Beating the winter blues

ESCANABA – After being bombarded by snowfall over the past few weeks, it’s very easy for U.P. residents to look forward to the summer months. Instead of being able to go to the beach, go camping, or take a hike in the woods, we tend to hibernate indoors and wait for the worst to be over. We look forward to the day when we wake up and we can see sunshine instead of snowdrifts.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Although the weather has been a bit extreme as of late, there tends to be lulls where the temperature is more reasonable and an outdoorsman might actually want to venture out of their house.

Ice fishing, snowmobiling, and skiing are among the U.P.’s most popular winter activities. But if you don’t have an interest in those, there is still plenty of things residents can do to keep themselves active and enjoying all the U.P. has to offer during the winter months.

An obvious choice is snowshoeing. I bought a new pair last winter, and they have already paid themselves off. Many of my friends and I like to take hikes, but we aren’t interested in walking along perfectly groomed trails that offer very little resistance. After all, what is the purpose of having snowshoes when many of these trails can be explored in tennis shoes?

That’s one of the great things about snowshoeing; it is as strenuous as the user wants it to be. The terrain has a lot of variation in just about every county across the U.P., so it’s as much or as little of a workout as the snowshoer decides it should be. I’m not trying to scale a mountain, but if I’m going to put my gear on and go out on a trek, I might as well get my heart pumping a little.

Another possibility is winter camping, if you are up to the task. It requires a lot of preparation, from food to firewood and shelter prep, but it can be a very relaxing experience when done the right way.

Many people simply aren’t interested in building a lean-to and rubbing sticks together, and understandably so. But the parks across Michigan provide facilities so that it doesn’t have to be quite so rustic, and we can enjoy some of the same areas we would during the summer months.

There are cabins and lodges at many of the parks right here in the U.P., but ‘yurts’ are also a possibility, and are becoming more and more popular for winter campers.

According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources website, “Yurts, which are sturdy, tent-like structures that originated in central Asia, offer a new adventure in camping. They provide visitors with a snug, weather-tight shelter.”

For the avid mountain bikers who just hang up their ride during the U.P.’s extended deep freeze, consider throwing on some fat tires and giving winter riding a try. I know that in my hometown there are a lot of places with groomed trails that would be great for riding, and I’m sure that is the case all over upper Michigan.

If you are anything like me, the seasonal depression has begun to rear its ugly head and it only gets worse with the freezing temperatures and never-ending snowfall. I have to flip through photos from summers that have come and gone just to remind myself that nice weather really is coming, someday. But in the meantime, there are plenty of options to beat the winter blues. And it never hurts to get a little exercise while we (impatiently) wait for the trails to thaw out so that we can break out the camping equipment once more.