Softer Side of Winter

A fresh layer of powdery snow glistens on the evergreens that surround us. Their lower extremities form snowy tunnels and their higher branches reach toward the gray sky of dusk as a light snow cascades around us. My husband pulls our toddler in the sled along this snowy trail as we create new tracks. Our preschooler follows in my elongated ski trails in her little, strap-on skis while our young dog races around us. He weaves in and out of the forest and tentatively steps on the ice-covered stream. The ice cracks below his furry paws and he rushes back to the safety of solid ground and to be with us. Winter is in full force and we have found time to revel in its spectacular beauty as a family before nightfall. The scenery is unmatched by any other season and I feel a sense of accomplishment that we somehow pulled ourselves from the comfort of our warm home to experience it on this particular evening. The exercise of our trek leaves us with summer warmth although the crisp January air caresses our rosy cheeks. The contrast is refreshing. This woodland has gone unnoticed and unspoiled by developers and crowds over the years and to regularly be able to roam freely through such raw natural beauty with our children and puppy is priceless and rare.

As we encounter a small downhill, our daughter giggles and expresses pride in her new found ability to reach the bottom while still erect. The gurgling namesake stream that runs along the path is the only other sound we hear during this escapade in white. This back country trail does not disappoint and I am, once again, amazed that we can enjoy such an activity right here in the middle of our town.

FullSizeRender-2If snow greets us upon waking, we are planning a time to escape to the trail for a quick jaunt. Usually, my small daughter and I venture to the paved Allegheny River Trail to ski its flat course. Depending on the time of day, we often see the local deer watching us from where they believe they are hidden from view. While the in-town trailhead is the area we head to when we have limited time, other occasions find us driving back the barely maintained Dotter Road to find a more isolated section of the trail. Here we can shuffle along in the yet unmarked snow that lies on a trail that cuts through deep forest and beside a handful of riverfront cabins and the majestic Allegheny River. The river  is now covered with bobbing and floating chunks of ice. The ice gathers at the bends in congested heaps before free-flowing down river again. The process continues at the next watery curve.  It is the closest thing we see to a traffic jam nowadays. We watch the ice follow the current while we ski alongside it.

IMG_2122Now that the snowy season is upon us, our skis have often stayed in the car so that we may rush out at a moment’s notice and out the front door with minimal gear in tow. We are making memories while getting much needed fresh air and exercise during these months. Months that try endlessly to make miserable hermits of those of us who reside in a snowy northern climate.  I work against the call of the winter blues in spite of this. In doing so, I find an alter ego of old man winter. A gentle, serene and beautiful side of the season that I will fondly recall during the hottest days of the year which have yet to find us.

This blog was written by guest blogger Dana Weber.

Visit her blog, “Life of Riley: Living the Good Life in Emlenton, PA