Grab Your Gortex and Get Out

In this piece from Mountaineer magazine, Super Volunteer Heidi Walker shares a few ideas to help you dip your toes in wet winter adventures.
Heidi Walker Heidi Walker
17-year member and Super Volunteer
December 21, 2021

A galaxy of bubbles and foam swirls on top of my latte as I watch raindrops race down my kitchen window. Two drops catch my attention as they zig and zag along their paths, only to collide and drop to the sill, melting into the puddle awaiting them. I return my gaze back to my coffee and hiking books spread out on the table. There are better things to do on a wet winter day than plan trips for warmer months.

My mother was fond of saying, “Only sugar melts in the rain, and you are not made of sugar.” This was often met with loud grumbles from her daughters who would rather watch cartoons than go outside in the rain. But we would soon be playing hide and seek in a forest or meandering along a beach looking for the perfect agate or seashell, our colorful plastic coats and rubber galoshes the only color on a grey landscape.

During these damp days I learned to appreciate winter in Seattle, no matter how wet and miserable. Even with rain pelting my umbrella and soaking my socks, I like to slow down and let the cool, humid air fill my senses. Have you ever pet a rock covered in saturated moss? Inhaled deep the aroma of wet soil? Listened to the silence of a winterized forest?

If not, I have a few ideas to help you dip your toes in a lowland winter in the Pacific Northwest. If you already have, well, you’re still invited to play. You can do these activities with friends, family, or on your own. I must advise you that winter activities are a lot more fun when shared with someone else, and you might be surprised to find yourself on more wet winter adventures. Your packing list for these adventures is good rain gear, layers to keep you warm, and a desire to bring a smile to your day.

Puddle races

Our first game is puddle races. Have you ever watched a leaf floating on a puddle in the middle of a trail? When a breeze brushes across the surface, it pushes the leaf around the puddle in a little spiral dance. Add another leaf and watch them turn and float in a dance, choreographed by nature. While watching leaves float in a puddle can be meditative, if you have a more competitive mind, you can make the leaves race each other. Line up a few leaves, set a finish line, and have your friends join you in blowing them across the puddle. Experiment with different types of leaves and puddles to find the champion of the puddle races.

Beachcombing

One of my mother’s favorite pastimes in the winter was beachcombing. While she would often stroll along a rocky beach looking for rocks, shells, and other treasures, I would spend the day deeply inhaling the ocean breeze. The aromas of the beach were so different from what I smelled in Seattle or in the forest. The beach had a salty yet cleansing fragrance. I still feel refreshed when visiting the ocean, breathing the purifying air that helps to clean the earth. I have no other advice than to walk slowly, look for interesting nothings on the beach, and breathe. Breathe deeply to clear your head. Breathe deeply to clean your soul.

Rainy day.jpegTwo winter enthusiasts explore the beach at McMicken Island.

Rainy-day picnics

I’ll tell you a little secret about me – I love picnics, and rainy-day picnics are the best. You know how any meal after a long adventure is the best meal you’ve ever had? Picnics in the rain are very similar to that. Many of our parks have picnic shelters that go unused during winter. People just don’t seem interested in picnicking in the winter, but I think they’re missing out. You’ll need to bundle up, but the fried chicken leg, soup, and hot chocolate seem to have more flavor on a cold winter day surrounded by nature than at home.

Puddle splashing

We’re going to go back to puddles here, because everyone remembers the joy of jumping into a puddle and making the biggest splash they could. Now that you’re an adult, how big of a splash can you make? You haven’t tried it lately? Why not? Jump as high as you can and come down in a splash. Listen to the sound as your feet hit the water. Listen to how the water droplets reconnect with the ground. Then hear the gleeful laughter of your inner child ring through the trees. Compete with your friends or kids to see who can make the biggest splash.

Hiking

Finally, go for a hike. Our local public lands are often empty during the winter. You can feel the solitude of these spaces reinvigorate your soul. While the forest lies dormant during winter, you can sense the life just below your feet and under your hands as you brush the bark of an old Douglas-Fir. Your senses are awakened and you are reminded that nature sleeps and, in slumber, is renewed. We can join in that renewal as we explore trails we often forget during warmer months when we head to the mountains. So many adventure opportunities await on these damp days. Dress for the conditions and explore our lowlands to let winter fill your senses. Then, after a day full of wet adventures, you can plan for warmer months with a latte and your favorite hiking books.

Lead image of sunlight streaming through the mist in the forest at Wallace Falls State Park. All photos by Heidi Walker.


This article originally appeared in our Winter 2022 issue of Mountaineer Magazine. To view the original article in magazine form and read more stories from our publication, visit our magazine archive.

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