Lake Erie Winter Hike Challenge Launched by Ohio Couple

Bill and Jeri McMinn love to hike — and colder temperatures are an invitation to bundle up and keep exploring.

Jeri McMinn stands at the bottom of a huge ice formation.

The cold days of winter are a challenge for Bill and Jeri McMinn, but not in the way you might expect.

That’s because the McMinns (venture_vibe on Instagram) love to hike in all weather and, to encourage others, have launched an Instagram winter hiking challenge called #WinterHike90. The goal is to hike a total of 90 miles during the 90 days of winter, sharing your journey via the hashtag to build enthusiasm.

“It just came to me,” says Bill. “I wanted a joint hashtag so all the hikers could see what the others were doing and seeing.”

Bill and Jeri live in Jefferson, Ohio. So far this winter, they’ve completed about 30 miles, but Bill stresses that no one should stress about hitting an exact number.

“Having certain miles to hit is great for me because I like to have a goal,” he explains. “However, I don’t worry about people hitting a certain number. It’s for all who want to join and be part of the group regardless of the miles. I really love seeing the joint sharing. It’s one of my favorite parts of it.”

Bill and Jeri’s favorite hikes in Ohio include Hell Hollow Wilderness Area and Penitentiary Glen in Lake Metroparks, Cuyahoga Valley National Park and Hocking Hills State Park. Outside of Ohio, they love Sequoia National Park and Death Valley National Park. "So many beautiful places," Bill adds.

While you don't need any special gear to get started for most hikes on most days, the McMinns have built up a list of gear and tips over the years for more challenging conditions. Here's Bill's advice:

• Dress for how you’ll feel 10 minutes into hiking, not for how you feel the second you step out of your vehicle.
• Layer up. For most winter hiking I wear a base layer from Eddie Bauer, L.L. Bean or Icebreaker. I wear a wool sweater. I wear a thin North Face jacket and I’m fine.
• I wear hiking pants with thermal bottoms as base layer. I super love Eddie Bauer Guide Pro hiking pants.
• If it’s snowy I wear snow pants. I like clothing where the snow quickly sheds off. I’m generally laying out in the snow taking pics at some point ... or I fall. I will be in the snow one way or the other.
• I wear wool socks and waterproof boots.
• Do not wear cotton.
• I strap ice crampons onto my boots. They are always with me this time of year. I keep them attached to my camera bag with a carabiner when they’re not on my boots. And my camera goes everywhere I go so I always have them. You have to have traction on the trails and when exploring ice. You’ll be much safer and be able to drive deeper up gorges where the ice hangs.
• Hike with a pal.
• Let people know your plans.
• Have fun. We do this for the fun of it!
• Be comfortable but sometimes you need to get outside of your comfort zone a bit. So make sure you go to a variety of places so you see new things.

"I would encourage people to dress appropriately, but get out there and you’ll figure it out," Bill adds. "Enjoy the adventure. You don’t have to have a certain type of shoe or just one particular coat. The more you do it, the more you experience, and that experience directs you to adding a sweater to your arsenal or ice crampons or snow pants or whatever fits your style. You don’t have to have everything at once. Just add as you go as some of the gear will last you for years."

Hiking keeps Bill and Jeri in shape, but the benefits extend well beyond fitness.

"I know a lot of people personally in my community; we are blessed," Bill says. "But I’ve also met some amazing people on instagram, and we now hike together and communicate regularly. I’ve been challenged to be better through the people I’ve met."

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