Falls Over the Cliff

The Cliffs

The glimpses of rocks on the trail were leading up to something...the cliffs. The special part of our hike was going to be the cliffs. I couldn't wait to see the icicles hanging from the cliffs. We stepped in silence towards them as we continued to watch for animals. We pointed out spectacular views to one another as we went along the trail, and then the cliffs were in view.

I couldn't believe what I saw. A small fall of water had frozen over the lip of the cliff. It had frozen halfway in between the cliff and the ground. Then on the ground was the remainder of the fall as it had dripped down to the ground freezing into a pointed mound of ice that reached up toward the fall above.

We oohed and ahhed over this amazing site as I had never seen a fall frozen over rocks. This wasn't a continuous frozen fall, but it was still just as awesome to see. We walked around and next to the mound of ice on the ground. Viewing the ice up close, and touching the smooth layers of frozen water.

Frozen Waterfalls

We had now come almost full circle on the trail. The portion we skipped earlier due to the slippery steps was next on our hike. We were no longer being quiet on the trail. We were really warm from the exercise and the excitement of what we had just seen. Little did we know, we had seen nothing yet. What was to come, was going to be what sold me on the winter hike forever.

The cliff normally has water flowing down from it and into a large stream that creates a creek in the center of the trail loop. Well that water was not flowing today. The water was a creation of ice I have never witnessed in person before.

My pictures show how the ice froze in stacked-like drips of water, and icicle stalactites. The colors in the ice varied from aqua to green to a blue. All different angles of the ice formation showed a new color that awed.

I felt so close to nature, and the beauty it could create within itself. It made me think of who created all of this for me, my God.

"You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly." Psalm 65: 9

He took special care to create this loveliness for all of us to enjoy, and today it was mine. I felt like I was in a paradise. I was bundled up warm enjoying all that was around me. Each season has it's beauty because God planned it that way. I had been missing this one, and I was sorry, but so glad I now discovered it.

The Frozen Falls Up Close

Winter Hiking is a Must!

So, have I sold you too? How can you know what I have told you, and not be out there on the trail? I'm sure there are even better surprises in the winter than the trail I hiked. Although, it may be difficult to beat this!

Get out in the winter and enjoy the peace of nature. You may be the only one out here enjoying it beside the critters!


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    • Krmission profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from Indiana

      Thanks for stopping to read. It was so beautiful in person!

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Beautiful article, and beautiful photos!!! Thanks!


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