With freezing temperatures and snowy landscapes, sometimes it can be hard to find the motivation to go out for a winter hike, snowshoe, or even cross-country ski trip. Yet for those who are willing to brave the cold, this frosty season has its own unique and rewarding discoveries! Next time you head out for a winter adventure, take along this free printable (or downloadable) Winter Scavenger Hunt and see how many seasonally special surprises you can uncover:
Animal tracks in snow
Now maybe you’re a hunter or tracker which means you can find tracks easily all year-round in mud or dirt, but for those of us who aren’t great at spotting tracks winter makes things a little easier! Keep an eye out for small paw prints in the snow from furry mammals like a fox or squirrel, or maybe hoof prints from deer or even elk!
Or really, any frozen water! Waterfalls, small ponds, run-off creeks and many other bodies of water tend to freeze in Washington during the winter and stopping to admire their unique, gorgeous ice artwork is truly a beautiful experience.
Not all birds fly south for the winter, let the chestnut-backed chickadee or the red-breasted nuthatch (pictured at the top)! Keep an eye out for this chirping little cuties but please remember, never feed the wildlife.
A Bunch of Highbush Cranberries
Although not a true cranberry, the highbush cranberry is a vital source of nutrition for the winter birds in Washington. You’ll most likely see these little red berries in small bundles poking out against the white snow.
Juniper Berry Bush
Normally found at elevations greater than 1,000 feet, the Common Juniper is a common shrub in the Pacific Northwest which sprouts small, round blue “berries” which are actually its leathery cones. For many outdoor enthusiasts, you’ll smell the Juniper first before you notice the small berry-esque bush!
Ever notice how in winter there can be a small coat of glass-like ice which encases foliage or maybe even your backyard face? That is hoarfrost! It’s actually a small crystalline deposit of water vapor that has frozen to make the appearance of something like a leaf or flower to be shrouded in an icy winter slumber.
Snow Drifts or Cornices
Be sure not to get too close to these ones! Snow drifts and cornices are beautiful natural phenomenons in winter landscapes that almost look like sand dunes or rolling waves. However, these can also be very dangerous as you don’t know how deep the drift goes, or where the cornice support ends which risks a nasty fall – So only admire cornices from a distance!
Signs of Spring
While winter has its own unique beauty, Pacific Northwesterns get pretty excited about the first signs of spring and the hopeful return of sunshine. When out on your hike, keep a keen eye out for early signs of the seasons’ changing – maybe a cluster of blades of grass are starting to pop through the snow? Or some of the tree branches are beginning to sprout young buds? When you spot these, warmer days are soon ahead!