Tag Archives: snowshoeing

Tips for Staying Warm and Dry During Winter Adventures

Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean you should stop adventuring, but it does mean that you have to prepare more. Staying warm and dry when you’re out on a long winter bike ride, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or exploring the wintery landscape in another way is essential. You definitely won’t have a good time with numb fingers and toes, and a negative experience will make you less likely to get outside during winter in the future. Plus, hypothermia and frostbite are not laughing matters and should be avoided at all costs.

Woman shivering.

Brr! Bundle up—winter is officially here. [Image: http://www.mirror.co.uk/]

Dress Appropriately

Winter calls for certain gear that you obviously don’t need in other seasons, and while it may seem excessive at times, it’s all necessary. From top to bottom, there are a few essential items to make sure you have in stock.

Couple snowshoeing.

The couple that dresses warm together, probably goes on to do lots of fun outdoor adventuring together. [Image: http://www.active.com/]

  • Socks, socks, and more socks. And not just thin cotton socks, but at least one pair of heavy-duty wool socks to keep your tootsies snug. You’ll also probably want a pair of thinner wool socks to put on underneath the thicker ones. Layers are essential for keeping your extremities toasty warm.
  • Large, breathable, waterproof boots. To account for the thicker socks and extra layers, you’ll need a pair of boots that are larger than your normal shoe size. You’ll also want a pair that can breathe and that are waterproof because wet, sweaty feet lead to wet boots, which will eventually freeze and lead to your feet getting colder quicker.
  • Kneewarmers or tights/long johns underneath snow pants. Your legs will probably be one of the warmest parts of your body as you’ll typically be exerting yourself by using your legs. Tights, long johns, and kneewarmers are all helpful in providing a bit of extra warmth, though. And these, of course, go underneath any heavier snow pants or thicker pants you may be wearing—unless you’re trying to create a new fashion trend, that is.
  • Jackets for days. There’s a general “rule of three” when it comes to layering. An insulated jacket is essential, and depending on the temperatures and how long you’ll be outside for, an extra jacket as well as a breathable, non-cotton shirt might also be necessary.
  • Fingers are like toes and should be treated similarly. What we mean by this is that fingers, like toes, are extremities and often get cold first as your body concentrates heat on your torso for your vital organs. Therefore it’s appropriate to layer and invest in some extra linings. There is also a lot of talk that mittens are more effective than gloves, but that’s usually up to your personal preference—if you absolutely hate mittens for some reason, then it’s probably not worth the investment. Hand (and foot!) warmers are also helpful and are available in bulk on many sites.
  • Protect that beautiful head of yours. A hat and scarf combo are great for winter exploring and help to keep your ears, neck, and face comfortable. There are other items—like a buff, balaclava, or earmuffs—that you might also want to look into, but as long as you’re covered then you’re good to go. It’s also important to remember that if you start becoming warm, the scarf and hat should be the first items to be removed.

Know the Signs of Hypothermia and Frostbite

Cold Spongebob.

Trust me, this is not the life you want. [Image: http://media.tumblr.com/]

There are more than a few ways to know if you’re suffering from hypothermia or frostbite as well as plenty of ways to treat both. With frostbiteyou’ll start out feeling a cold, prickly feeling in your body parts and they’ll turn red (as mentioned before, extremities are the first areas that typically become afflicted with frostbite). From there, the body part will grow increasingly numb and will turn white, and may even turn blue or purple. You’ll know you’re in trouble if your body starts feeling warm and you experience stinging or burning. At this point you may also experience blisters a day or so after warming back up. If your frostbite advances even further, all layers of your skin will be affected by the freezing temperatures. You might lose functionality in your joints and will become completely numb in the frostbitten areas, which will eventually turn black in the days following the exposure.

On the other hand, hypothermia is a whole other monster to deal with. A few signs of hypothermia are shivering, dizziness, confusion, trouble speaking, lack of coordination, weak pulse, and shallow breathing. Although it’s usually difficult to notice hypothermia as the symptoms are gradual, the more it sets in, the more apparent the symptoms become. However, the shivering will cease in extreme cases. Wearing breathable, non-cotton clothes during your winter adventures is very important as cotton absorbs sweat and can freeze, making you more vulnerable to hypothermia.

Stay Hydrated

Woman drinking water.

Drink up! The water’s great! [Image: http://thoughtfulwomen.org/]

It’s easy to overlook drinking water when your teeth are chattering and your muscles twitching with the cold, but it’s incredibly important to stay hydrated during wintertime exercise. When your body is cold, your mind ends up preoccupied, and you simply don’t feel thirsty as often, even when you’re on the brink of dehydration. Water also helps you generate heat easier and quicker, which is especially important when you’re covered in tons of layers. It’s important to drink water often (and not a swig of whiskey, as some movies may have you believe).

Hopefully with these tips you’re feeling a bit more inspired to head outside and explore, despite winter’s chill. And nothing can make that easier than our handy Pocket Ranger® mobile apps, which are available for download in the iTunes and Google Play Stores!

Winter Never Gets Old in the Enchanted Mountains of Western NY!

Contributed by Cattaraugus County Tourism

People walking on snow at Cattaraugus County

Image: Cattaraugus County Tourism

Do you tire of winter before it even begins? Or how about just after the holidays? Think that there is nothing to do when it’s cold outside besides sit under a blanket and try to keep warm? That’s not what we think here in Cattaraugus County, the Enchanted Mountains of Western NY. We have many reasons to love winter and all four seasons of the year. We are in the top of the list for counties who receive the maximum snowfall in NY state. It’s no wonder we know how to have fun in the snow! How does cascading over the snow on a trail-dominating snowmobile sound? Or exploring the back woods? Or breaking your own trails on snowshoes? You can do all that right here and will soon be warming up to winter as well!

December is here, and that means snow can happen at any time! The trails open up right after hunting season ends (December 22), the week before Christmas vacation. Plan ahead to enjoy the upcoming season of fun by calling for a FREE snowmobile map. Our trails will take you through deep woods freshly covered with snow, around small towns with businesses that welcome snowmobilers, and sometimes even over a frozen lake! The map will guide you throughout our miles and miles of trails (almost 400!) in our county and into the neighboring counties as well. You won’t have to worry about getting lost! And if you don’t feel like traveling far, our trails offer more than enough dashing through the snow. The number to call for the map is 1-800-331-0543.

Trail of people on snow mobiles at Cattaraugus County

Image: Cattaraugus County Tourism

If you don’t have a snowmobile, we can recommend where you can rent one—even ones that will be delivered right to where you are staying. We can also recommend places for you to stay right off the snowmobile trails. Allegany State Park has winterized cabins that range from rustic to high-end cottages that include all the amenities of home besides food. You can spend the day out riding in the snow and then come back to a comfy cabin warmed just to the temperature you like. If you have a large family or your snowmobiling club wants to vacation together, try one of the newly restored group camps at Allegany State Park. The cabins are all located together with plenty of bathroom space (handicap accessible also) and a large kitchen/dining area so you can all have meals together.

Prefer the slower paced enjoyment of the wintry outdoors instead of riding snowmobiles? You can take up snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. We have plenty of places for that as well! Allegany State Park has a large trail system for cross-country skiing: the Art Roscoe Trail System. It’s almost 25-miles worth of loops, giving you opportunities ranging from a casual walk to an all-out workout. You can rent skis right across from the system at the Summit Warming Hut. Snowshoes are not permitted on this trail system, but are allowed anywhere else in the park. Find your favorite summer hiking trail and attempt it in the winter. Compare the differences of the seasons and add even more memories to your favorite hikes. You can also cross-country ski at Holiday Valley, known for its downhill skiing. Cruise the ridgelines at the top of the mountain or circle around the golf course down below—both offer spectacular views. They also rent out cross-country skis if you are in need.

Pfeiffer Nature Center has miles of trails just waiting to be explored. The trails are well-groomed and kept clean all winter long. They have rentals, but the number is limited so call ahead. There are two properties of Pfeiffer Nature Center: the Lillibridge Property and the Eshelman Property. The Lillibridge Property will take you through an old growth forest with red and white oaks estimated to be around 150 years old. Thorton Thruway leads you to the southern border of the property where you can see one of the oldest Black Gum trees in the East, which is more than 500 years old! The Eshelman Property offers hikes of shorter distances, going along a creek then up a hill for a great view of the valley, before meandering by the meadow. It’s a great place to see animals!

Of course we also have ice skating, ice fishing, and plenty of indoor options for you as well, which can be discovered on EnchantedMountains.com, including upcoming events! No matter what you decide to do in the Enchanted Mountains during winter, you will find yourself shouting, “Let it snow!”

People riding snow mobiles banner from Pocket Ranger app

How to Avoid an Avalanche

Whether you’re hiking, snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing through the mountains, avalanches are not to be regarded lightly. We’ve all seen enough video clips and movies to know that they are a force to be reckoned with and one to be avoided at all costs. Even in situations where you played by all the rules and did everything you were supposed to, Mother Nature still sometimes throws a curveball and you might find yourself on a remote snow-covered mountain that’s showing the signs of an avalanche. Here is some information on what exactly you’re up against as well as how to properly prepare yourself.

What Triggers an Avalanche?

Snow crashing over a snowy cliff

An avalanche at Mt. Rainier [Image: environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/natural-disasters/avalanche-profile/]

An avalanche occurs once the weight of the snow is too much and the snowpack fails and collapses under the pressure. It’s hard to determine what the strength of a snowpack will be since the snow grains vary depending on size, density, temperature, airflow, received sunlight, difference in terrain, and more. A lot of avalanches occur naturally either during a storm or when the snowpack changes, such as by partially melting, but can also be triggered by exploring visitors. There are three different types of avalanches to look out for: slab, powder snow, and wet snow.

Slab Avalanche

A hiker trapped in a series of snow chunks breaking away from the snowpack.

A slab avalanche [Image: www.wayneflannavalancheblog.com/2012/01/i-have-this-picture-on-my-wall-in.html]

A slab avalanche occurs when covered layers of weakened snow fracture and collapse. They mostly happen during and up to 24 hours after a storm that leaves 12 inches or more of fresh powder. This new snow overloads the existing layers and creates a break. These avalanches can be huge chunks of snowpack, sometimes spanning an entire mountainside, and typically carry downslope for a long time with the possibility of reaching up to 80 mph. Approximately 90% of avalanche-related deaths are due to slab avalanches—many who find themselves involved in a slab avalanche will rarely escape alive.

Powder Snow Avalanches

An avalanche coming down a mountainside appearing like a cloud.

A powder snow avalanche [Image: www.planat.ch/en/images-details/datum/2011/06/21/schattenbachlawine-walenstadt]

Powder snow avalanches occur with fresh, dry powder and essentially become a snow cloud. These are the largest avalanches to form out of turbulent suspension currents. Typically these avalanches are able to move along flat surfaces for long distances and only make up a small amount of injuries or deaths comparatively.

Wet Snow Avalanches

A smaller avalanche coming down a mountainside made up of clumps of wet snow.

A wet snow avalanche [Image: www.mtavalanche.com/images/10/loose-wet-snow-avalanche?size=_original]

Although wet snow avalanches move slowly, they can take up a large amount of space, can result in serious injury, and end up being pretty destructive leaving trees, boulders, and most of what they come into contact with in their wake. They occur from a loose snow release in snow packs that have a lot of water saturation and are close to melting point. A lot of times these avalanches occur toward the end of winter as the snow is warmed by the longer daytime hours.

How to Prepare for Avalanches

A diagram of a man trapped underneath snow putting an arm above his head and another across his face to create an air pocket.

What to do if trapped in an avalanche [Image: www.artofmanliness.com/2011/12/14/how-to-survive-an-avalanche]

When going on a wintertime adventure on a snowy mountaintop, it’s best to be prepared for even the most extreme situations. Always check avalanche forecasts with park headquarters before heading out for a trip. At the bare minimum, you should bring a shovel, beacon, and probe with you. Beacons (or avalanche transceivers) are important because they can receive signals from other devices to help locate buried victims. A probe is used to dive into the snow and find a buried victim and works especially well when coupled with a beacon. Avalanche airbags and Avalungs are fantastic items that make it so a buried person has a higher chance of surviving and being rescued.

Sometimes even the most diligent and prepared hiker, skier, or snowboarder will hear the terrifying creaks that signify an avalanche. The first thing you’ll want to do is get off the breaking slab as quickly as possible by moving to the side. Snowmobilers are sometimes able to crank the speed and outrace a broken slab. If unable to escape the mass of traveling snow, try to grab onto a sturdy object such as a tree or rock instead. Humans are denser than other debris and will sink faster in the snowpack. Once the snow settles, it refreezes and makes it nearly impossible to move. Throwing a hand above the snowpack and making room in front of your face are the most important things to do if you find yourself trapped. Some claim that spitting will help you determine which way is up or that swimming will get you away from a traveling snowpack quicker, but there is no proof that either actually works. The longer a victim is submerged under the snow, the less chance they have of surviving the incident (usually being buried for more than 15 minutes leads to hypothermia and a lower chance of survival).

Hopefully, this article gave you some new information and makes you feel a bit more prepared for any winter journeys you may be planning. Download our Pocket Ranger® mobile apps to find a park to explore near you!

Winter Fun at the State Parks

There’s no reason to say indoors this January! We’ve found some great winter fun at the state parks that is sure to keep you warm and active outdoors.

Kentucky

Elks stand in the snow at a Kentucky state park

A herd of elk at Buckhorn Lake State Resort Park [Image: parks.ky.gov]

Winter is a great time to see wildlife at the Kentucky state parks. Bundle up and bring the binoculars for a Winter Elk Watch at Buckhorn Lake State Resort Park. Elk were reintroduced to Kentucky in 1997, after being extinct from the region for 150 years. There are now around 10,000 elk within the state, and many opportunities for sightings. Or visit Kentucky Dam Village State Resort Park to partake in The Gathering of the Eagles. For one weekend every year, the park offers visitors the opportunity to see migrating Bald eagles. There are interpretive programs, as well as guided tours by bus and luxury cruise ship.

Nebraska

Learn about winter survival at the Cold Day, Warm Hearts, & Family Fun Day at Eugene T. Mahoney State Park. Enjoy fishing and birding activities, and create winter crafts. Make some great family memories while roasting hotdogs and s’mores over an open fire.

Maine

People cross-country ski through the snow in Maine woods

Image: www.forestsformainesfuture.org

With tons of powder, get up to Cobscook Bay State Park for their Winter Family Fun Day! Family-friendly activities will be happening all day long, including sleigh rides, nature walks, skating, and sledding, plus free equipment rentals for those wanting to cross-country ski or snowshoe. Get cozy at the warming station and let the park staff serve you a delicious hot lunch.

Florida

For a night of rousing music under a full moon, come to Myakka River State Park to hear the popular Americana band, Have Gun Will Travel. This band was featured on NPR, and also has their own award-winning craft beer, High Road Ale. Grab your favorite beverage and head to the South Pavilion to see one of the best Americana bands around!

If you’re looking to partake in something a bit quirkier, Koreshan State Historic Site will be hosting the fascinating interpretive program, Archeology of Poop: The Truth Comes Out in the End. Limited to just 90 participants, this program will focus on the archeological study of paleofeces and privy deposits. Participants will also get to try their hand at archeology with a hand-on activity consisting of “replicate” materials found in a historic privy. Make sure to reserve your spot!

New Jersey

A boy learns how to ice fish

Learn how to ice fish! [Image: www.greatfallstribune.com]

The Annual Winter Festival at High Point Park State Park is a celebration of all things snow and ice. Bring the whole family for a day full of winter activities, such as guided hikes, sing-alongs, and winter-themed crafts. There will also be snowshoeing and ice-fishing demonstrations. Take along your Pocket Ranger® app and mark waypoints of places that you’d like to revisit in the spring. Later, help yourself to some complimentary hot cocoa and cookies and warm up by the fire.

Georgia

Hit the trail on horseback to celebrate MLK Day in the winter woodlands. On this guided trail ride at F.D. Roosevelt State Park, a naturalist and wrangler will share tidbits about the natural history of the Pine Mountain Ridge area. President Franklin D. Roosevelt liked to picnic at this park because of its gorgeous hardwoods and pines, creeks, and small waterfalls. Horse rentals are possible through Roosevelt Riding Stables.

Ohio


Want to learn more about dog-sledding? The Siberian Husky Club of Greater Cleveland will be holding an informational afternoon about this thrilling winter activity at Punderson State Park. Visitors can meet working sled dogs and learn more about the Husky breed. See these Huskies in action during the sledding demonstrations.

Pennsylvania

There are so many ways to get outside in Pennsylvania’s state parks this January! The Winterfest at Hills Creek State Park will have sledding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, sledding and skating. There will also be kids crafts, guided hikes, and hot drinks and snacks. Best of all, ski and skate rentals are available and free of charge! The highlight of the Ice-O-Rama event at Lyman Run State Park will be the unveiling of the thought-to-be extinct Giant Ice Shark of Lyman Run. Activities will include sledding, skating, cross-country skiing, and snowshoe and ice fishing clinics.  Soup and hot beverages will be available at the event. The Snow Festival at Bendigo State Park includes a snow box derby, winter survival demonstration, and guided tree identification walks. Hot food will be provided by the local scout troops.

Fun State Park Winter Activities

Image: www./skytop.com

Image: www.skytop.com

Winter is (almost) here, which means one thing: snow! Many state and national parks across the country turn into winter wonderlands, offering fun winter activities during the snowy season. Pull out your coats, throw on your fleece jackets and gloves, and hit the slopes!

Lots of parks offer snow activities such as snowmobiling, skiing, and ice fishing, but what about the lesser known winter activities such as skijorning and ice boating? We’ve highlighted 5 states with exciting snow adventures for everyone.

Washington State Parks

Washington State Parks have a plethora of winter activities. Washington offers cross-country and downhill skiing, skijoring (what’s that?!) snowmobiling, dog sledding, and snowshoeing.

Washington has more than 3,000 miles of trails, which are comprised of snowmobile clubs and some private landowner properties. Some trails are for snowmobile use and others are for non-motorized sports.

Maine State Parks

Over on the east coast, Maine State Parks have similar types of winter activities. Pine Tree State Park has thousands of miles of maintained snowmobile trails. Some trails even lead into Canada and New Hampshire.

Parks including Aroostook State Park, Bradbury Mountain State Park, Camden Hills State Park, Mount Blue State Park, Vaughan Woods State Park, and Wolfes Neck Woods State Park all have cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

Utah State Parks

When it comes to winter activities, Utah has got you covered. Goblin Valley State Park alone has snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and skate skiing, as well as camping opportunities of all kinds. Located near Herber City, Jordanelle State Park also has cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

Pennsylvania State Parks

Pennsylvania has a great winter-friendly state park system. Whether you’re vying to go cross-country skiing or downhill skiing, Pennsylvania is the place for you. The cross-country ski trails are located on either hiking or equestrian trails, service roads, frozen lakes, railroad grades, and shorelines. Snowshoeing is available anywhere in a state park where there is snow.

If you’re in the mood for ice fishing, there are numerous lakes waiting for you to cast your rod in a self-made fishing hole.

Pennsylvania also offers ice boating for the true outdoor enthusiast. A permit is required, but it’ll be well worth it.

Don’t let the cold weather deter you from going out and enjoying nature. Check out our winter wear article and suit up and get out there! You can also find out which parks offer other activities by downloading our free Pocket Ranger mobile app. You won’t be disappointed!

Trail Talk: Snowshoeing at High Point State Park

As a ParksByNature Network team member, I’ve come across a whole slew of recreational activities I’d love to try, and state parks I definitely want to visit as I’ve helped to develop the many mobile tour guides we’ve released over the years. Honestly, when you’re sitting in front of a computer screen and reading phrases like, “secluded forested coves at the crest of the mountain,” or “enjoy the sparkling waters and unbridled wilderness,” it takes every bit of will power to stay at your desk and resist the urge to head straight for a state park. Luckily, there’s such a thing called weekends.

That’s when I get to grab my Pocket Ranger® app, and reap the benefits of our company’s hard work by stepping into the very places I can only dream about during the week. It’s no surprise then that when I had the opportunity to go snowshoeing for the first time at New Jersey’s High Point State Park I couldn’t wait! I counted down the days, wondering what it would be like to tromp around the snow with snowshoes. I also kept my fingers crossed that we’d even have snow despite the inauspicious forecast of rain and near 60-degree weather. Fortunately, when the day finally came, we were given the thumbs up. Because of High Point State Park’s elevation, they told us that there was bound to be snow. In fact, it’s supposed to be the snowiest area in the metropolitan area. I was about to find out.

Image: njmonthly.com / Colin Archer/Agency New Jersey

Image: njmonthly.com / Colin Archer/Agency New Jersey

Before I hopped into my car early Saturday morning, I cached the park’s GPS map since losing reception at the top of a mountain was sure to happen. Next, I plugged in the park’s directions from the app and drove for nearly two hours. Once I got to the beautiful High Point State Park, I met a group of people just as eager to go on the snowshoeing tour as I was. Even more exciting was the amount of snow that actually blanketed the park!

By this time, I’ve already noticed the many varieties of snowshoes that people who came before me were wearing. I have to say these snowshoes in no way matched the description that I had in my head of what snowshoes looked like—not in the least. For starters, they weren’t handcrafted from wood. And where was the crisscrossing rawhide that was supposed to make them look like tennis rackets? I’m a little embarrassed to admit that my idea of snowshoes was a bit out-dated. Either way, it didn’t put a damper on my excitement to try on a pair, so off to the lodge I went where I was handed bright red snowshoes. I laid them down on the floor and swapped them a few times, trying to figure out left from right. I even turned them upside down to see if there was an R and an L. Finally, one of the employees rescued me from humiliation, and I was good to go. I decided on a test run to try out my new gear before starting the tour. It was a good thing, too, because it was a little awkward walking around at first.

Screen Shot 2013-01-16 at 7.09.52 PM

At 11:00 High Point State Park’s naturalist, Kate Foord, gathered all us to begin the tour. She pointed to High Point Monument in the distance, but because of the dense fog, we could barely see it. In fact, the monument vanished throughout the day until we were much closer to the site. From where we were standing, the monument, built in honor of all war veterans, looked so far away, but that was where we were headed. We followed Kate, forming a long row of novice snowshoers.

Screen Shot 2013-01-16 at 7.12.36 PM

Along the way, she talked about animal tracks and gave us quite a bit of state park history. A mile later, our group stopped for yet another history lesson. This was also the deciding point for most us—continue hiking for another four miles along the monument trail or head back and call it a day. From a lack of breakfast and for fear that I would pass out, I was already in line to go back to the lodge. Then, a sudden miracle occurred. A fellow snowshoer offered me a granola bar! That was all the food and convincing I needed to continue snowshoeing towards the Monument and all the way up to 1,803 feet above sea level. It was no easy task, however.

Day5A few times, I had to stop to catch my breath. Other times, I had to strap on one of my snowshoes again. Then there were times, when my legs just felt like heavy steel and I felt like whining, as if that would magically get me to the top. When I reached the monument—New Jersey’s highest point—all the moaning and groaning stopped. It was worth every step. The view was magnificent and the monument that faded in and out earlier was monolithic. There was no doubt that it held its place in the ground. I dropped a waypoint near the monument and even took a screenshot to show what the view looked like from where I stood as that little blue dot in the GPS map.

After taking a few more photos, it was time descend to the lodge. The trek back was a much shorter distance, but we found no relief. The trail grew slim and rocky at times, and it took some fancy footwork to maneuver through these areas with snowshoes. I’d like to say that I made it all the way back with my snowshoes on, but when I encountered a fallen tree that formed an arch with just a narrow passageway, the snowshoes came right off. The remaining quarter-mile of the trail I trudged through the snow with no special shoes to brag about. Finally, I went up the stairs to the lodge where I exchanged my snowshoe rentals for a well-deserved hot cup of chocolate. I was amid great company, a warm fire, and it was just before the soreness kicked in. I savored every sip.

day6Eventually, on my drive back home and for some time after, my legs ached. Fortunately, I didn’t need my legs to type this up to share this experience. Would I try snowshoeing again? Absolutely, and so should you! For the remainder of the month, High Point State Park will continue to offer daily tours. Contact the park directly for details regarding rental fees, hours, and directions. Then, use your Pocket Ranger® app to invite family and friends and go off on a winter escapade through the windy woods. I’ll keep you posted on where and when my next outing will be, so be on the lookout.