Five ways to have fun outdoors with no snow, iffy ice, and freezing temps

Black bread butter, strawberry jam, and hot chaga chai, simple and soul-satisfying.

Black bread, butter, strawberry jam, and hot chaga chai, simple and soul-satisfying.

I avert my eyes from the brown and barren ground, and reluctantly stay off the very unsafe ice at some of my favorite ice walks. This is not a winter filled with powdery snow angels, hours spent crossing a flat frozen lake, or weekends hanging out at the fish shacks.

Tempting though it is to whine and hide under a blanket with a frozen drink and rewatch Fargo, there are still plenty of reasons to get out there and feel that chill.

Hit the Beach

I grew up going to the beach on New Year’s morning, and winter beach visits still appeal to me more than hot sand and summer crowds. The pluses? There are usually only a handful of other beach goers, and you can run in circles, write out greetings in the sand with your boot prints, and pretty much go wild without worrying about getting grit in someone’s sandwich.

The storm-washed beach in winter has different contours than the summer beach

The storm-washed beach in winter has different contours than the summer beach

Scavenger hunt

Make up a list of things you are bound to find near your house. Mine included a white pine tassel, sign of an animal (there is a chewed beaver stump) a red berry, a fern, and a hemlock cone. Everyone had half an hour to hunt for 15 treasures, and a bag for collecting. The list had some items that required a photo instead (such as that beaver stump, and a tree fungus, better left ungathered). Have prizes of course, but that can be as simple as a cup of hot chocolate or the privilege of choosing the evening’s movie.


A bonfire is good anytime of the year, but it is even more welcome when the world is gray and brown. We have them often, even during the day. Only wind and rain keeps us from lighting up. Warm orange yellow flames, sparks spinning into the sky, faces glowing and eyes sparkling, I have never yet met a person who isn’t happy near a bonfire. Live somewhere you cannot have an outdoor fire? A tray full of candles will do in a pinch.

A bonfire is always a warmer.

A bonfire is always a warmer.


Like bacon at camp, even basic food is a feast when eaten with sunshine, salty air and a mossy or rock throne. Forget hot food unless you want to bring a thermos of hot soup, and keep it simple, you won’t want to be using forks and knives wearing mittens. The ground is cold though, so use a blanket to sit on. We use those pillow seats with handles, hot seats.


A hike, new territory to explore, and a hidden treasure to find–this activity is actually better when there is no snow. Similar to geocaching, but low-tech, and there are clues to decipher and puzzles to solve. The treasure is not something you keep, but a box where you can see rubber stamps and notes from others who have found the letterbox before you. There are over 600 letterboxes in Maine, and before you have found them all we will have snow again, and you can get back to sledding and snowshoeing. How to get started:


About letterboxing



This ice is not ready for skating.

This ice is not ready for skating.

Beach stroll, sit by the fire, sip cocoa as the sun goes down, have a scavenger hunt and find a letterbox. Then do a snow dance, please, because it is winter after all, and we need snow.

Karen O. Zimmermann

About Karen O. Zimmermann

Karen O. Zimmermann savors chance encounters with people throughout the state of Maine, and is endlessly delighted with the tales they have to share.