Winter Hike in the Woods

Announced by all the trumpets of the sky

Arrives the snow, and, driving o’re the fields,

Seems nowhere to alight: the whited air

Hides hills and woods, the river, and the heaven,

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Winter Hike in a Kettle Moraine Woods

A 20 degree Sunday afternoon and a snow-covered landscape drew me to Burnidge Forest Preserve once more to trek up and down the hills and through the woods.   I brought my camera even though the day was overcast–I didn’t know if photographs would turn out well or not.  I wan’t alone on this glorious day–children and teenagers sledded down the the more open slopes;  dog-walkers hiked along the trails; a few cross-country skiers appeared in the open areas.

(This hike actually took place New Year’s Day 2009.)

The scenery was exquisite—snow covered branches of majestic oaks and smaller trees rose above twiggy undergrowth, all silhouetted against the alabaster snow.

Burnished russet leaves still clung to the Red and Black Oak.

Clumps of copper-colored Little Bluestem grew at the top of the first hill.  (The color has not been altered in this photograph)

Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) is exquisite in the home landscape, as well, with summer, fall, and winter interest.  Blue-green in spring and summer, it turns  to a gorgeous copper  in fall and lasts through the winter.  A clump-former, it grows 2-3’ tall in an upright fashion; its roots grow 6’ deep.   It prefers well-drained soil in sun or part shade, such as hillsides, or sandy or rocky soil;  it will also grow in mesic or medium soils.  It can be used as an accent in traditionl perennial gardens or as a drift or matrix in native plant gardens. It will seed itself about in bare soil, a wonderful trait.    A few of the places it can be found are in the foredunes of Lake Michigan, on the kames at Bluff Spring Fen,  and in abandoned gravel pits.

A stately, snow-covered oak overlooked a snow-filled kettle.

At the top of a hill overlooking the largest kettle, more copper colored Little Bluestem poked through windswept snowdrifts.

Both the Red-osier Dogwood (Cornus sericea) and the long blue afternoon shadows add color to the black and white scenery.

The sun begins to set in late afternoon near the time of the Winter Soltice.

The frozen pond and its surroundings are exquisite in winter.

I urge you to hike or ski through natural areas in winter.  It’s invigorating, interesting, and illuminating.

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