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Take a hike


Don’t be a wuss. Bundle up and head outside for winter hiking. The cold months reveal a completely different view from the trail.

Jenny Coon Peterson January 18th, 2011

Martin Park, 5000 W. Memorial, is the metro’s escape-within-the-city, offering more than three miles of unpaved trails. The place is known for its birds — just check out the bird-viewing wall near the nature center — but there’s an even better show during the winter.

When I was a kid, we walked to school in 2 feet of snow. Uphill both ways.

And did I mention with only one shoe?

You might get your delicate tootsies or sensitive schnoz a wee bit frosty, but hiking in winter is worth it. But don’t take my (harsh, berating) word for it.

“The green is gone,” said Casey Lindo, naturalist at Martin Park Nature Center.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

No more leaves means hikers get a glimpse at the world usually hidden from view.

“We’re not a pine forest; we’re more of an oak forest, so the leaves hit the ground and you can see the deer staring right at you,” Lindo said. “We get to spy on them, and I’m sure they’re spying on us, too.”

Martin Park, 5000 W. Memorial, is the metro’s escape-within-the-city, offering more than three miles of unpaved trails. The place is known for its birds — just check out the bird-viewing wall near the nature center — but there’s an even better show during the winter.

“In the winter, we actually encourage more migratory birds, so we have a higher diversity here in the winter than in the spring or summer,” Lindo said, noting to look for white-crowned sparrows, red-breasted nuthatches and cedar waxwings.

Winter is also a good time to check out Martin Park’s meadow trails.

“I definitely spend more time in the outer prairie meadow loop. The meadow loops sometimes get ignored when the sun is shining down baking on your skin,” Lindo said, adding to keep on the lookout for birds of prey above and their prey, mice, darting along the trail.

Animals are a big draw at Lake Thunderbird State Park in Norman, too.

“You can see a lot in the winter that you can’t see in the summer, mainly because the foliage is gone,” said Terry Gibson, assistant park manager. “You’ll end up seeing more deer; you’ll probably see raccoons and more squirrels.”

Lake Thunderbird has two main hiking areas — Clear Bay, with more than 18 miles of trails on the lake’s south side, and Indian Point, with three miles of easier trails on the lake’s north side. There are 12 trailheads between the two, and all paths are primitive, but well marked.

During winter, Gibson recommends heading toward the water. “I think whenever (hikers) really get out to the edge of the water, it’s gorgeous,” he said. “To look across, it does look kind of desolate at times. It has an aura to it that says, ‘Hey, winter’s here.’ You can take some awfully picturesque shots.”

For some truly out-of-this-world shots, Martin Park leads a winter stargazing evening Feb. 12. First, there will be a guided “planet hike” at 6 p.m.

“We try to make it feel like if we were in space and we were the right size, how far would we have to go to get to the different planets … to trail scale,” Lindo said. “That’s the warm-your-legsup part.”

Next, the Oklahoma City Astronomy Club will set up telescopes and help guests identify all those little lights in space, like the Great Orion Nebula and Jupiter. Reservations are required, and the cost is $2 per person.

And Lindo leaves with this advice: Dress for the cold.

“I find that people … do a terrible job at it,” she said. “I always suggest to people, ‘Make sure when you get dressed you’re sweating inside your house at room temperature.’” Now you have no excuse. Go hit the trails before it gets too warm.

 
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