Wintry weather can be a pain. For people who like getting outdoors, it can also be intimidating. All that ice and cold, the early darkness.
But winter can also be beautiful and wild, and even familiar places can seem a little exotic. A couple weeks ago, I hiked a trail up Noonmark Mountain in New York's Adirondack Park.
Right out of the gate, I passed an alpine pond framed by bluffs sheathed in ice. I also found a surprising amount of sun sweeping through the snowy woods. There are views this time of year you just don't find in the summer: a ledge of icicles framed against bright green moss, streams full of golden brown water sheathed in silver, gangs of chickadees chirping wildly as they swept by overhead.
It was icy enough on the trail that I strapped little crampons to my boots, known as micro spikes, to give me a little more traction and confidence as I worked my way up the rocks. I stopped often to hydrate and to listen. The woods are quieter in winter, more subtle, but I could hear trickles of water moving under the snow and the soft wind moving in the birch and pine.
By early afternoon it was so warm I stripped to my T-shirt. It was then that I came across my favorite discovery of the day, a garden of tiny ice sculptures known as "needle ice." These glittering delicate formations are created when water is squeezed up out of the frozen ground.
When I brushed my hand across them, they dissolved with a sound like something out of a fairy tale.
I hiked on, scrambling over icy ledges. The trail finally opened to sky and more sun and a crazy big horizon of snowy peaks. From this high vantage, the Adirondacks looked a little like water, with wave after wave of rock and snow stretching in every direction.
I sat for a while taking it in, but soon the wind came up, bitter cold now, the sun already dropping below a ridge. Time to bundle up and start for home.
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