As a lifelong New Englander, I am admittedly a three-season outdoorsman and winter is typically when I slow down. Even though I am not a fan of snow and cold temperatures, two years ago I started winter hiking.

Iím an active hiker in the warmer months because I love the physical challenge of climbing mountains, and since my knees canít withstand the pounding from running anymore, I needed another way to get my heart rate up. Iíve climbed smaller peaks like Mount Agamenticus and the Mount Major all the way up to some of the region's highest, including Mount Washington.

Itís time to get back on the trail, but I wanted to start out with an easy hike since itís been a few months since Iíve laced up my boots. I also know itís time to get moving because Finn ó my 6-year-old Jack Russel/Corgi mix ó is starting to pack on the winter weight.

Finn and I headed out on a cold and blustery afternoon to Vaughn Woods Memorial State Park in South Berwick, Maine. Always one of my favorite short hikes, its network of trails strolls through a dense forest along the Salmon Falls River and loops back around to the Hamilton House.

The trails throughout the park are relatively flat with only some modest inclines along the River Run trail. Some were covered with snow and ice, while others were a little muddy. I brought my ice creepers with me for added traction, but most people I saw had no problem walking through with just boots or sneakers.

When we started out it was about 20 degrees, and within minutes I started to warm up and even sweat a little. Itís always important to dress in layers when itís this cold, and to not wear cotton clothing because it absorbs sweat and could end up making you colder.

It felt good to be back outside, enjoying the sights, sounds, and serenity of the woods. When I have this alone time, Iím able to escape from the distractions of daily life and focus on my thoughts, and Iím better able to prioritize and plan with a little more clarity.

Finn, after 30 minutes of walking, was exhausted and ready to head back to the car. For the last few months his exercise has consisted of a few trips outside every day to do his business, so he is clearly out of shape. After I poured him a bowl of water from my backpack, and with a little bit of encouragement, he was ready to keep going.

We stopped midway along River Run trail to enjoy the sun reflecting off the Salmon Falls River and to watch a few ducks riding the outgoing tide.

The trails are perfect for hikers of all ages and skill levels. On this day, I was happy to see so many parents getting their kids on the trail and exploring.

We finished the three-mile loop in about an hour, but itís wasnít about how long it took or how far we went. It was about reconnecting with the outdoors and to get some exercise for me and Finn.

Tip of the week

If youíve ever wanted to try ice fishing, New Hampshireís free fishing day is coming up on Jan. 19. Get together with some friends who have gear and see what fishing on a frozen lake is all about.

Dave Andreesen is an avid hiker, paddler and fisherman who will be writing on the outdoors for the Seacoast Sunday. Send Dave feedback at dwandreesen@gmail.com.