As the numbers on the thermometer continue to drop in many regions of the United States, fewer people are packing up their camping gear and venturing into the backcountry. Not unlike our nation’s bear population, most outdoor enthusiasts lose a little of that enthusiasm for wilderness when winter makes its appearance.
Many part-time adventurers prefer to snuggle indoors, heat up some coffee or hot chocolate, catch up on their reading or TV binge watching, and begin planning for their first outing — next spring.
However, there are those of us who can’t wait to see how winter has decorated the trails, hillsides, and mountains, and how similarly can’t wait for the challenges offered in the outdoors when the cold settles in and the snow really hits the deck. Yes, there are myriad challenges and yes, wintertime spent in wilderness will definitely test your mettle. But just look at the advantages:
- No long lines at the entries to your favorite spots. No lotteries or camping permits in many locations.
- No bugs! No bears! Practically everything you dislike, or fear, is asleep in the dead of winter.
- No campgrounds full of novice campers and their loud “toys.” No caravans of raucous “juerguista” (party animals). No huge Ram Charger trucks parking four inches from your campfire.
- There’s no need to head off to an unknown destination. Your favorite spot — when seen in the winter months — can be a totally new experience. Where there are normally meadows surrounded by lush green trees, you might find yourself ankle deep in snow, accented by lacelike bare branches covered with powder.
Fact is, you just might arrive at your favorite spot and find far fewer — or possibly no other — visitors at all. Talk about remote. It’s just you and the environment.
Wildlife a la Carte
With fewer bipeds on the scene, the chances of spotting wildlife increase substantially. Have you ever looked up and spotted a wolf staring down at you from a rock? Ever been paced by a coyote? Or see owls land on a tree over your campfire? If not, it’s probably because there have always been too many people in the area.
In other words, the old becomes the new. We call that shoshin — a word from Zen Buddhism meaning