When wintertime destinations come to mind, they typically conjure up images of warmer destination like the turquoise waters of the Caribbean or palm trees on a South Pacific Island. These are all great places and on many people’s travel bucket list, even my own. It never hurts to dream. With high gas prices and airport delays wreaking havoc on travel, let us stay a little closer to home this winter. Our dream vacations can wait another year.
As a forester and avid outdoor recreationist, I spend a large amount of time in the outdoors. While afield, I have always been fascinated by the streams that crisscross our area. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, there are 86,000 miles of streams in the state. This is the most miles of stream in any one state, except for Alaska.
Over the past few years, I have made it a point to get out and explore these often-overlooked wonders. Each season has its own essence to add to the stream. Spring has wildflowers emerging from the rich soils of the floodplain. Summer produces insect hatches that are picked off the water by feeding trout. Fall combines turbulent water with vibrant fall colors that segue us into winter.
The coldest stretches of winter hold one of the best spectacles. Ice! Some amazing displays can be seen, especially on streams that contain waterfalls. The waterfalls that are found on the back country streams are not going to be large, but they are worth the hike. What they lack in size, they make up for in solitude and spender. Ice covered rocks, glistening icicles hanging from the undercut stream banks and only the noise of the stream filling the air.
These wintertime forays are also a great time to think about the warmer days ahead, which helps pull you out of the winter doldrums. It’s easy to picture yourself coming back in spring and casting a fly up stream, to one of our native brook trout that is lying in wait.
Pick up or download a map of your local public lands and go explore. Admission is free so your wallet will thank you. The money you save will help finance next year’s warmer winter destination.
Garrett Beers is a lifelong resident of the Pocono Mountains and is a service forester with the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Bureau of Forestry. As a service forester, Garrett assists private landowners in managing their forest in Pike and Monroe County. Statewide, DCNR Bureau of Forestry manages 2.2 million acres of state forest.