The weather here in Illinois has been unseasonably warm the last two weekends, and so today I got myself outside and over to a nearby forest preserve to hike. One small problem: I forgot that the areas east of me got hit harder with snow on Tuesday than I did just 9 miles west of my hiking spot:
I set off, full of vigor and energy. And then…. yeah, no. Though I was expending considerable energy, I wasn’t actually getting very far. It was much like walking on a sandy beach; one step took more effort than normal, and only netted half the distance it should have.
After all of about 1/2 mile of hiking in that, I decided I needed to change how I was hiking today. My calves were starting to yell at me from walking on the snow like this, and I knew they’d be screaming at me if I didn’t change what I was doing.
Given that I’d brought my DSLR and no hiking poles, I didn’t want to trip or slip and fall. That meant I needed to be somewhat careful about my steps, as there was some ice here and there underneath patches of snow. I also was trying to be careful with my knee – it was a bit cooler out today, and windier. So I figured I’d go easy. But the snow had other plans, so I made the most of it by circling back around towards the paved roads in the preserve.
I turned off the path, cut through the campground on site, and walked on the (fully plowed) road for a bit back towards my car.
As I got closer, I realized that I really hadn’t walked very far yet (less than a mile) and that I could simply continue onward towards the far southern parking lot, turn around, and at least have some more walking accomplished.
When I reached that lot, my legs had largely recovered from the snow walking (stomping?) so I decided to talk a short looping trail into the woods and around the large sledding hill in the center of the preserve. This particular trail looked rather well-worn from others walking in the snow here, so I decided to give this a whirl.
Well, I was not all that far in when I realized that most people had apparently turned back before I did! But I pressed on, decided I could make it around. I got about 2/3 of the way around the loop and it dawned on me: I’m not going to make it all the way. I was starting to sweat on my upper torso, despite the odd condition of having cold ears from the light but constant breeze.
I figured I’d take another shortcut.
I cut through using an old trail (these are easy to see today – no tall grass, and the snow made them plainly obvious where they were) and made my way up the sledding hill, which was being used on the northeast side. I took the photo above from the top; I had come around from the path on the right side of the closer forested area (on the left of the photo). It was a nice view, and a comfortable break before I made my way down the other side towards my car.
Though I was hoping to hike 3 to 4 miles today, I wound up traveling just 1.85 miles, which was farther than I thought I might get when my calves were hurting back at 0.5 miles into my hike. But the snow definitely made me feel like I’d hiked more than that – or at least burned more calories than if I’d been hiking one less of the white stuff.
Temperature today was about 45F, and the wind varied from 5 to 15 mph. For the most part, I did well with the following gear:
- Polyester T-shirt
- Microfleece long-sleeve top
- Heavier fleece zip-up jacket
- Soft shell pants
- Merrell hiking boots
- Heavy wool hiking socks
I did wear a hat most of the day due to the sun. Though I brought a backpack with food and water, at only 40 minutes of hiking, I didn’t need either drink or sustenance. But it was good to have the weight on my back. I’ll have to increase my hike length and weight in the weeks and months ahead.