As the frigid wind whipped my face and blasts of icy snow stung my skin, I questioned what had compelled me to take a walk during one of the harshest winter weather events in years.
I knew the answer.
Anytime the weather takes a turn for the worse – a torrential rain, blazing summer heat or an arctic blast - I’m drawn to the outdoors. When a storm forces everyone inside, I want to see what’s going on outside. When common sense dictates that we should wait it out, I feel like I’m missing something.
Even during certain times of the year natural places are typically devoid of human life, offering a degree of solitude and silence that can’t be found anywhere else. Take a night hike on New Year’s Eve, for example, and I guarantee you’ll have the woods all to yourself.
During holidays and storms, natural places are typically forgotten.
So, on Wednesday evening just as it was getting dark and the winter storm was still in full effect, I decided to go for a walk.
Being in nature when the weather is bad is trying, but it does have its benefits. Sure, you’ll get soaked, sunburned or cold depending on the time of year, but you also get to experience the outdoors in an isolated, pristine state.
And you don’t have to trek into true wilderness to find it. Inclement weather has a way of making any place, a neighborhood woodlot, for example, feel like you’re the first person to explore it.
Just because bad weather chases everybody inside doesn’t mean there isn’t anything to see outside. Nature doesn’t close when a storm hits.
On Wednesday, as the severe winter weather made many roads impassable, I decided to explore the farm fields, woodlots and hedgerows close to home.
But it would be a challenge.
Winter Storm Stella dumped more than two feet of snow and high winds piled drifts twice as deep. Wading through the white stuff wasn’t feasible, so I strapped on my snowshoes and headed uphill with a destination in mind.
At the top the landscape leveled off and a large expanse of tall grasslands where I always found wildlife. Songbirds. Small game. Deer.
But what could be found when deep snow took away the mobility of every creature and a cold wind swept the fields like a barren desert?
The wind roared in from the west, so I stayed on the opposite side of a hedgerow hoping the trees and brush would afford some protection. Powdery snow filtered through every opening in the brush like white sand, piling up in deep drifts that extended over the snowpack in the field.
While the snowshoes only sunk about six inches in the snow, when I hit a drift they plunged almost a foot deep.
Still, without the snowshoes I would’ve sunk up to my chest.
After an exerting climb I reached the top of the hill and found a harsh world.
The wind pounded relentlessly, waves of snow sailed over the landscape uninhibited and the branches of the taller trees flailed as if in disgust.
And the large field lush with tall grass had succumbed to the elements, transformed into a flat, snow-covered mat.
There were no tracks and no signs of life, but I did find something.
At the bottom of the hill I had just climbed I could see lights from distant houses and the flashing beacon of a plow truck on a far-off road.
But where I stood all I could hear were the howling gusts and the only thing in sight were the mountainous snowdrifts, scoured and polished like boulders by the wind.
I found tranquility, solitude and nature in its purest state.
And sometimes those things are easier to find when the weather tells us we shouldn’t look.