Welcome to my snowshoe blog. I am a novice showshoer aiming to explore snowshoe destinations around my home in Lanesboro, MN this winter. Watch for weekly updates until snow conditions are too poor due to melted snow. Raise your glass to toast in snow shoeing adventures in 2010!
January 1, 2010, New Year’s Day, 2PM 7.3 degrees. I have a choice – sit and watch college bowl games munching on leftover holiday treats or bundle up and get some fresh air. I decide on the latter because it is good for my health and even better for my soul. I better get a move on because I only have two more hours of sunlight.
A cloudless sky reflecting a soft shade of azure blue – greets me. The air is quiet. I’m out to explore snowshoe trails near Isinours Junction next to the Root River State Trail between Preston and Lanesboro. I arrive surprised to find a well plowed parking lot.
Strapping on my snowshoes I head for a hiking trail that I explored last summer. I am surprised to find a well broken snow shoe trail gently rising up the bluff. With 24 inches of December snow plus an inch of rain on Christmas Day, a well packed snowshoe base awaits my exploration. The Minnesota DNR has broken a path up the bluff and there is evidence that other adventurers have been here in the past week.
Near the start of the trail a sign post shows a map of the trail choices. There are 3 loops that traverse the bluff and meander through the forest preserve. Some segments pass through small underbrush on the valley floor and others wind through the heart of the forest.
Given there is a well established path, I can focus on my surroundings rather than watching where to place each new footstep. The path gently rises up the bluff through a series of switchbacks leading me out of the valley. The winter breeze whispers through the pin oak leaves that refuse to let go before spring to rustle a gentle welcome.
Working my way up the bluff, a narrow deer path departs from the trail. I’m faced with a choice. Do I stay on the well marked trail or go off the beaten path? I choose the deer trail to satisfy my curiosity. This is the beauty of snowshoeing. The snow has covered all the underbrush I would trip over in the summer. My winter jacket protects me from thorny bushes along the way. AND there are no bugs to torment me as I follow the deer path through the under brush. I follow the deer tracks to a clearing where I catch my breath.
Backtracking through the under brush I return to the well established trail. The path leads further up the bluff and into the white pine forest. I am surrounded by the legacy of Civil Conservation Corp workers who planted these trees 75 years ago. The pines rise straight and tall competing for light at the tree tops and providing shelter for the wild life and tender plants on the forest floor.
The crunch, crunch, crunch of the snowshoes is deafening compared to the quiet that surrounds me. There is no way I’ll be able to sneak up on any wild life today. I stop and wait for my breathing to return to normal (snowshoeing up hill is a good workout!). Listen to the quiet. No cars. No snowmobiles. No noise – just the sounds of the forest. The rat-a-tat tat of the woodpecker searching for an afternoon snack. The chatter of a squirrel making sure I know he is here. The forest floor is blanketed with snow protecting the wild flowers that will be the first signs of spring. However, there are signs of life here as well. Well worn deer paths cross my path every so often. In the underbrush is a protected spot where deer likely sought shelter during the rain and sleet a week ago.
Bird tracks line the trail on both sides. A flutter draws my attention into the forest. Black capped Chickadees flit here and there in the abundance of plants in the undergrowth along the trail. Up on the tree branches they shiver and shake to fluff up their feathers warding off the brisk winter cold. The feathers under their caps are white as snow and their soft cream colored bellies welcome the seeds that they find.
A hawk screeches from the top of a tree nearby. Red tailed hawks are common in this area. I’m sure he is able to see and hear prey that I’ll never encounter this afternoon.
Stopping to catch my breath, I hear what sounds like the muffled rushing sound of highway traffic. How can that be? Hwy 52 is more than 4 miles away. This sounds too much like the background noise of the city that I escaped when I moved here six years ago. Instead, it is the intermittent breezes swaying the trees and rubbing the five-needled clusters of white pine boughs together to produce the gentle sound of winter in the forest.
The forest is such a wonderful place to restore my soul. The snow shoes offer freedom to explore points that are hard to reach in the summer. I’ve been exploring more than an hour. The shadows are growing longer warning me that day light is waning. I work my way back down the trail loop through the bluff to where I began. I am glad I discovered this spot. I’ll be back next week to explore more.
The Root River State Trail is groomed with double tracks for cross country skiing. The Lanesboro Art Center offers winter programming at the St. Mane Theatre. At the Hillcrest Hide-Away B&B we start your day with a just baked loaf of home made bread delivered to your room. Plan your winter getaway with us.