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WEATHER or Not to Go Into the Woods

You wake up in the morning to birds chirping and the rejuvenating glow of the sun feeling warm on your face. Winter has taken its toll on you mentally. You can’t wait to shed the confines of your stuffy house and make your way into the great outdoors.

As you arrive to your favorite hiking spot and breathe in the sweet smelling, 72 degree air, you can feel the cabin fever and stress of the winter slowly leave your body. Your muscles begin to loosen up as your pace increases and you remember how great it feels to be outdoors. In what seems like a blink of an eye, you’ve hiked several miles and lost sight of civilization. As you approach a clearing, you decide this secluded oasis would be a great place to setup camp.

Your home in the wilderness quickly materializes, as the campfire roars with the smell of camp stew thick in the air. You think to yourself, “Wow, what a great day." Suddenly, you hear the sound we all dread during a camping trip….THUNDER.

Inclement weather is something we have all dealt with at some point during an outdoor excursion. Although the weather report shows clear skies, the whimsical Zeus loves throwing us a curve ball, sending us scrambling for shelter. What if we could predict bad weather before it was pouring down on our heads?

One popular method of weather forecasting is deploying a weather stick. This device is a 15-16 inch cutting from a balsam fir tree. After striping the twig of its bark, you allow the rod to dry and hang outside in a horizontal position. As inclement weather approaches, the humidity in the air causes the stick to curve downward. In fair weather, the branch dries out and curves upward. The weather stick is a very simple, dependable device.

Campfire smoke is another way to determine the weather. During good weather, smoke will rise high into the air, due to increasing air pressure. If the smoke begins to swirl and descend, this motion indicates a drop in air pressure and inclement weather is moving in.

Fog and dew can predict the weather. Dew point is the temperature at which water droplets begin to condense. If the temperature drops enough during the night, dew point is reached, allowing fog and dew to form. Typically, for air to cool enough on a summer night to reach due point, the sky must be clear. This indicates good weather the next day.

Lastly, some animals can predict the weather. Sheep are known to gather closely together before a storm. If you notice frogs beginning to croak louder and longer, a downpour is most likely coming. Birds, also, behave differently before a cloudburst hits. During good weather, birds fly high in the sky. However, low air pressure from an approaching gale, causes discomfort in a bird’s inner ear, forcing them to fly lower. Interestingly, red and black ants build up their mounds more before inclement weather for extra protection. Furthermore, my furry K-9 friend tends to hide between my legs well before I notice rain clouds on the horizon.

Knowing these tips may prevent you from getting a sloppy surprise during your next outdoor excursion. These pointers provide a bit of warning when in the woods, giving you time to batten down the hatches or find a nice dry place to ride out the storm. As always:

Journey Past Your Limits

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