Exploring the Outdoors:

By Dale Swanson - Special to The Stokes News

By mid February we have really settled into the Winter routine. Rush from house to car. Rush from car to work. To grocery store. To wherever. Most of us aren’t spending and enjoying nearly as much time outside during dreary February. Getting past the fear of discomfort is pretty tough with the easy chair and TV whispering sweet nothings.

But the days are getting longer and the great outdoors offer an antidote to the winter “blahs.” Low energy and Seasonal Affective Disorder are real problems this time of year but can be addressed with a simple 20 minute walk in the woods a couple times a week. Whether your outdoor interests bend toward fishing, bird watching, hiking, and even paddling down the river there’s no reason to quit during the winter. The vitamin-D boost from the sun, the fresh air of a cold February day, and the physical exertion of a mile or two walking will completely change your outlook.

For Hanging Rock State Park ranger, Mary Griffin, the winter months offer a great deal to the observant hiker. The contours of the land and the hard outlines of rock are revealed beneath the leafless limbs of the deciduous trees. The evergreen trees and plants like Spotted Wintergreen (chimaphila maculata) and Witch Hazel (hamamelis virginiana) stand out in bold contrast. Some native plants change color in the winter like Galax (galax urceolata) which changes from summer green to a rich, winter red. It is the time of year to explore beyond the beaten trails while the thick undergrowth falls back into its own hibernation.

“But it’s cold out there!”

As the old Scandinavian saying goes, there is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing – and with new space-age fabrics and designs coming out each season it’s easier than ever to assemble the perfect wardrobe for a wonderful and comfortable time connecting with the natural world.

Outdoor Recreation Events

Navigation, Frogs & Stars: The Friends of Sauratown Mountains group (http://sauratownfriends.org/) will keep you busy learning in the outdoors with events to learn about navigating with compass and map, wood frogs at Pilot Mountain, bird watching, and a variety of hikes!

Labor of Outdoor Love: The Sauratown Trails Association knows that the best time of year for trail maintenance is winter. Check them out for upcoming trail work days on this unique hiking and horseback riding trail. http://sauratowntrails.org/

Run!: Need a goal to get yourself back on a regular jogging schedule? The first local 5K of the season will be February 20th in Stuart, VA. Entry fees will support the Caring Hearts Free Health Clinic in Stuart. Contact Christie Fain, 276-694-3410, ext 3, for more information or to register.

Things pick up in March with two more 5K and longer running events. The Feed Stokes 5K and Half-Marathon will be held at King Central Park on March 12. Contact Jeff Beckelhimer for more information at 336-985-6766. The Color Your Heart 5K in Mount Airy is a night-time event involving glow-paint … and it will rock on March 19. Contact Becky Parries at 336-710-2221.

Just Get Out of the House

So quit breathing all that stale indoor air and get outside! Is there something else that keeps you motivated and enjoying our beautiful Stokes County? Please share in the comments.

About This Column

This is a new monthly column covering outdoor recreation in Stokes County and the surrounding area – specifically tailored for local Stokes residents. Your columnist, Dale Swanson, has been an avid outdoorsman here for many years helping to found the Friends of Sauratown Mountains, advocating for river accesses, teaching nature appreciation, and generally having a grand time in the outdoor playground all around us. Have an idea for a future column? Please drop him a line.


By Dale Swanson

Special to The Stokes News

Dale Swanson has been exloring the wilds of North Carolina for his entire life. He can be reached at dale@natureplayoutdoors.com.

Dale Swanson has been exloring the wilds of North Carolina for his entire life. He can be reached at dale@natureplayoutdoors.com.

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