Walking in a winter wonderland

Though the weather outside may be a bit frightful with the seemingly constant snowstorms, winter is a wonderful time to get outside and experience nature. Snowshoeing is a great activity that requires little skill or experience, and provides a fantastic cardiovascular workout and access to many beautiful places.

To get started, you need proper equipment for your snowy adventure. There are several options for purchasing and renting snowshoes and a variety of types available. Consider renting a couple of different types to determine which will suit you best before investing in your own. Select the size snowshoe that is appropriate for the size of your boots and your weight, including the weight of your pack.

Snow conditions vary based on weather and temperature. When snow is light and fluffy, a larger pair of snowshoes provides better flotation.

Plan your trip in advance and ensure that you understand the regulations of properties you plan to visit. Online forums are available to learn about trail conditions. Always bring a map and leave a trip plan with someone for safety. Planning winter outings can be complicated by parking and driving, as well as extreme temperatures and weather. Prior to your hike, check weather reports, and research parking and road closures.

To stay warm, but not overheat when exerting yourself, dress in layers of wicking fabrics like wool. A large pack can be helpful for stashing outer layers as you become warmer. When on your hike, drink plenty of water and eat plenty of high energy snacks. There are some items that can be great additions to your regular packing list: A thermos of cocoa, hand warmers, duct tape for quick repairs, and an insulated sleeve or wool sock to keep your water bottle from becoming an ice bottle. Store water bottles upside down to keep the top from freezing first. Don’t forget a first aid kit, cellphone, sun block, lip balm and sunglasses.

Here are tips for your first snowshoe excursion:

? If you are in a group, take turns breaking the trail through fresh snow.

? Start with a trip close to home on a short trail with moderate elevation gains.

? Bring a camera.

? Be on the lookout for evidence of animal activity. Snow is a great canvas for tracks.

Winter will melt into spring before you know it, but in the meantime, the Bedford Land Trust website, www.bedfordlandtrust.org, is a great resource for selecting a location for your frozen adventure.