A Winter Walk in the New England Woods

Harold Parker State Forest MA
Harold Parker State Forest MA

We hear many people lament about the long winter season here in New England. Candidly, none of us really pays attention to it until after the holidays, which effectively gives us about three months of winter until that first -yet fleeting – warm day in late March. By February, though, regional mood patterns are far from a crescendo. For whatever reason, the colder temperatures force an implicit, involuntary incarceration. Liberation, fortunately, is found often in the form of thermals and a good wool hat. That’s been our modus operandi for years and it makes the winter months seem less isolating.

Interestingly, we’ve come across two books that have been pulling us outdoors and into the woods: Reading the Forested Landscape: A Natural History of New England by Tom Wessels with etchings by Brian D. Cohen and Stone by Stone: The Magnificent History in New England’s Stone Walls by Robert M. Thorson. What these authors reveal is that many forests in New England present not just natural beauty, but also a historical narrative on the development of the region. Every winter hike we take, aside from the physical benefits, is a stimulating story of hardscrabble farming, complex property grants and ongoing efforts at land conservation.

We believe it was Robert Kaplan of The Atlantic who once wrote:

It’s amazing how two people standing side-by-side in a foreign land can see two entirely different things.

A little education is like turning on a light in a dark room. For us, we applaud both authors for illuminating the interesting natural and regional history and allowing us to see entirely different things. The New England woods in winter, with their canopies removed, share so much more and reveal impressive contours, hidden brooks, and other elements of the natural landscape.

For many of us here in New England, this experience starts not too far from our own back doors. Begin your journey with a hike through some nearby conservation land or at a local Audubon sanctuary. Just remember to dress warm and realize you won’t have to wait until spring for emancipation. And one more thing: many of the people we see while hiking in winter often have smiles on their faces. So much for the seasonal doldrums.

-The Two Palaverers