If you’ve been outside to hike this winter, there is no doubt you’ve encountered one thing no matter where you’ve been. Mud!
The roller-coaster cycle of temperatures mixed with rain, snow and snow melts have made it soggy to step outside.
Hikers have experienced changing conditions throughout the first part of winter, but that hasn’t stopped them from getting outdoors and enjoying nature during the darkest, coldest season of the year.
“Once you get out there, you warm up when you hike,” Marilyn Richards of North Ridgeville said.
She and her husband lead group hikes with the Cleveland Hiking Club across Northeast Ohio.
“We hiked in the mud this past weekend, but you just have to plan accordingly and should expect it in this type of weather,” she said.
The volunteer organization is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. It has 1,300 members, including people like Richards who lead hikes ranging from 40-mile trail treks to a leisurely stroll through town. There are hikes for any age and any physical condition.
“The group hikes every day and some days there are 25 different hikes,” Richards said.
The club posts hikes on its website two months in advance. The hikes take place just about everywhere, from places like Oberlin all the way to the far east side and south to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
The intensity of the hike is posted along with the date and time. The hikes leave on time, so participants should make sure to be there early.
The club has seen an increase in attendance at its group hikes this winter. Last weekend a hike along Lake Erie drew 23.
You don’t have a to be a member to attend group hikes, however, according to Richards, you have to “hike six times with the club before joining to know if it’s something you want to do.”
The club stresses that staying safe is an important element to enjoy a successful and fun hike. Stay on marked trails, especially in muddy or less-than-desirable conditions. Hiking or hitting the trails early in the morning or later in the day allows the ground to harden a bit with the cooler temperatures.
Hiking with a group is reassuring, Richards said “if you fall or get injured, there are other people there to help.”
The middle of the trail is usually its driest section. With vegetation just off the trail, it tends to make edges the muddiest. Stepping off trails, too, can cause damage to vegetation and erosion as trampling on plants and soil can destroy habitat that allows regrowth to that section of the woods.
While it has been a milder winter so far, hiking still becomes a viable option in terms of getting out and enjoying the outdoors.
If you aren’t feeling brave enough to tough out the cold, there are a multitude of reasons to go hike with a group.
“You’re outside, the group hikes are safe, you see nature and you’re with people,” Richards said. “You get a sense of being out in nature.”
For more information on the Cleveland Hiking Club and a schedule of this winter’s group hikes, visit ClevelandHikingClub.org.