Guest Message - Regional Chief Joy Raintree: Winter in Parks

Message From The Director

Winter means different things to different people. For some it evokes images of hot cocoa, decorations, and a roaring fireplace instantly come to mind. Family gatherings, shared meals and gift exchanges too. For others, the shorter days and colder temperatures are unwelcome and limiting. How about an alternate view of Winter provided by state parks that can be a common ground for those polar opposites. Imagine for a moment Winter as a wonderous time for reflection and reconnection to the natural world.

Sure the Fall leaf color is gone, turned to brown, crunchy reminders of a lush Spring and Summer. But those leaves are rebuilding the very earth that provide nutrients and stability to trees and plants as they store that energy over the Winter. That energy will return as soon as the warmer weather to produce abundance in the Spring again.

Nut and seed production have peaked and berries, acorns, hickory nuts, and walnuts are dropping by the dozens blanketing the forest floor to provide much needed food for the forest friends that live in parks like squirrels, deer, birds, and bear.

Trees receive a natural pruning or “haircut” as heavy snow or ice weigh down branches. Ice forms on waterfalls and pine trees, altering the familiar into scenes other-worldly.

If you consider the changes taking place this Winter, this could be the perfect (and less busy) time of year to explore some of your favorite state parks and maybe even some hidden gems and trails you haven’t been on yet.

A quiet walk in the woods and around our lakes, ponds, and beaches can be a welcome time away from the hustle and bustle of crowds and shopping. Just the sound of falling leaves and running water can bring the blood pressure back to acceptable levels.

Sharing a walk with a loved one from out of town can strengthen connections, provide an opportunity for conversation and exchange of ideas.

Whether you are a “bring on the holidays” or a “holiday blues” kind of person, state parks can provide you a break from the ordinary and an extraordinary setting for exploring the wonder of Winter.

It has been my pleasure to guest write for Director McCormack this month and to invite you all to share in the incredible gifts that nature presents us with this Winter. Maybe I’ll see you on one of South Carolina State Park’s many First Day hikes or a just a simple post-ham/cookie/pound cake stroll this Winter break!

I’ll leave you with an excerpt from John Muir’s essay “Yosemite in Winter” where he describes the aftermath of a snow storm:

"The trees, and bushes, and dead brown grass were flowered far beyond summer, bowed down in blossom and all the rocks were buried. Every peak and dome, every niche and tablet had their share of snow. And blessed are the eyes that beheld morning open the glory of that one dead storm. In vain did I search for some special separate mass of beauty on which to rest my gaze. No island appeared throughout the whole gulf of the beauty. The glorious crystal sediment was everywhere. From wall to wall of our beautiful temple, from meadow to sky was one finished unit of beauty, one star of equal ray, one glowing sun, weighed in the celestial balances and found perfect."

Joy Raintree

Sandhills Regional Chief

December 2023