Published in The Lakeland Times
When it comes to exercising in the winter, even the most avid outdoor enthusiasts acquire cold feet on occasion. But though the colorless blanket of snow may seem daunting, each forward movement replaces the warmth lacking for those deep in the throes of the January doldrums.
Thankfully, a multitude of nature trails repurposed as skiing and snowshoe trails snake through the Northwoods’ forests like back roads on a country map, providing ample opportunities to move winter-weary limbs. And to those peering closely, these snowy curves woven into the landscape through gentle attrition just may reveal a quiet beauty that’s less ostentatious than colorful fall leaves or the delphinium blue of summer lakes.
Fallison nature trail is just one of many of these paths in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, and the first I, a self-proclaimed outdoor enthusiast with occasionally cold feet, have had the chance to traverse this season.
Located in Boulder Junction off Hwy. N just west of Sayner, the trail runs in loops of .5, 1, 2 and 2.5 miles. This well-groomed nature path is one for meanderers and snowshoe strollers who don’t mind wandering through the outskirts of the forest to its densely wooded center, broken only by ice-covered lakes and the luxurious open sky above them.
Aside from exercise, aesthetics are my main drive for braving the weather and bundling up like a five-year-old with a paranoid mother. Of course, it’s well worth the effort.
Evergreen boughs brilliantly contrast their fresh burdens of snow, and smell intoxicatingly sharp. Splotches of verdant lichen on birch wood bark resemble textured ink – an organic adornment. The air feels insulated and safe. Only filtered sunlight infiltrates this eldritch paradise, so frigidly exotic it seems to snap from linear time.
In fact, walking through this scene feels like being transported to seasons past. In all the romance of the turning seasons, to me these winter days are the most nostalgic, the land a palimpsest of campsites and hikers. Even the powder-covered water pump and blanketed crumbling leaves, the last vestiges of a warmth that seems now mythical, reminisce over long days, full shadows, and the echo of voices and laughter.
But instead of ruminating over summers past and those yet to come, I breathe in the cold air, breathe out and step forward. Before long, I reach the end of the trail and am out of the forest and back in the parking lot. Though my trek was short, today I’ve reaffirmed the value of silent sports as a reminder of underrated winter beauty, as well as a way to reconnect with nature and provide a brief hiatus from the hurried schedules and noisy bustle that so often governs our daily lives.
Indeed, part of me would have liked to stay in this snowy, insulated world longer. But as Robert Frost once said, though the woods here are lovely, dark, and deep, I still have miles to go (and a few more trails to explore) before I sleep.