March is here! Spring is within reach, we can almost smell it. Most Minnesotans rejoice, I am included in this bunch… A little bit. There is a small part of me that feels the sadness of an ending season. Am I the only one? I hope not.
With the snow melting away and the ice fading, we can still make the most of our last days of winter hiking. In some ways, this is the best of winter hiking. There are some things to consider before hitting the trail on these slushy days.
Hooray for Sunlight
Having more sunlight at the end of the day is what we Midwesterners long for all winter. When it is finally here, everybody has a serotonin boost. Woohoo! With this sunlight comes more time to be outside after work and school, especially when daylight savings time hits. I think we all have mixed feelings on that subject. This new found light in our days is so thrilling, we’ll all be running for our hiking shoes. Pump the breaks!
When that sun starts to set, it sets hard. When the earth shifts and graces us with that glowing energy, we can get so caught up in getting outside that we forget that it will fade into evening just like any other day. Check the time that the sun sets before you leave the house. Choose a trail that will allow for the amount of daylight that you have left. It’s always a good idea to keep a flashlight in your hiking pack. My daughter and I both carry one, and I have a headlamp in my first aid kit.
With that sweet sunshine comes the warming temps, yay! I like this time of year for hiking because you can still see winters beauty and get the younger kids out enjoying it longer. Staying warm during winter hiking is all about trapping air with layers. Those layers really come into play this time of year. Why? You can peal them off!
I actually do the opposite when I hike in March. I start my hike with fewer layers than I end with. The reason being is that I usually start my hikes midday or later. So I’m starting at peak temp for the day. If the hike starts at 3pm and I’m wearing all of my layers at the beginning, the sweat pour right away. What does sweat do in the winter? Freezes, even in March. To prevent this, I start with near base layers and add as the sun starts to fade. Don’t wait until you are cold to add a layer. Try to anticipate about when you’ll need your next layer before you get a chill. With this method, I don’t get cold and I don’t sweat.
Those warm temperatures that we just talked about sound phenomenal, the downfall: slush, mush, and mud. It’s true; spring is messy. It’s worth the mess to get out there and soak in the vitamin D. Wearing the proper gear and being prepared alleviate the headache of messy kids on the trail.
Lets talk boots. Don’t put those winter boots away just yet. I know everyone seems to rave about those darn rubber rain boots. Don’t. Do. It. They never fit properly, they fall off in sticky mud, and easily get filled with mush and muddy water with their loose tops. Unless your kids have Bogs, waterproof winter boots is the way to go. It’s not THAT warm yet, the winter boots will keep your kids’ feet warm and dry as they traverse the slush of spring. It’ll also save money not having to purchase multiple pairs of footwear for a season that is really short-lived.
Snow pants are still a must, at least in the beginning of March. I know it’s nice but those snow pants protect the under layers from becoming soaked. It’s actually quite comfortable to end up in a t-shirt and snow pants during a hike or outdoor play in the snow. It’s a Midwestern thing. We see it all the time here in the transition season.
Snacks and Cocoa
While the spring air warms, there can still be a bit of a bite to it. Don’t forget to pack the cocoa and a thermos of hot water. A cocoa break is always appreciated on a cool winter or spring day. Heck, I even drink it in the summer.
Always pack snacks, no matter what time of year. The perk of spring snacking is that it’s not so hot that chocolate will melt and not so cold that snacks won’t freeze. It’s perfect, you can bring chocolate chip granola bars and apple sauces! Here are some Trail Snack Ideas if you’re feeling stumped on what to bring.
March snow is, hands down, the best snowman or snowball snow. It sticks together well and breaks apart easily. Perfect for snowball fights for a little trail fun. Hiding behind trees and logs is faster than building a fortress in the woods. Be sure to pelt your kids with snow, it’s great fun!
All that slush and mush has the power to soak straight through any child’s glove or mitten. I don’t care what it’s made of, they will get wet on a “warm” March day. Pack extra gloves. If you want to be really prepared, having a pair of dry shoes and socks in the car for the ride home can be a real game changer at the end of your hike and help you end on a high note especially if you have a long drive home.