Last updated: April 14, 2015
Exploring nature in the colder months offers a different view of the world compared to the warmer seasons. Take for instance, the forest in winter. The forest does not just shut down and become dormant once all of the leaves have fallen. In fact, quite the opposite is true. While we may view the forest as lifeless in winter, it still thrives with activity.
Not all animals go dormant for the winter. Other animals such as squirrels and deer are trying to survive when the weather turns cold and harsh. We can catch glimpses of animal activity if we take time to notice. Visibility within the forest is also excellent in the winter. As the leaves fall, the landscape opens around us increasing our chances to view the wonders of wildlife.
Animals are like us. They must eat, drink, and find shelter to survive. This information helps us to know where to look for signs of wildlife. After rain or snow is the perfect time to be a nature detective. If we are quiet as we walk through the woods, we can hear animals and birds rustling in the leaves. Take a moment to stop and listen. Explore the edges of streams or ponds where animals may walk to get a drink. In fresh mud or snow tracks will be very visible. If you don’t see tracks, look for other signs like scat or rub marks on trees. Remember to observe wildlife from a safe distance.
For your next hiking experience bring a guidebook on animal tracks. Guidebooks are great learning tools that help sharpen our skills as nature detectives. You might just discover that the forest in winter is one of the best times of the year to explore.
While enjoying the trails at Ninety Six National Historic Site please be safe and remember to dress appropriately. Here are some tips for your next outing.
Image from https://education.usgs.gov/kids/tracks.html
Winter Safety Tips
Clothing – wear layers of protective clothing, warm socks, shoes or boots (preferably leather), appropriate gloves and scarf, ear muffs, and hat or even a toboggan. A good idea is to place hand warmers in your coat pockets.
Weather Forecast – Look at the weather forecast to help plan your hike and the day of arrival. If it is going to be a bright sunny day bring a pair of sunglasses. Yes, even in the winter the sun can be bright and you can still get sunburn.
Water & Snacks – Bring at least 1 liter of water with you for a 3-5 hour excursion. Also carry something to snack on that you can easily add to a day pack.
Check In – Be sure to check in with a ranger at the Visitor Center before exploring the park in the winter. While here, be sure to pick up a trail map and let the ranger know what you are planning. You want to be assured all routes are safe for travel. Children should always stay with an adult. Pets should be kept on a leash at all times.
Ranger Tim’s Stewardship Message
The forests of the world lead to the key of our survival. Help us keep our resources safe by leaving only footprints and taking only pictures. While visiting Ninety Six National Historic Site explore any or all of the trails the park has to offer.