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HAMMOND — The Dec. 21 winter solstice did not escape an adventurous group of about 40 nature and literature lovers who took part in the annual Frostie Walk on Thursday night.

The group met at the Hammond Environmental Education Center on Calumet Avenue and walked a roughly 1 mile route through the Lost Marsh Golf Course, going over a bridge and a small fence to a dark spot in the woods to read the Robert Frost poem "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening."

The poem tells of someone who stops his or her horse in the woods to watch the snowfall on "the darkest evening of the year," so it relates well to the winter solstice, which marks the shortest day and longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.

But with brisk but bearable temperatures and no snow on the ground, it was more a matter of sidestepping goose droppings with the help of flashlights than worrying about tramping through snow.

Some brought their dogs along for the experience, and more than one participant noted the sound of coyotes in the not-so-far-off distance.

Event-organizer David Dabertin brought copies of the poem that the "Frosties" read in unison following a solo reading by Whiting resident Mary Lowry, who recited the poem from memory.

Lowry, 18, began the tradition of her solo rendition when she was a child. She now is an English major at Ball State University.

"It's just a really good way to pay tribute to Robert Frost and his work and appreciate the beautiful community that we have here and the nice golf course that we have," Lowry said.

Discussion of the poem took place on the walk back after the group reading.

Dabertin is in the camp that believes the poem speaks of death, but not all agree.

"I don't see it as a poem about death," Crown Point resident Christian Bartholomew said. "It seems like someone expressing this kind of wonderful moment of solace in the woods."

Bartholomew, who also majored in English at Ball State, figured he's been coming to the walk for about seven years and has found it to be an unique and peaceful experience.

He enjoys the hike through the woods with friends and first-timers.

"The poem and the solstice make it into a good excuse for that," Bartholomew said. "It's a good reason to have an event and get out in the winter when you would otherwise probably be huddled at home."

Participants met back at the education center after the walk for hot chocolate and bottles of Frostie Soda, a sugary soft drink out of Michigan that Dabertin has managed to track down.

"We don't read a lot of poetry in society anymore, but to me, I always find it fascinating," Dabertin said.