For some folks, “winter” and “fun” are two words that just don’t go together.
No, for these folks, winter conjures up images of frozen pipes and frozen noses. They dread the thought of stalled cars, scraping windshields and shoveling walks.
They’d just as soon skip the whole thing.
But for others — a rare breed — winter is a time of wonderment beyond compare.
For these folks, the words “winter” and “fun” go to together like chocolate and peanut butter… or, perhaps better said for the season, like chili and cinnamon rolls.
“He who marvels at the beauty of the world in summer will find equal cause for wonder and admiration in winter… In winter the stars seem to have rekindled their fires, the moon achieves a fuller triumph and the heavens wear a look of a more exalted simplicity.”
— John Burroughs, The Snow Walkers
This is a story of the hearty ones. The ones who refuse to miss the wonder winter holds.
Far from content to experience only three of this state’s seasons, they bundle up, layer on and head out to explore the fourth season in earnest.
“I’d love to talk, but I’m on my run,” they shout to a friend across the way.
These hearty souls know the wonder winter holds for those willing to go to a little extra effort to experience it for themselves.
“I really just like being able to do something that you don’t get to do any other time of the year,” says Hunter Sherry as he coaxes his feet into a pair of snug-fitting boots at Seven Oaks Recreation Area just outside of Boone.
At 12 years old, Hunter is already an experienced outdoorsman. The son of David Sherry, director of the YMCA Camp north of Boone, young Hunter lives at the camp and has full-time access to an outdoor environment that most of us can only dream of having in our backyards.
Along with his older brother, Dakota Sherry, 15, they come to Seven Oak for even bigger hills, faster snow and a chance to test their limits with their friends.
Hunter, who prefers skiing to either snowboarding or sledding, has a need for speed.
“What I like about skiing is when you go so fast that your coat and snowpants get stuck to your body,” he says with a grin that glimmers with anticipation as he readies to head out to the hills.
Of course, the combination of fast snow and steep hills does come with a level of risk. But Hunter is unafraid.
“I did fall down here for the first time yesterday,” he acknowledges. “It kind of hurt.”
And yet he was back for more less than 24 hours later and in temperatures that continued to sink as winds rose in intensity.
Hunter’s answer for the cold was simple: “Get more layers on,” he says matter of factly.
For those who work up a sweat in the cold, wool is the preferred textile for its ability to stay dry even as it draws moisture away from the skin.
While Dakota is also a skier, he says he really prefers the freedom of a snowboard.
“I just like the feeling of going down the hill,” Dakota explains. “I also like coming out and being with my friends on the weekend. We come out just about every weekend in the winter.”
Dakota is also a fan of layering up to guard against the cold.
“It’s not bad today, but when it gets into the single digits or below zero, then that’s pretty cold,” he notes.
Dakota also enjoys spending time in the outdoors at home at the Y Camp.
“We have a big hill, so we go sledding with my sister, but we like to come out here for snowboarding,” he explains.
Hunter and Dakota also enjoy traditional outdoorsman activities of hunting in the wintertime. Dakota hunted both shotgun and bow seasons this year, but says he prefers the challenge that comes with bow hunting.
And while winter sporting activities are a major attraction, at 15 years old, Dakota already appreciates the more peaceful atmosphere that winter brings to the outdoors. He knows well that the woods and snow-swept prairies have an entirely different feel in the wintertime.
While the Sherry brothers are experienced in the outdoors, others were checking out some winter sports for the first time at Seven Oaks.
Shé Gill is a native of South Africa who was gliding down the hills for the first time.
“It’s my first time skiing, but it’s really a lot of fun,” she says.
Katie Oldsberg is a Minnesota native who says she’s accustomed to cold weather and lots of snow. She’s spent plenty of time on cross country skis in her life, but was looking forward to learning more about how to ski and snowboard.
One key to succeeding in winter sports is taking advantage of the other three seasons to get in shape. Being fit to begin with goes a long way to preparing the body to push itself in the cold weather.
“I work out regularly in a gym,” Oldsberg notes.
Among the friends accompanying Oldsberg on this cold winter’s day was Sara Lopata, who says with a chuckle, “I try to work out regularly.”
Both young women came prepared to bundle up and learn more about the fun to be had in Iowa’s fourth season.
Out on the streets of Boone, meanwhile, runners and joggers can be regularly seen pushing themselves in almost any kind of weather. Amy Clemons is among those who enjoy a daily walk in the wintertime, but she admits that it’s not really her idea.
Fortunately, she has a “best friend” who gleefully pulls her along to discover the wonders of winter fun.
“Chunky” is an exuberant golden doodle dog who bounds in front of Clemons, happy to meet a new friend while out on a walk through McHose Park.
“I don’t like walking in the winter,” she says. And yet Clemons seems happy to have Chunky leading the way. “If I didn’t have my dog, I wouldn’t be out enjoying it.”
Chunky and Clemons walk for about an hour every day. The brisk walk gives them time to contemplate the world around them and makes them really look forward to returning to the warmth of home.
“It gives me a reason to get out, because there are some amazingly beautiful things out here in the winter,” Clemons says. “Normally, I would just be in my house.”
“The fire is the main comfort of camp, whether in summer or winter, and is about as ample at one season as at another. It is as well for cheerfulness as it is warmth and dryness.”
— Henry David Thoreau
There is scarcely a thought that brings more warmth to the soul than the image of a roaring fire in wintertime. And the fire was gently crackling inside the Scout Cabin at McHose Park as a group of Scouts led by Boone County native Pat Thornburgh settled in for the weekend early in January.
If there’s any group that knows how to have fun outside — even in the wintertime — it’s a group of Scouts.
“We camp every month of the year — 12 times a year, we camp every month,” says Thornburgh.
On this particular weekend, television meteorologists were in near panic mode as Iowa and much of the nation braced for some of the coldest weather in decades. But the Scouts remained calm inside their heated cabin. A stack of wood stood at the ready beside the fire.
Grubmaster Kyle Haltom, 12 years old, was at the cast iron grill making breakfast for his fellow Scouts. Spam never smelled so good as it does early in the morning with Haltom at the skillet.
The grilled Spam was being served up with eggs, cheese and sausage on breakfast sandwiches for the Scouts as they rose from their wall-to-wall cots and sleeping bags.
Haltom has been grubmaster for his troop for about 18 months and is supremely confident at the griddle. He also enjoys making jambalaya, made with the expected sausage, shrimp and one secret Scout ingredient — Spam!
“Boy Scouts are powered on Spam!” Thornburgh pipes in from across the table.
For his part, Thornburgh sees these winter outings as an important way to get today’s busy kids to unwind and relax. The agenda, other than some sledding, skiing and snowboarding, is rather light. Cell phones are allowed, but they’re put away. In fact, no electronic gadgets could even be seen in the cabin.
In the evenings, the Scouts can sit and talk around the fire, or read books in their cots. In these wee hours of the morning, several of the Scouts were gathered around a chessboard
“I like chess because it’s a thinking game,” says Jarrett Day, 12 years old. “You think your moves through before you go.”
Whether inside around a roaring fire, or on top of a snow-covered hill, perhaps the words “winter” and “fun” really do go together.
“It keeps me young,” says Assistant Scout Leader Thornburgh.
Winter and fun — they go together like Scouts and a campfire.