Being a backyard tourist can be tough this time of the year. The days are short and typically quite cold. Many a morning starts with sleet, freezing rain or a blanket of snow.
Speaking of snow, we enjoy watching a good snowfall from our home. A snowfall is always an exciting event filled with anticipation. How much will we get? Will school be canceled? Will the snow be good for building a snowman or sledding? All you can do is sip your hot cocoa (and count how many marshmallows you have left) as you weather the storm.
That’s what’s kind of neat about January – the weather often forces us to hunker down, get cozy and enjoy a day at home. The Danish have a word for it – hygge. The concept is simple – forget about work and put the honey-do list aside on a snow day. Instead, you read a book, do a jigsaw puzzle, watch a movie or work on a hobby. If the weather allows, you could build that snowman or go sledding. You could take the time to make a pot of soup. Or, maybe treat the kids to snow cream. An afternoon nap in front of the fire is definitely on the agenda. While the Danes, who are regarded as some of the happiest people in the world, practice appreciating the simple things in life on a year-round basis, countries that contend with brutal winter weather have come to embrace the concept in the last decade.
While a snow day at home is nice, the photographer in me can’t help but imagine what the next morning will bring. The long open valleys and rolling hills of the Lancaster County countryside provide some of the most picturesque winter scenery around. If I want to capture ice-covered fences and snow-covered trees, I better set the alarm clock. The first light of day is best for photography, but snow and ice are tricky subjects. As soon as the sun hits them, the scenery begins to change rapidly.
The next snow day we have, consider getting up and out there before the sunrise. Take a little walk with your phone or camera, even if it’s literally in your own backyard. From the smallest ice crystals to the most impressive valley views, there’s always a lot of beautiful scenery to behold as the season plays out.
If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, there are options. Three years ago, I had the opportunity to soar over the snow-covered countryside with the United States Hot Air Balloon Team, which is based in Bird-in-Hand. The views were magnificent. To this day, I still regard it as the experience of a lifetime. I would also highly recommend a tour with nearby Smoketown Helicopters for a unique look at familiar places. You can read about my experiences on both of these tours in the Backyard Tourist archive at lancastercountymag.com.