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My Hike Through The Frozen Woods

Updated on April 18, 2013

A sleeping forest waiting for spring

Have you ever taken a hike through a forest during winter? Winter can be one of the best times to venture into the woods. It is a very different experience from a summer walk. One of the first things you notice is the lack of color. Everything is white or grey. The other thing obviously is cold, so you need to wear warm and bulky clothes. The cold and clothes may be a discomfort but it also makes you aware of how vulnerable you are - something that raises your level of attention.

If there is a lot of snow you need to watch your pace because sinking through all the time means you loose momentum, which means you tire easily. If you are far from your car or shelter, growing tired in the cold is not a good idea.

The forest is dead silent during winter with not a single animal sound. But there is magic in the white woodland, if you stop and listen. Wind, ice and the trees themselves make subtle sounds. On rare occasions when it has snowed a lot, a sharp gunshot echoes through the woods; the sound of a stiff branch breaking from the weight of new snow.

Most of the time it is quiet though, with trees and animals dozing in the cold as they wait for spring.

Images by me

The Southern Entrance to Tyresta Forest Park

forst park direction signs
forst park direction signs

I live just a bit south-west of Stockholm, Sweden. This is also where you will find Tyresta, which is a National Park and reserve of 47 square kilometers, or 18 sq miles. It isn't big but since no main roads cross Tyresta, it is very easy to become submerged into untouched woods and peaceful surroundings.

The other day I took a short hike up to a lake, entering from the south. The park is well-organized and the first thing you see is a bunch of direction markers indicating the distance to some common destinations.

Rustic But Functional Amenities

Public restroom in forest
Public restroom in forest

In line with the philosophy of minimum impact management, the park has a few semi-kept trails and even fewer buildings or amenities. Those that exist though are in good shape and offer conveniences that are usable also for elders and lightly disabled.

There is only one location in the park where you can have a meal and that is in Tyresta By which also has the information center. That is on the Northern side though. This convenience is on the southern trail where we are now.

A Whole Park for Myself

Even though this is a main entrance point, it is easy to see that not many people come here during winter. The snow on the main trail is flattened by foot marks but many of those are made by regulars like myself.

Not many of us venture too far outside these trails when there is a lot of snow because 1: it is hard going and 2: it is extremely easy to loose your bearings.

The sun is often clouded during winter and most landmarks are simply white, or grey, or whitish/grey. Without nearby roads, there is also no sound to guide you and neither is there any cell reception here so your Google maps do no good.

Personally, I do prefer to get off the main trails though - I like to explore by myself. If I decide to do that in winter conditions I bring a gps tracker which will point me back to base if i make a fool of myself :)

The gps tracker I use

Whenever I decide to go off-trail I bring along my Bushnell Backtracker.

This is a very cheap and simple tool which can only do a couple of things - mainly register the location of your starting point, and indicate how far you have gone and the direction to that start point. It will not record your trail or show any maps.

Bushnell GPS BackTrack Personal Locator
Bushnell GPS BackTrack Personal Locator

So why not bring a true gps mapper? Because in the cold, the Backtracker has extremely good battery life compared to a power hungry GPS mapper. It is also very lightweight, and who needs more than just a indicator... your car is 5 miles that way.

 

Winter Dilemma: The Fast Way or The Safe Way?

The main trail has a couple of boarded walkways and a stair or two leading up to higher points. Breaking a leg on a icy stair is easy though so my suggestion in these situations is to go the safe but slow way by simply climbing the hill.

Even though you will be heading up steep banks, your feet will have better traction since you sink into the snow - rather than balance on top of the icy ridges of the stair steps.

Open Air Shelters

wind shelter in Tyresta park
wind shelter in Tyresta park

There are a couple of shelters here and there in Tyresta. These are open to one side and intended either as a temporary rest point or as a picnic destination, but not as a camping site. You could of course roll out your sleeping bag and pass the night inside but these sites are not intended for longer stays.

At these sites you will also find lidded boxes with nice dry firewood. Go ahead and make a fire anytime during winter and spring, but be attentive to restrictions during summer and fall when there is a risk of forest fires.

Also, be aware that you may not make a fire directly on rock anywhere in Sweden. Use existing fireplaces, or make your own in the bush on a sandy bank or similar. Never on the glacial rock which may leave irreparable scars

About 10% of the whole park area burned down in 1995. It took firefighters about 2 weeks to get the situation under control. The forest has still not grown back there. The burned area is close to where I took this stroll and if you pass through it during a overcast day, the burned tree stumps and scarred landscape looks just like I always imagined Mordor would look like.

I really like my new boots. The ones I had before these lasted 4 years of almost everyday use. This pair is still being broken in and I expect them to keep my feet in comfort for many years.

Many like full Goretex boots but I prefer leather with a Goretex lining. This type of a boot is built for terrain use and if you know you will mainly be treading on flat ground like gravel roads and paths, you might find them a bit clumsy.

When you walk, run or hike.. you rely on your feet. Poor footwear will lessen your experience and either make you sore, grow tired too soon or make your feet wet and cold.

Cold feet in winter landscapes will put an immediate end to the fun and can lead to health hazards. My advice: wear whatever clothes you like in layers, but don't be cheap about your boots.

SCARPA Men's SL M3 Backpacking Boot
SCARPA Men's SL M3 Backpacking Boot

This is a superb heavy duty hiking boot with excellent reviews. Genuine leather with Gore-tex lining - just the way I like it.

These types of boots are great for off-trail hiking but not as comfortable for long walks on roads.

 

Melting Power

fir tree cone
fir tree cone

Winters in Nordic regions means very short days, contiguous gloom and cold. Even though the forest is still utterly silent, there are small signs that things are turning for the better though.

One such sign is how even a simple cone can reflect and hoard enough heat from the scant sun rays to melt the snow around it. When you start seeing these depression created around all surface objects you know things are turning the right way.

Another sign is when you run across small open patches of running water. This is either melt water that runs under the snow and ice from exposed rock surfaces, or it is a warm spring. When the temp is too cold, even these freeze over so finding one in the open is a good sign ;)

These patches of running water are my favorite spot to take a break on since the water trickle makes small sounds in infinite loops in a otherwise silent environment.

Nature's Art is Free - Look, Touch, Listen

Many people I meet while on my hikes - summer and winter - seem to be outdoors on a schedule and with some important purpose and goal. Some hurry back and forth, shuttling the kids, being pulled along by the dog, texting and arguing with the partner, and in general being loud and stressed

If this is you, if you recognize being uptight and almost not being able to breathe even though you are in the middle of nature... rethink the way you approach the outdoors. Try to stop doing what you always do and cut off distractions, even for a little while (leaving your phone in the car helps). Make a pact to not talk too much and leave your arguments at home.

Stop now and then and simply listen and watch. If you are lucky, you may have landed on a good spot which offers a taste of nature's sounds and patterns for you to experience. If not, trek on to the next point, stop and observe. Rinse and repeat until you can breathe easy again.

When I started my short hike the day was grey and heavy and chilly and silent. All the components that make you think that winter is going to be everlasting this year.

On my way back down though, the clouds moved away and the sun popped out. Blue sky, sparkling snow - what a difference!

Even a bird or two made some tentative sounds and all of a sudden, spring was in the air!

Spring Update

Melting snow creates fog in the warm air
Melting snow creates fog in the warm air

Spring is uncommonly late this year but finally, yesterday saw some serious melt and on my walk today you could even find open ground. Since it starts so late, spring will be short this year. It will almost be like going from winter to summer in a couple of weeks.

Where is the Tyresta Park in Sweden?

The Tyresta National Park is located about a 20 minute drive south-west of Stockholm. The marker is placed in the southern area of the park which is close to my home and where I frequently take hikes. All images on this lens are from this region.

Zoom in to view details.

Do you hibernate during winter or get outdoors?

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    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 3 years ago from Colorado

      I love hiking in winter. You see more (especially animal prints in fresh snow). Without all the foliage blocking the view, the "bones" of the landscape are more visible. I also love the serenity of fewer people out and about. This was a lovely hike through your frozen forest. Thank you for the virtual refreshment.

    • profile image

      anonymous 3 years ago

      A little of both! I like to walk around my frozen pond, looking for tracks and changes in the ice. Eagles often fly over riding high on vortexes or barely skimming the treetops. But I also like to hunker down by the wood-fire inside and read a good book on my Kindle. Enjoyed reading this and getting to see your beautiful winter scenes!

    • goldenrulecomics profile image

      goldenrulecomics 4 years ago

      Beautiful photos. I like to hike in the winter but hard to get the kids to do it!

    • CaztyBon profile image

      CaztyBon 4 years ago

      Hibernate during the winter. Wait till Spring to go out walking. Love the photo's great lens.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Our family stays outdoors as much as possible. I definitely agree that quality footwear is a must.

    • MarcStorm LM profile image

      MarcStorm LM 4 years ago

      I really enjoyed reading this and I love that GPS tracker! Thank you for making such a great article! You took some wonderful pictures! Great Job!

    • Loretta L profile image

      Loretta Livingstone 4 years ago from Chilterns, UK.

      I love snow, so I love to go walking or tobogganing if it's cold. I have M.E. so am not able to be putdoors as much as I'd like, but what I am able to do, I do enjoy.

    • comfortyourfeet profile image

      comfortyourfeet 4 years ago

      I have to be outside--just layer on the clothes!

    • Northerntrials profile image

      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      I like a winter walk so I can track the animals that live in my area. It is far easier to track them in the winter and is an eye opener at the total number and variety of wild animals I see. Now if I could find them in the summer ... hmmmm.

    • flicker lm profile image

      flicker lm 4 years ago

      I like to get outdoors in the winter. Even if it's just a walk on my (very long) driveway. Enjoyed your article and the photos. That last one "Change finally in the air..." is really beautiful!

    • poldepc lm profile image

      poldepc lm 4 years ago

      great lens, thanks for sharing...

    • MrAusAdventure profile image

      Bill 4 years ago from Gold Coast, Australia

      Winter here is my favourite time to hike, but our winters here are probably similar to your summers, high teens, low 20's Celcius and very dry and sunny. Our summers are wet and the forests are full of leaches and always raining. I have hiked in the snow in the USA through Yosemite National Park and loved it!

    • profile image

      DebMartin 4 years ago

      I'm an outdoor girl all the way!

    • Fcuk Hub profile image

      Fcuk Hub 4 years ago

      It depends on where is my location :)

    • iamraincrystal profile image

      Rosyel Sawali 4 years ago from Manila Philippines

      Wow! Your photos are so lovely! We don't have winter here so I don't know if I would ever like going outdoors during winter. ^_^

    • WeeCatCreations1 profile image

      Susan Caplan McCarthy 4 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      I stay indoors nowadays ... I get too cold when there is snow on the ground.

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 4 years ago from San Francisco

      I tend to hibernate these days, but in younger years I liked to cross country ski on wooded trails. Now I live in a city that feels like spring year round, and I like that fine. Thank you for sharing your love of Tyresta Forest Park. I doubt I will ever visit, so it is quite lovely to see your pictures. Also, I am delighted to learn of Sweden's ban on building fires on rock. I do wish the US was more forward thinking in such ways.

    • junecampbell profile image

      June Campbell 4 years ago from North Vancouver, BC, Canada

      Wonderful, wonderful pictures. I would so love to visit.

    • profile image

      hmommers 4 years ago

      Great lens! Makes me want to visit Sweden even more. I live further south (Holland), but at times it's cold and snowy here too. Like today. And it was fabulous to hike in the woods. Although our woods look less 'wild' than yours. :-)

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      We still get outside as much as possible. This is an amazing lens. Very well done. My only problem is getting the kids out in the cold. I finally talked my older girls into sledding two weekens ago. When we were done, they asked why we hadn't done it more. I reminded them their younger siblings had been out several times with me. Aren't kids funny that way?

    • Mickie Gee profile image

      Mickie Goad 4 years ago

      In my part of the USA, winter is not a very long season and most of it is mild. So, I guess that my answer to your question is "No, I do not hibernate during the winter and I do get outside." When I lived in Colorado USA, I used to love to hike in the forest in winter. Loved the sound of crunching snow.

    • LisaDH profile image

      LisaDH 4 years ago

      I like to visit snowy places during winter, get outdoors and enjoy myself... and then return to California! We rarely ever see snow where I live and I like it that way. :-)

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image

      Elyn MacInnis 4 years ago from Shanghai, China

      I go out, but there isn't much in the way of nature near Shanghai. Every inch is covered in people or structures. We do have a park, and I went out this past Saturday and enjoyed the plum trees, which are blooming now. They are the symbol of perseverance for the Chinese, since they bloom when it is still very cold. I really enjoyed your trip through the preserve - it was a real rest.

    • chi kung profile image

      chi kung 4 years ago

      I go out as well, I belong to a group of friends who usually go on a day-trip once a month :)

    • katiecolette profile image

      katiecolette 4 years ago

      Outdoors for me, as long as I am dressed for the weather :)

    • xceeduk profile image

      xceeduk 4 years ago

      A really beautiful lens. Having spent lots of time walking through the snow this year your pictures bring back lots of memories.

    • profile image

      AlleyCatLane 4 years ago

      I am not the outdoor type but your lens was beautiful and informative. I can imagine being on the path you describe would be a form of meditation. Excellent lens!

    • ruthlspurgeon profile image

      ruthlspurgeon 4 years ago

      I do hibenate, but I love the woods. Maybe I will try hiking in all seasons.

    • Board-Game-Brooke profile image

      C A Chancellor 4 years ago from US/TN

      I'm a hibernator for sure! But I admire heartier types. :-)

    • Mistl profile image

      Mistl 4 years ago

      Beautiful pictures. I have always loved taking walks in the snow, although I am probably a bit too much of a cosy person to go on a proper hike.

      Hot chocolate tastes even better after a day in a winter forest! :)

    • Titia profile image

      Titia Geertman 4 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

      Living on a small farm without central heating, one can not hibernate during winter or one will freeze to death. Each day we have to make sure there's enough wood for the stove in the house and my sheep need to be fed and watered every day. You live in a beautiful land, never been there though.

    • jolou profile image

      jolou 4 years ago

      Hibernate, although where I live it does not get really cold. We managed to get through winter this year without a single day of snow. Although we don't get much snow, we usually get one or two snowfalls each year, with it melting in a day or two.

    • Blackspaniel1 profile image

      Blackspaniel1 4 years ago

      Like the photos

    • Iftikhar-Hussain profile image

      Iftikhar-Hussain 4 years ago

      yes winter is coming for us here .. Thanks for share :)

    • kindoak profile image
      Author

      kindoak 4 years ago

      @flycatcherrr: Thanks for the kind words!

    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 4 years ago

      This is wonderful, and wonderfully familiar - your photographs look so much like my bit of far-eastern Canada, and the park where I like to hike! I don't like the cold at all, but I do love the winter landscape. The colours are so subtle and monochromatic, it becomes all about the textures without distraction. And those small patches of open water are one of my favourite very early signs of potential spring. Thank you so much for this visual treat - not to mention your recommendation for a good simple reliable tracker, which I really must invest in!

    • profile image

      JoshK47 4 years ago

      Beautiful work on this lens! I miss having real winter... Blessed and liked!

    • sockii profile image

      Nicole Pellegrini 4 years ago from New Jersey

      Love your photos! I admit, after spending a few days helping on my mother's farm during the winter I usually have enough of the cold outdoors to last me for quite some time :) But the outdoors can be beautiful in the snow and dormant winter.

    • Ramkitten2000 profile image

      Deb Kingsbury 4 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

      I try to get outdoors in the winter as much as possible, snowshoeing, hiking, and, when the roads are clear of snow and ice, jogging. I get down in the dumps if I stay indoors too much. Thanks for sharing this hike. It looks like a wonderful place to go in the winter. I've been to Stockholm, by the way, but didn't have time to explore outside of the city. Someday!

    • techmom profile image

      techmom 4 years ago

      That looks gorgeous! We hibernate now because of young children, but we do like to go out for at least short periods of time.

    • weirdproduct profile image

      weirdproduct 4 years ago

      Yes, great read. Thank you.

    • gottaloveit2 profile image

      gottaloveit2 4 years ago

      What a truly lovely lens. So well written - you drew me right in. Really well done.

    • profile image

      Jack-in-the-Box 4 years ago

      Years ago I lived on an 80 acre farm with lots of wooded areas. I spent much time in those woods in all seasons. Winter was one of my favorite times to be there. You see so much more that you just can't see when the trees have leaves and the forest floor is full as well. I loved your lens. I made me miss my walks in the frozen forest.

    • sharonbellis profile image

      Sharon Bellissimo 4 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

      I have to admit I hibernate; I do go to the gym but that's indoors! These pics are beautiful a walk in the woods at anytime of year is good for the soul.

    • profile image

      ChristyZ 4 years ago

      I love to spend time in the forest all year round, including winter. Nature is inspiring! Terrific lens I really enjoy it. :)