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Warm up with cold-weather hiking

  • Bill Myers of Bill & Dave Hikes leads a group hike at Jack London State Historic Park. (CHARLIE GESELL / The Press Democrat)

Even a winter that starts off with a record freeze is no reason to hide inside when a spectacular beach or mountain trail beckons.

Bill Myers in Kenwood actually prefers a cold-day hike.

“When it's cool, you want to rev up the engine and move. Hiking warms you right up. More fun than in the heat of the summer day when you're already warm and sweating to start out.”

Myers is half of the popular “Bill & Dave Hikes” team with Dave Chalk. The two lead monthly hikes through state and Sonoma County parks (schedule at billanddavehikes.com).

There are benefits to hiking in winter, especially once we get rain, Myers said.

“The trails become soft, not dusty anymore,” he said. “We get waterfalls. Everything starts to turn green.”

And a special winter bonus, “No rattlesnakes.”

But winter walking requires dressing right, “to avoid becoming cold and wet in the middle of nowhere.” The first thing, said Myers, is ditch the cotton, which he calls “death cloth.”

“When cotton gets wet it stays wet,” he said, “and if the temperature drops you risk hypothermia,” abnormally low body temperature which causes the heart and other organs to fail.

He advises moisture-wicking wool and nylon blends. For walking in the rain he favors everything Gore-Tex — shoes, pants and rain jacket.

Sonoma County Regional Parks ranger Jeff Taylor said, “What you don't want to wear is one big jacket and a T-shirt underneath.”

Dressing in layers is best for the typical winter day that can start at near-freezing, slowly warm up and then chill back down.

“That heavy winter jacket you wear in the Sierras or the snow will not have the flexibility you need in Sonoma County,” he said.

And leave the blue jeans for another day.

“Jeans can be a danger if they get wet,” Taylor said. “Not only do they become heavy but they make you very cold.”

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