Winter in Wyalusing with Children.

Most think that winter can complicate plans to spend quality time outside with your children. However, winter can provide many fun things you can do together outside that you cannot do the rest of the year. Wyalusing State Park is open year round. Here are some great Wyalusing winter activities.

Snowshoeing

The nice thing about snowshoeing is the openness of exploration it allows, regardless of whether you pull into a parking lot or just decide to explore off of the nearest trail. Another benefit of the openness that snowshoeing provides is that the snow is likely to be less trampled upon and more light and fluffy. Snowshoeing lets you and the little ones enjoy the nip in the air while surveying the land to see what you can find, much like searching for seashells at the beach. With your children's imaginations as your guide, snowshoeing can become your family's go-to outdoor activity for wintertime.

Stay on marked trails until you're comfortable with the area. If it's your first time on snowshoes, Walk along the unplowed roads. Park in the office parking lot, walk along Homestead campground road.

Stay off of marked x-cross country ski trails.

Sand Cave trail offers a wide trail following the contours of the bluff. Ski poles will help stablize the walker on the few steep sections of the trail. Remember to bring goggles and a thermos of hot chocolate or cider.

Dress everyone in very warm layers. Make sure to use sliding apparatuses that have nothing sticking out, such as an air valve on an inner tube. Bring snacks, hot chocolate, and even lunch.

Tracking Winter Animals

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Winter is the perfect time to track animals. We may see fewer animals during the winter, but the season helps us see more evidence of their lives by showing us their tracks. A light snowfall on bare ground or on top of an icy crust provides the blank pages. Armed with a little knowledge, children can decipher the clues that animals leave.



Asking the following questions can help your children in animal identification:


  1. How many toes does the animal have? Deer have two, dogs, cats, and coyotes have four, and weasels have five.
  2. Does the track show claw marks? Squirrel and fox tracks show claws. (Dog tracks do, too.)
  3. Is there a line in the snow? Mice sometimes leave the imprint of a tail in the snow; porcupine tails leave troughs.
  4. Are the tracks spread far apart or are they close together? Answering this question tells children whether the animal is big or small and whether it was traveling quickly or slowly.
  5. Do tracks go over or under downed trees? A bigger animal will go over a downed tree, while a smaller animal may choose to go under it.
  6. Did the animal stop to eat? Be sure to look up. Deer chew on small tree branches.
  7. Do tracks stop at a tree? A squirrel can climb a tree. A rabbit can't.

Even where wild animals aren't that common, tracks can tell useful stories. There are tricks to telling the difference between dog and cat tracks. Dogs have pointed toes, and their tracks often show claw marks. Cat tracks are rounded and don't show claws. Children can remember these differences by remembering that dogs have pointed faces and cats have round heads.

Children should use their ears as well as their eyes to follow winter animals. have the children call barred owls—"who cooks for you, who cooks for you all"—to see if they'll return the call.

Does a woodchuck leave winter tracks?

No.

Groundhogs go into profound hibernation, greatly reducing their metabolic rate. Their body temperature drops to just a few degrees above ambient temperature. Because their hibernation, the deepest portion of the burrow where they hibernate, is below frost line, that produces a body temperature as low as 39-40 degrees F.

Groundhog Daze is coming to Wyalusing State Park on Feb. 5th, 2011. Featuring critter tracking, tiki torch lit sunset hike, and food for a fun filled winter afternoon in the park. Vehicle park admission and a donation to help defray costs. Sponsored by the Friends of Wyalusing. Please call 608-996-2261 for weather related cancellation.