My Hardest Months: Surviving the Winter

Winter is the toughest season for me. Sure, there’s snowshoeing (I don’t downhill ski anymore), but that’s only feasible on weekends since it gets dark so early. I go to work in the dark, I come home in the dark. The sky seems to always be gray. And especially right now, it’s cold, lung-searing, cheek-pinking, eye-stinging. I look outside, and I don’t want to go.

Somehow, January and February are harder for me than November and December, although in the fall the days are getting shorter and in the winter the days are getting longer. Perhaps it’s the span of time it’s seemed dark — my mind lumps together Fall and Winter as the Dark Days.

It feels fitting that we’ve picked Winter for our New Year celebration, the time of resolutions and reinvention. Winter is a time for reflection, which flows into dreams for the coming year. It’s a time for sitting in front of a fire and letting the fire pass its spark to you.

I’ve always been one for tackling problems with action, for laying plans. So what’s an artist and outsdoorswoman to do when the outdoors feels less than inviting?

Expanding on my thoughts for getting outside more often, here are some of my ideas for surviving the winter months — chime in with yours!

Suck it up and go outside

  • Hike low. Earlier this year I assembled a list of low-elevation hiking (list of Washington hikes at bottom) that should be snow-free year-round, for those warmer, drier weekends suitable for hiking. Keep an eye on snow levels — a few years ago, it was still clear at Goldmyer Hotsprings in February and we headed up for a quick overnight.
  • Take up a new winter sport. I’m hoping to try cross-country skiing this winter. Next winter I need to remember to check orienteering schedules — there are still a few events remaining in the Cascade Orienteering Club’s winter series.

Prep for later in the year

  • Train for spring and summer sports. I don’t have the resolve to train on my own, so I’ve been meeting with a personal trainer one a week this winter. In the past, I’ve also done cardio kickboxing and bootcamp. The Mountaineers leads conditioning hikes throughout the late winter and spring.
  • Plan your bigger summer excursions. Make camping reservations. Dream about where you want to go hiking or backpacking. Identify places to go photograph or sketch.
  • Reflect on the previous year and plan for the next. Review your photos. Look through your paintings. Play back your recordings. Figure out what you want to do differently.

Find indoor activities & inspiration

Seek the sun

  • Head for warmer climes. Take a weekend away somewhere sunnier or warmer. I’m heading down to Texas this weekend (for a wedding) — sadly it only looks to be ten degrees warmer there than here right now.

What are the hardest months for you?

Washington Winter Hiking Trails Accessible from Seattle

About Tracy Durnell

Seattle-area graphic designer and SFF writer inspired by the Pacific Northwest, crafting a sustainable and intentional life.

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