Snowshoeing My Way to Spring 

We are fast approaching Spring. So I decided to buy snowshoes and give it a try.

Let me explain.

As February was coming to a close, we woke up to several mornings of shovel-ready snow. Nuisance snow is what I call it. And that snow adds up. What had been a pretty dry winter suddenly caught up. It was a light snow, almost like a fine sugar and so bright you needed sunglasses.

Noting this, I suddenly decided to find something to do outside when the shoveling ended. I used to cross-county ski a lot. It’s convenient to cross-country ski around Red Wing because of all the trails nearby. A favorite is in Memorial Park. I used to ski up the road, around the top and once through the trails before heading back down the road.

But I now have a rickety knee and since cross-country skiing takes some agility that has mostly failed me, I have an excuse. I was getting especially concerned on those downhill runs with a sharp turn right at the bottom. I also gave up downhill skiing because of the knee. I even sold that equipment.

So, I decided to try snowshoeing, something my friend Chuck had been telling me to try for several years now. It would at least provide a chance to focus on something other than COVID and war. Since it doesn’t require lots of knee twists, I figured I could handle it. And all the winter gear is on clearance sale now. So I bought a pair and we decided to hike up Memorial Drive and around the top.

After figuring out all the adjustments on the snowshoes and poles, we started up the road. I learned quickly that snowshoeing is work but it’s a heap better than walking through deep snow in just boots. I still think cross-country skiing is more efficient overall but as I said, it takes more agility.

It was 10 above but I got warm quickly. And I learned I needed to walk with my feet spread apart so the snowshoes wouldn’t hit each other. We worked our way about half-way up the road to the shortcut trail to the Lower Quarry area. It’s mostly straight up so of course we had to take it. The road was too boring for Chuck.

Somewhere along that path I managed to lose a basket off one of my poles. Baskets are the round attachment near the bottom of the pole designed to prevent the pole from extending down too far into deep snow. They are threaded to allow removal so the poles can be used for summer hiking and to keep you from looking foolish, I guess. We decided the lost basket wasn’t worth looking for but I quickly learned that they are pretty handy to have.

The hike around the top of the park was spectacular, made more so by the bright blue sky and the great work done to clear out trees for a better view. As we neared the main lookout we met what could be a sentinel welcoming everyone to Red Wing. It was a snowman overlooking downtown. It had stick arms, one raised as if waving to everyone below. It was a highlight of our hike.

A few days later we snowshoed again, this time following the Stone House Trail in the Hay Creek area. Another climb but worth it. And, of course, I lost my remaining pole basket somewhere right near the start. There is an actual stone house on the top of the hill. Well, the remains of one. But it was the hike from that point on that was more interesting. A forest of white pine trees straddled us as we wound our way around the hill, eventually heading down to the parking lot where we started.

There’s at least one thing in common about both cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. You can get hot working your way up a hill only to suddenly get chilled by the wind at the top. Dress in layers, the experts say. I don’t think I’ve ever dressed correctly on any of my excursions. But I’ve survived.

We snowshoed once more a few days later. This time at the Miesville Ravine Park Reserve. It follows along the Cannon River in an area of Dakota County I don’t think I’ve been to before. It was really quiet in the woods. For awhile we could only hear the babbling of the river when we stopped crunching through the snow. We couldn’t even hear any birds until suddenly a small group of trumpeter swans in V formation flew over the treetops right above us. They were definitely trumpeting something. We also saw a golden eagle on a sandbar in the river.

There are a lot of places to go snowshoeing but it’s unlikely we’ll get out again this season now that the snow is dwindling rapidly. But I’ll be ready for next winter.

I already have new baskets on my poles.

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