Winter. What does the word invoke for you? For me it’s warmth.
The warmth of our home after a walk in the rain. A warm tea nestled snugly in my hands that brings such deep gratitude and contentment.
The feeling of a warm shower, thawing the chill from my body after a seaside dip.
A nourishing soup with crusty sourdough and fresh chili that awakens the tastebuds and heats from within.
The warming layers of merino wool, double socks, and a beanie, to protect my ears from the buffeting coastal winds.
It is snuggling into a warm sleeping bag after a day’s hike, listening to the weather in its ferocity, safely tucked away in a cocoon.
This is what winter looks like to me.
In my opinion, Winter gets a raw deal. Like the kid that gets picked last in sport class, it’s a season that gets overlooked for the glossier, shimmer of summer. Unless you’re a snow legend, the qualities of Winter can be neglected, and I believe its the best time to explore the outdoors.
Here’s WHY I am loving Winter Walks
LESS TRAFFIC ON THE TRAILS
For me, when I am in nature, I want to enjoy the natural ambiance, not the chatter of 20+ people. We (HH) always avoid ‘peak hour/season’ on the most popular trails and often take you to the more local and secluded wonderlands – particularly on the Mornington Peninsula – our backyard. Keeping our tour groups to a capped number ensures we enjoy a more mindful hike and importantly, it is more ecologically responsible to minimize the impact of our steps on the nature trails.
The Southern Mornington Peninsula in winter is a whale wonderland. Rug up, wear a beanie or a buff, and take a pair of binoculars to capture the majestic giants of the sea as they pass the craggy cliff of our Victorian coastline. Heading inland to the Hinterland of the Mornington Peninsula? With quiet trails, darker light, and more precipitation, expect to see more Kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, Koalas, and a plethora of birdlife. Love birds? Visit the Westernport Wetlands for the migratory birds that flock there each winter.
LESS SLITHERY FRIENDS
While the Marsupials play, the reptiles hide away. The cold-blooded reptiles, lay dormant and generally out of sight, which to many of you delivers an invite. Snakes in Australia are the most feared, followed by spiders, for trail hikers. Respect their space and you needn’t worry about the season. Don’t be surprised though if on a sunny winter day, you see them recharging in the sunshine like a solar panel. They love the warmth of the winter sun too. Just give them space.
COOLER TEMPERATURE FOR HIKING
The cooler daytime temperatures make for much more comfortable hiking. You can always add layers and warm up, wear a rain jacket but in the heat of summer, this becomes super uncomfortable, and you quickly run out of clothes to strip off. With cooler temperatures, our bodies work harder to maintain core temperature, meaning that we burn up to 30% more calories on winter hikes.
Okay, so this is possibly not everyone’s cup of tea… but I LOVE a cold dip. Shan and I recently started a local group (Dromana Dippers) that invites the local community for cold dips, 10mins twice a week, and with the growing number of participants, it’s apparent we all need a little WTF to wake us all up – plus the benefits speak for themselves. In summer the water temp sits at a balmy 19c – hardly cold unless it’s a 40c day. In winter, the mercury drops to 12-13c and whilst the outside temp is usually much the same or single digits, it’s the wind and waves that make this a delight. The contrast of the cold to a warm shower and a cup of hot tea offers such polarity that you can't help but appreciate the simple things. On our retreats, we invite people to discover the benefits of a winter dip to boost their immunity over the cooler months.
The Alpine ranges, dusted with snow each winter are a marvel to themselves. My first experience of snowfall just last year was the most incredible experience. I cried. Whilst I won’t be taking up snowboarding or skiing anytime soon, I’ll most likely snowshoe my way to the nearest pub for a hot meal, fireside.
Winter invites us to take the slow lane. Days are shorter and darker and we want to hibernate. So, tune in. Slow down, reflect, and reassign your energy for the winter. Where can you find stillness in the busyness of your life? Where can you bring more energy to your days with the actions you take?
It always seems like there is so much to get done and while we can frantically move from one task to another, consider that ‘slow is smooth, and smooth is fast’. A mindful ecotherapy hike is a perfect way to immerse your senses in nature, whilst reflecting on how winter evokes a slower pace.
Maybe I love winter because it’s the underdog of our seasons. I feel like it needs championing for the depths that it invites us to explore. To sit with ourselves, meet the elements, and if not that, the dark polarization it provides in contrast to the bright days of summer. We need the polarities to appreciate the spectrum of the seasons.
If you're keen to join a Winter walk with us and learn more about how to support your holistic health this Winter, check out the upcoming hikes on the link below... (and stay tuned for a special winter walk that's in planning)