Winter is a curious hiker’s friend. Sights and sounds are different along a trail. Only the red cedar trees are green by February and early March. Leaves have fallen and been compressed by the snow or even washed downhill by rains. What stands out to the eye are tree trunks and limbs reaching skyward, blackish at dusk or dawn -- unless it’s the white and tan of sycamore bark gleaming in winter’s low sun angle with a blue-sky backdrop. And the creeks, rocky outcrops, and the roll of the hills are clearly visible.
The Bethany Falls Trail at Burr Oak Woods Nature Center offers a path through woods, limestone outcrops, and a restored grassland.
With the terrain and wildlife more visible, winter can be a fun time to hike. Photos by Bill Graham, Missouri Department of Conservation
Snow, of course, changes the scene and the sounds. Snow blankets create a profound stillness when insects are absent, tree frogs are hibernating, winds go calm and no leaves are rustling. Snow softens even songbird chirps as they forage for food. Nature, however, is always on the move somewhere, even in winter. Squirrel and rabbit tracks in the snow are proof.
Wildlife is often easier to see in winter. Wild turkeys are somewhat used to people along the trails near conservation areas. They will move away from your presence, but not too fast.
White-tailed deer also frequent the forest, woodland, and restored grasslands. In winter, they sometimes linger longer to feed in the early morning or late afternoon hours. But they too are cautious, be quick with the camera.
MDC’s conservation areas and nature centers offer a variety of winter hikes where you can cut through the woods and set your own path in a season when the ticks and chiggers are inactive and the terrain ahead is open to view.
MDC offers possible winter hiking destinations at conservation areas throughout the state. To find a conservation area near you, visit https://nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/places.
Content for this post provided by the Missouri Department of Conservation [Website]