Are you feeling winter blue? Do you feel trapped in cold and ice? Has your mood gone south, leaving you wishing that you could, too?
What, with the world’s best antidepressant right out your front door?
The magic elixir is a winter walk. And the Chicago Botanic Garden awaits with a prescription-strength dose—miles of trails through the Garden, almost all of them kept clear of snow and ice, with a number of mapped-out walks ranging from 1 to 2.3 miles.
I love a brisk walk any time, anywhere. But never is it as urgently necessary for my mental health as in winter.
A winter walk is the cure for cabin fever. And more than that, it’s the way to reshape the way you think about winter.
Winter doesn’t have to be a sentence to months of suffering. Once you start walking in it, you see it as a time for a brisk spins through snow-frosted landscapes; an opportunity to see trees in their dramatically revealed architecture; a chance at that perfect winter moment when a bright sun in a blue sky makes a new snowfall glitter like diamonds.
The Garden’s winter regulars need no convincing.
“I love the freshly fallen snow,” said Paul Wagner, who was here on a recent blue-sky day when snow frosted the hills and chunks of ice floated in the Garden’s waters.
He regularly drives 40 minutes from his Northbrook home to walk a 4½-mile circuit here.
“The Garden is really pretty. And it’s certainly less crowded,” he said. “It’s just peaceful. I listen to music…you’re deep in thought—and at the end of it, you’re just so relaxed you wonder where the time went.”
Cookie Harms, of Wilmette, treasures the quiet and solitude. She also admires the birds, untroubled by winter and more visible in leafless trees. “I still see something different every time I come here,” she said.
And as a self-described “summer girl,” she considers walking in winter an essential survival tool.
“It really lifts the blues,” she said. “It’s definitely a drug.”
But is it a hard drug to take? Isn’t walking in winter cold?
Wagner was wearing a sweatshirt over a base layer. The air temperature was 25 degrees Fahrenheit. He was perfectly comfortable. Walking fast is like being surrounded by a bubble of heat.
Harms was downright toasty, but that might be because she was basking in the sun in the Garden View Café before setting out on her walk.
Still, she was certain she would still be warm outside. “Fleece base layers,” she said, pointing to her leggings.
I would add: Hat. Wind-blocking scarf or neck gaiter. Chemical hand-warmers. Mittens.
Add a route through trees and hills, whether at the Garden or your local forest preserve—and out you go!
©2016 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org