November 2018

Winter boredom? Nah!

Marla Mertz, Marion County Conservation

It’s that time of year again! A time to dig into fall chores, planting bulbs for a coming season, household repairs, furnace checks, getting the warm clothes out of storage...

Winter can be a season of hardships for those who live where the cold makes annual visits, like Iowa. Some escape hard times by migrating to warmer states, but most of us stay put, adding wood to the stove or pushing up the thermostat. When we venture outside we pile on an extra layer or two of clothing to conserve our body heat.

We can feel an overwhelming amount of dread beginning in the fall. With less light and sunshine to perk us up, hibernation mode can affect a lot of us and we feel more tired and lethargic. As mammals, we have learned to adapt, just as some of our wildlife that did not migrate or hibernate. Animals have been preparing their winter strategies for the last few months.

Read this story with your children and talk about the changes in the weather and animal activity: “How The Turtle Flew South For The Winter” Keepers of the Earth, Joseph Bruchac and Michael J. Caduto, (page 157). Go outside with your child and look for signs of the change in seasons. Talk with them about what the plants and animals are doing.

This is a great time to consider a family plan of daily outdoor outings through the winter months. Fifteen minutes of Vitamin N (nature) can be exciting, refreshing, or bring about new perspectives. Young and old alike, need a bit of winter’s breath.

Here are a couple of ideas to do outside that may allow us to focus on mind and body.

Besides layering and keeping your feet, hands, and head dry, create a basic backpack of items that may help in some discoveries:

      • a notebook

      • pencils

      • a ruler

      • a magnifier

      • a clear box

      • maybe a few extra pair of dry gloves and whatever else might help you

Keep it simple, don’t weigh yourself down with too many supplies.

It is fun to journal your findings outside. Did you see tracks? Were they big or small? Can you draw a picture of what the track looked like? Did you find some winter bugs to take a closer look? Can you find some trees or plants that may provide winter foods for animals and birds? How many different sounds did you hear... was it natural or man-made?

How about making a scavenger hunt list and taking a photo of your findings with your phone, tablet, or camera? Can you write a poem or story about something that you found? The winter night sky... who doesn’t like to find the big and little dipper, Betelgeuse, and others? Is there an interesting natural feature near you? Why not take a photo, from the same location, every day for one year! Wouldn’t it be cool to look back and see the changes.

Through many years of nature hikes, it is always fun to find something on your outings that may remind you of “yourself.” You can share that thought or find, or you can simply place it in your memory of treasured finds. Don’t forget, you don’t have to travel far... your backyard or city park is always a good place to begin.

November 17 each year is National Take a Hike Day. It may be a little late to enjoy some of the autumn colors in Iowa, but there are many trails close to your home that await your footsteps. Don’t let this day be the last day you take a hike for the season.

In Marion County, Iowa, the 1.1 mile Karr Trail is a favorite and located at Cordova Park. Ivan’s Trail along the south tailwater below Red Rock Dam is also a great area to hike. There are many other trails around Lake Red Rock for your enjoyment.

Links for hiking locations:

More links for learning: