As we come to the end of December, the days are starting to get longer once again. With December 31, comes the end of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) Awareness Month. While most of those afflicted with the disorder should be noticing improvements others may not. Here in the Johnstown area, we are reaching our snowy period. This is the time of year when the snow begins to fall and pile up. Our tendency may be to shut ourselves inside until the temperatures warm up and the grass appears again. This can prolong the effects of SAD. That is why I have decided to publish the second part of this article now.
One of the things that you can do to help prevent or battle SAD is to get outdoors. Even in winter, getting out and getting some sunlight can improve your mood by helping your body produce vitamin D. So let’s look at some outdoor activities in the Johnstown area to help you feel better and broaden your interest.
Take a hike. The Johnstown area has many trails and they are great to hike even in the winter. You can still see wildlife. Many of the animals that ‘hibernate’ during the winter will be up and about at times during the winter months. You will want to try to stay with some of the easier trails in the area when snow is on the ground. You can try the James Mayer Riverwalk or even Stackhouse Park. Both of these parks have trails that are pretty smooth with a hardened surface.
Try a new activity like snowshoeing. If the snow does become too deep, you can take to alternate forms of hiking. There are many places that offer cross country skiing and snow shoeing. You can take to one of the local resorts for equipment and lessons and wonderful courses.
- Blue Knob All Seasons Resort –from about $24 with equipment rental
- Mystic Mountain at Nemacolin Woodlands –snowshoeing starting at $20. Rental equipment is available for an additional charge and reservations are strongly suggested.
- Seven Springs Mountain Resort – snowshoe tours $30 with rental equipment reservations are required. (snowshoeing only permitted on the tour)
- Wisp Resort –snowshoeing available beginning at $10 with rental equipment available at an additional cost
If you would like to learn about snowshoeing, try a local state park. Several local parks are offering learn to snowshoe programs throughout the winter. Try the first day hike at Ohiopyle. Many parks have snowshoeing programs for Winter Trails Day on January 12, 2013. These include Canoe Creek, Keystone, Jennings Environmental Education Center (near Moraine State Park), and Ohiopyle. Some of these programs require registration such as Canoe Creek which has 5 spots left. Many of these programs are provided at little or no cost. Check the link for the event for more information. In addition, Jennings will have a special snowshoe loaner program throughout January and February on weekdays and snowy saturdays for people to learn about snow shoeing or to borrow equipment from them.
Try taking up nature photography. If you love photography, it is a great way to get outside. Nature photography is more than just photographing animals and plants. Challenge yourself to capture some of the winter beauty. Make it a family activity with a nature photography scavenger hunt. It is also a relaxing way to bring out your creative side. Your can continue this hobby on into the warmer months and explore new locations also.
Take in the local resorts with snow tubing. Maybe you stay away from the local ski resorts because you are not into skiing or snowboarding. But remember that many of the local ski resorts also offer snow tubing. This is great way to have some family fun day. Make one of the day sessions and you will get a chance to also get some of that much needed sun exposure. Most resorts require tubers to be at least 5 years old.
- Blue Knob All Seasons Resort – Thursday through Sunday and holidays beginning January 1. $20 for a two hour session.
- Hidden Valley Resort – Friday through Sunday and holidays. $19 for adults and $17 for juniors for a two hour session.
- Mystic Mountain at Nemacolin Woodlands – Open daily. $15 for a two hour session.
- Seven Springs Mountain Resort – Open daily. $27 for adults and $22 for children under 12 for weekend, Friday night and holiday two hours sessions.
- Tussey Mountain Ski Area – Open daily beginning at 4:00 p.m. on weekdays. $18 for a two hour session or $25 for a full day pass.
- Whitetail Ski Resort – Open daily beginning at 4:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday. $27 for a two hour session on weekends and holidays. Special unlimited kiddie pass for 2 to 4 years old on the kiddie slope.
- Wisp Resort – Open daily. $29 for a two hour session on Friday nights, weekends and holidays.
Take the family sledding. Maybe you are not into the resorts or you have younger children. Try taking a family sledding day. There are many locations where you can sled in and around the Johnstown area. Many of our local state parks have sledding areas. Some are just a hill where you can sled with the family. Prince Gallitzin State Park has a sledding area near the marina where they have loaner sleds for use when sledding conditions area right. These sleds are available on a first come first serve basis. Ohiopyle maintains a sledding hill in the Sugarloaf area. This includes a warming hut. Yellow Creek State Park also has a sledding and tobogganing hill that they maintain in the boat launch area. If you want to stay in Johnstown, then the place to go is Stackhouse Park on Saturday's. When snow conditions allow for sledding the park in Westmont provides a groomed sledding area. When you reach the bottom, just grab a ride from one of the vehicles to tow you and your sled back up for another run.
Have some fun with a snowball fight with the kids or friends. One key is to get the family out. Healthy habits are easier to develop when you are a kid. So get your kids into the habit of getting outside in winter. Make it a fun affair with a snowball fight or building a snow fort or snowman. Get them outside now so that they will get out when they are older.
Just remember that getting outdoors is important even when it is cold and snowy. Have fun a get a healthy lifestyle going. Just remember to bundle up in layers and stay safe and dry. See if it doesn't help you feel better.