After Marika died, hiking became an important part of my healing. I’ve always needed time to be out under the sky where there is room to stretch. I feel most alive on top of hills and looking out over gorges. So during all seasons I traipse though forests and Finger Lakes Trails with friends and grow stronger. But in the winter it is a workout just to get out the door.
First I put on the one-piece teddy. It looks like a black bathing suit but it is winter underwear that does not leave a gap for the cold to find my stomach. Not that there’s any chance of exposing my stomach this time of year because next comes the long underwear, top and bottoms. Both black. Then come arm warmers and leg warmers made from old knee-socks. When the toes and heels of my socks wear out I cut them away to make thermal tubes for my limbs. Over these goes a hooded polar-fleece sweatshirt and matching pants. If it’s really cold out, double-layered snow-pants go on top of the set. All of this is black.
My fuzzy red polyester neck-warmer is the most important layer. If my neck is warm I am happy. A down jacket with two pairs of gloves stuffed in the pockets goes over all. Fleece ear-warmers. And finally the SmartWool socks and waterproof hiking boots with YakTrax, snow chains, attached.
Most of my energy is spent pulling the YakTrax over the bottoms of my boots. It’s worth it; wearing them makes me braver. To walk in the woods in winter can be harrowing. With my YakTrax on I can cross slippery streambeds and hike up or shuffle down icy slopes.
But with all my winter padding you cannot see what really warms me and allows me to face the wind and weather. What gives me the tiny extra charge I need to go by myself to the Ithaca Beer Company’s tasting dinners. What makes me smile and remember that summer will return one day. What surprises me each time I take off my layers of winter wear:
Underneath are my red-painted toes.