Three Season Hiking, and one of them is NOT summer!

Baxter, resting after a walk.

How did Baxter get so sleepy? Winter hiking!

We hike more in the winter months than we do during the summer. The reasons are many. In the summertime, it is just too hot. For the dogs, and for me. Not only is the air temperature too hot, surfaces can be dangerous for the dogs’ paws.

And then there are the bugs. Mosquitos, gnats, and the dreaded biting flies. Not only are mosquitoes pesky, but they can also carry diseases like West Nile Virus or heartworms. The gnats are mostly an annoyance. But who wants gnats flying in their eyes or mouth? For biting flies, we may encounter enormous horse flies, deer flies, or three corner flies. Their bites are painful, and I appear to be allergic to them and swell up in unattractive and itchy, painful ways.

Because of these deterrents, we do most of our hiking in the fall, winter, and spring. There may be a few days we skip when it is dangerously icy, but when it is just cold, we bundle up and go.

We take all five of our dogs with us. Until last fall when we lost little Nikki to old age, we had six dogs, but Nikki hadn’t been able to join us for the last couple of years. Miss Nikki Pouncer Pants: A Tribute We have been hiking with five dogs for some time. About the time Nikki began staying home, we added Claire to our pack, so we still hike with five dogs. Don’t worry, any time the temperature is below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, we put coats on our two shorthaired dogs. Hiking gives the dogs exercise and mental stimulation, so they are better behaved in general. I guess it does the same for us.

Our hiking route options had become more limited lately due to multiple heavy snows which later turned to ice. Most of our normal haunts developed unsafe footing. That’s why we were excited when we discovered some new options. Most of our hiking is done at West Branch State Park (Ohio) in the winter which is near our home. The park has areas that receive less use in the winter, and we found that some of the dedicated park roads are a good option for walking. They are plowed, but not salted. The road surface is good for walking most of the time and melts off quickly when there is sun or milder temperatures.

West Branch Reservoir

Above is the view from one of our walks. The reservoir is iced over, and you can see tracks from cross country skiers along with footsteps. This is a popular place for ice fishing. Sometimes you see people fishing from a chair and others put up portable ice shanties and make an afternoon of it. Visible in the distance is the marina.

West Branch Dam

Here is another view from one of our recent walks at West Branch State Park. This is the view from the back side of the dam. You can see the gatehouse on the far shore. We do sometimes walk on the dam access road that is off in the distance. We tend to avoid it in colder weather because the winds are so strong and cold coming off the water.

We have logged 50.54 miles in the past 30 days and 615 in the last year. I am rather proud of this because we do it with five dogs, and that includes very few miles between the months of June through August. We still get plenty of summer exercise. We spend many hours gardening, in both our vegetable and flower gardens and maintaining our various fruit crops. The dogs spend lots of time in our fenced pasture. They have fun sniffing things, playing frisbee, and barking at items of interest.

If you have any fun winter activities, feel free to share them.

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