Current Nature: Adventure Awaits Outdoors

Seth Engelbourg •

Photo2 Winter Landscape

By Seth Engelbourg

Naturalist Educator and Program Manager at the Linda Loring Nature Foundation

Sometimes the cold, gray, foggy days of winter make us sad and all we want to do is snuggle up inside under a cozy blanket. Or for those of us who are ecologists, perhaps we envision what it would be like to be a Snapping Turtle and take a long nap under the mud until spring arrives. But if we can shake off that urge to just sit in bed and watch TV, a whole wide world of wonder awaits us outdoors.

Although resolutions may be a tired trope, the new year really is a chance to discover something new. On an island that has more than 50 percent of its area in permanent conservation, there are plenty of opportunities for your discovery to be a new favorite trail, park, or beach. Even during ‘stick season’, the unique habitats of Nantucket never fail to impress or surprise you. Luckily, our maritime climate generally keeps temperatures from getting too cold even in mid-winter and since we have passed the winter solstice, days are getting longer. Now is your chance to get outside before spring arrives and with it, busyness and an influx in people. You may also want to bring along a trash bag. Winter is a great time to help clean up your favorite trail!

Need a little inspiration to get you motivated? Check out 1000 Hours Outside, a challenge dedicated to promoting time in nature, particularly for children and families. On their website they provide seasonal outdoor adventure prompts, downloadable trackers for your time in nature, and inspiration for hikes. I even spotted a Charcuterie Hike, which personally sounds like an excellent way to spend a winter weekend afternoon. A helpful resource for finding walking trails on Nantucket is the ACKTrails App, which includes maps, descriptions, and photographs. You don’t need to limit the possibilities to just hiking, there are numerous outdoor hobbies that you can try this year such as birding, mountain biking, meditation, art, shellfishing, or nature journaling.

Still not sure where to start? Many of the local conservation organizations are offering guided nature programming this winter to help you get outside and learn about our island ecosystems. At the Linda Loring Nature Foundation, we are hosting a monthly Winter Guided Nature Exploration, a chance to explore our property with the LLNF staff and encounter the hidden marvels of the outdoors in winter. You can also check out the Nantucket Conservation Foundation’s Community Winter Walks, which highlight a different one of their properties on each excursion.

Apart from defraying boredom, spending time in nature has also been shown to provide significant benefits for your physical and mental health. Being outside can lower stress, reduce the risk of depression, improve sleep, lessen the chances of cancer, and increase life expectancy. Even on your busiest days, try to step outside for at least a few minutes.

The allure of Nantucket is different for everyone, maybe it’s the historic character, or the pristine beaches, or the exclusivity of an island 30 miles out to sea that draws you here. But one fact is undeniable, the true beauty of our island stems from our natural landscapes. For those of us who are lucky to call Nantucket our year-round home, we don’t need to wait until the summer to experience that beauty. Head outside, take a deep breath of fresh air, and enjoy the winter delights that nature has to offer.

Stay tuned for more editions of Current Nature , a new bi-weekly column featuring seasonal topics, natural history information, and advice on the outdoors from the staff at the Linda Loring Nature Foundation.

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