By Coggin Heeringa
It’s January and it’s cold outside. We have our regular dog walkers each day at Crossroads, but there is a significant drop in hikers this time of year. When the trails are icy or the wind chill is severe, that probably is a good thing. But even in January, for both physical and mental health, we all should still be getting outdoor exercise.
Back when I was teaching, when it was my turn for recess duty, kids used to huddle around me. “We’re cold,” they’d say. And they did look cold. Sometimes their little teeth would be chattering.
“If you’re cold,” I would say, “why are you standing around telling me? Why aren’t you running around to get warm? Go run, go play. Get those muscles moving!”
Birds instinctively know what humans seem to forget. Using one’s muscles creates heat. Have you ever seen a bunch of pigeons – in a city or a farm –hunkering down trying to keep out of the wind and the cold, then suddenly just take off and fly aimlessly?
They have an aim. They want to warm up. Flying burns calories and creates heat. Researchers tell us that even on a windy day, birds are much warmer flying around than they would be huddling together trying to stay warm.
Most birds aren’t terribly bright, and pigeons are somewhat dim – even for birds – but they do know enough to get those muscles moving if they get chilly.
So when the snow conditions permit, if you have your own equipment, you can get those muscles moving by skiing or snowshoeing any time at Crossroads in Sturgeon Bay. If you don’t have equipment, on Saturdays from 9:30am–3:30pm and on Sundays from 1–3:30pm, you and your family, friends, out of town guests – whomever! – can take advantage of the Crossroads “Ski For Free.”
We lend the equipment from our Maintenance Building and our wonderful volunteers from Silent Sports and Friends help you find the correct size skis, boots and poles, or help to put on snowshoes. When exhilarated adventurers return their equipment, volunteers have a cup of hot chocolate ready to warm chilly hands.
Crossroads also offers nature hikes in the winter (mostly in the forest because it is nicer to stay out of the wind). The forest is the habitat for many of our winter-active creatures. The next hike will be offered at our Ida Bay Preserve on Tuesday, January 22 at 10am at our Big Creek Preserve.
Crossroads at Big Creek is a donor supported educational preserve. The Collins Learning Center, located at 204 Michigan Avenue in Sturgeon Bay, is open 10am–4pm weekdays, 1–3:30pm weekends and during scheduled activities. Trails are free and open to the public 24/7 for skiing, snow shoeing, hiking, and biking. We lend ski and snowshoe equipment on weekends.