While we may be halfway through February, winter isn’t leaving anytime soon.
But even with snow on the ground, there are plenty of places in the Upper Valley to explore on your own terms, whether it’s with snowshoes, skis, spikes or skates. And there are also more targeted outings for winter enthusiasts looking for cold-weather adventures. Here are a few of them:
Works of art created by children enrolled in the Hanover Parks and Recreation Department’s after-school program will take the spotlight in the Hanover Conservancy’s Love of Nature Trail Adventure scavenger hunt program, which runs through March 14.
Called “Tree Cookies,” the 60 ornament-like circles made from tree trunks that were painted by the kids will be labeled with letters and hung in trees along three trails in Hanover. People can download a worksheet online at hanoverconservancy.org/event/love-of-nature-trail-adventure and write down the letters as they come across them to decipher a message. The worksheets will also be available at the kiosks at each of the three trailheads.
“We thought it would be a fun thing to do in winter when people were looking for more ways to get outside,” said Courtney Dragiff, program coordinator at the Hanover Conservancy, which celebrates its 60th year in 2021. “We came up with the phrases ahead of time to get the count up to 60 for the 60th anniversary, but they were able to decorate it however they wanted.”
Twenty tree cookies each will be hung along Quinn Trail at Mink Brook Nature Preserve, the Grasse Road Trailhead at Balch Hill Natural Area and the Hayes Farm Park & King Bird Sanctuary in Etna.
“These are definitely our most popular trails,” Dragiff said, emphasizing that they’re family-friendly and should take about a half-hour to complete. “In general they’re pretty flat, pretty easy.”
Around 4,500 kids throughout the Upper Valley are taking part in this year’s Passport to Winter Fun, said Kaitie Eddington, program manager at UVTA, who oversees annual event.
“Our most prominent form of outreach has to be connect with elementary schools in the area, but this year we have more home-school groups than we ever had before,” she said, attributing the shift to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Most of the other aspects of the program are the same.”
Kids are asked to participate in an hour of physical activity each day for 30 days in a row — sledding, walking, snowshoeing, skiing and the like — and write it down in a booklet. At the end of the season, they turn their booklets in for a chance to win prizes.
“It’s just a fun activity for kids to do entirely at their own pace and entirely outside,” Eddington said. “I do think that a lot of people this season more than ever are trying to get outside.”
While the program began in January, it is not too late to join and people can request booklets by emailing [email protected] It concludes March 26, and more information can be found at uvtrails.org/programs-events/passport-to-winter-fun. It is the main winter event the Norwich-based nonprofit organization is hosting this year, as its annual Skate-a-thon on Lake Morey has been canceled.
While the Skate-a-thon is out in Norwich, another “thon” is on in Vershire.
Each of the last 23 years, VerShare’s Snowshoe-a-thon has taken place on a single winter day.
“Instead, we decided to go for more of a virtual Snowshoe-a-thon and make it a monthlong challenge for people and invite folks who live anywhere in the county to participate,” said Amanda Helali, VerShare board member and treasurer.
The nonprofit’s event will run from Feb. 15-March 15. There will be two loops set up — one at Westshire Elementary School in West Fairlee and another at Vershire Town Center — that people are encouraged to do on their own time.
Children who take part are encouraged to ask people to sponsor them and donate for each loop they complete. VerShare is also partnering with the Cross Rivendell Trail Association to come up with some more challenging hikes and routes for people to try. There are also plans to put together socially distanced hiking trips.
It’s also not limited to snowshoeing: People can bike, hike, ski, skate, walk or contribute photographs from where they live. If where they live doesn’t have snow, that’s OK. The point is to be active.
“We’re kind of inviting people to participate however they can,” Helali said.
The event is a fundraiser for VerShare’s summer camp program and typically raises $5,000-$12,000 a year. Participants are asked to register online at vershare.org/wordpress/calendar-events/snowshoe-a-thon and make a donation. If people don’t want to participate, they can still donate by becoming a “Snow Angel,” where they sponsor kids who take part.
This year’s Snowshoe-a-thon is being dedicated to Don Landzettel, a longtime volunteer at the event who died last March from COVID-19.
Sandy Gmur, Valley Quest project coordinator, provided a list of the following scavenger hunts, including descriptions, that are a good fit for winter. Instructions for each Quest can be found at vitalcommunities.org/valleyquest.
■Mount Tom Quest, Woodstock: A good hike/snowshoe up trails to the top of Mt. Tom, with a view of Woodstock below.
■Springfield Mills Quest, Springfield, Vt.: A good historical quest around town ending at the library.
■Shiretown, Chelsea: A small-town historical quest ending at Will’s Store.
■Pinnacle Hill, Lyme: A lovely hike and/or snowshoe.
■Boston Lot, Lebanon: A good hike and/or snowshoe up to the reservoir.
■Maple Quest at Sugarbush Farm, Woodstock: A working farm with great walk/snowshoe through a sugarbush ending in a farm store with lots of goodies.
Liz Sauchelli can be reached at [email protected] or 603-727-3221.