I’ll just jump right in and give you a forecast for the weather this week: It’s about 20 degrees right now, we have a foot of snow forecast within the next 24 hours, and temps are expected to dip down to ten below twice this coming week.
If you’re from the Northeast, that probably doesn’t sound terrible to you, but for a southerner like me, you could say those temps are a bit different than what I’m used to. I spent the first twenty-two years of my life in Central and North Texas where we get an average of 0.5” of snow a year, and the mercury might drop below zero once every two years. As you can imagine, I was a little nervous about adapting to the winter during my service with SCA Massachusetts AmeriCorps, especially in such a rural setting.
So how is my first northern winter going, you might ask? Great! I’m loving it! I’ve always hated Texas summers and waited anxiously all year long for winter to come. There’s just something about the cold that invigorates and drives me to get outside. The hardest part hasn’t been the temperatures or snowfall, but the lack of sunlight. A couple of locals gave me some advice in the fall before the low temperatures really hit: find a hobby or a sport that gets you outside in the snow and cold – just some way to get some UV rays during the winter. Here’s a couple of things I’ve been up to that get me outside in Hawley and help me stay sane amidst the long hours we put in of service in Massachusetts public schools:
I’ve taken up snowshoeing most opportunities I get during the week. Kenneth Dubuque State Forest is full of beautiful trails that take you through a variety of beautiful areas, from old agricultural fields and mixed hardwood forests to riparian areas and wetlands. A brisk walk along a trail provides some much needed winter exercise and is a nice break from lesson planning.
SCA Massachusetts headquarters is located right on the edge of Hallockville Pond. While I really enjoyed canoeing and swimming on the pond during the first month of service in the fall, I’ve enjoyed the pond even more since it froze over in mid-December. After a hard freeze, the ice is great for skating (the program has a few ice skates that we’ve been using). But more importantly, we built a giant quinzhee (a dwelling made of snow) out on the frozen pond that has become a new hangout for the Corps. The quinzhee took about a week and a half to build – we started after a particularly heavy snowstorm and made a pile of snow 7 feet tall and 10 feet in diameter. After letting the snow settle for a few days, we started hollowing it out with shovels from the inside. The result is a small room with room for about 8 people to sit.
It’s tempting to stay inside where it’s warm during the winter, but I think you just need to get out in it, get a little bit of exercise, a bit of UV light, and enjoy the winter months while they’re here, remembering that spring is right around the corner!