MN Snowshoe Trail Journal – Jan 10, 2010

Snowshoe Trail Into the Forest

Snowshoe Trail Into the Forest

January 10, 2010 Snowshoeing week 2.

It is a “warm” 17 degrees today – 10 degrees warmer than last week.  So it seems conditions should be OK to get out the snowshoes again today.  It is much more overcast and there is a stiff wind blowing over the ridges.  The forest preserve seems fairly protected, so I am going for it!

I arrive to find fresh snowshoe tracks on the trail again plus a pair of cross country ski tracks.  Working my way straight up the bluff I’m amazed to see the ski tracks wherever I go.

I can hear the brisk wind in the valley.  But as I enter the pine forest, it is quiet once again.  Encountering a

White Pine Forest

White Pine Forest

sign post with a trail map I learn that the only way further into the preserve is to continue up the bluff.

As I reach the top of the bluff the wind gusts return.  The winter chill is quite brisk up here!  I’m now above the pine tree tops.  So I’ve lost any protection from them.  Even in the middle of the hardwood forest there are small snow drifts across the trail.  The only sign of wildlife up here are deer tracks and I can see why – no protection, bitter wind, and little food.

Do I turn back or continue on?  The hearty skier left his trail here.  So certainly I can continue.  Hiking another 200 yards, the wind is now beginning to make this more like work.  I debate whether I should turn back or continue.  I continue because I think there is a path back down into the valley a little further on.

Panoramic Countryside Vista

Panoramic Countryside Vista

But then I see a small shelter ahead along the trail and a clearing with a view of the surrounding countryside.  Stopping in the shelter, I catch my breath and enjoy the panoramic view.  Despite the overcast sky, the view is breathtaking.

Back on the trail again I follow the cross country ski tracks further into the state forest.  Reaching the back edge of the preserve I discover there is no short cut back into the valley like I thought earlier.  I must continue and circle back the way I came.

Bench Along the Trail

Bench Along the Trail

You can see how deep the snow is by looking at the bench in the photo.  I continue to follow the tracks of the cross country trail blazer.

Because the snow pack is heavy breaking a new trail is not too hard.  However, the deeper snow  collects  on the back of my snowshoes.  Each time I take a new step, the snow laps up on the back of my legs leaving me with wetter and wetter jeans.

Circling back I return to a spot I stopped at earlier.  It is time to head back.  Reaching the pine forest offers a welcome relief from the wind gusts on the ridge.  The birds are even feeding down here.

Back down the trail to my car I head for home where a warm mug of chai tea awaits.

Snowshoe Trail Journal week 2: Marv Eggert, Hillcrest Hide-Away B&B, Lanesboro, MN.

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MN Snowshoe Trail Journal – Jan 1, 2010

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.

Clearing at the end of a deer path

Clearing at the end of a deer path

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.

Snowshoe trail through white pine forest

Snowshoe trail through white pine forest

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.

As the Bed and Breakfast Capital of Minnesota, Lanesboro welcomes you with beautiful  landscape, fine dining, and accommodations to satisfy any taste.

Groomed Root River State Trail

Groomed Root River State Trail

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.

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New Year’s Weekend Getaway

Ring in the New Year with a getaway to Lanesboro, MN the Bed and Breakfast Capital of Minnesota.

The Old Village Hall Restaurant is featuring a lovely dinner all weekend including:
Appetizers: Sautéed Mussels in an Orange Gin Chile Cream Sauce,
Seasoned Lamb Chops with Irish Whiskey Cherry Sauce
Entrées: Monkfish Scaloppini,
Dry Aged New York Strip,
Roasted Organic Chicken Breast on a Bed of Fettuccini
Desserts: Almond Cake and Apricot Ice Cream,
Baked Alaska with Hazelnut Brittle,
Chocolate Tart with Fresh Marshmallow Praline Sauce and Crème Anglaise

Call (507) 467-2962 to Reserve Seating (Advance Reservations Recommended)

The snow has made the hills, valleys, and streams in our corner of Minnesota into a winter wonderland.

Amish Farm in the Country

Amish Farm in the Country

The Root River State Trail is groomed for cross country skiing.  Weather has been great the past 2 weeks to maintain good skiing conditions.  There are plenty of places to snow shoe as well.

Root River

Root River

Relax, recover from the holiday rush with a quiet getaway to the Hillcrest Hide-Away B&B.  We’ll start your day with a just-baked loaf of bread delivered to your room followed by a hearty breakfast.

Then you can head outdoors or curl up with a book next to one of our electric fireplaces.  Give us a call at 800 697-9902 to make a reservation.

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Horse Drawn Sleigh Ride Winter Wonderland

We’ve got a fresh pack of snow in Lanesboro, MN.   The countryside looks like a winter wonderland!  Downtown Lanesboro is decorated for Christmas.

Downtown Lanesboro Decked out for Christmals

Downtown Lanesboro Decked out for Christmas

Restaurants, Bed and Breakfasts, and the Cornucopia Art Center have their welcome mat ready for you to create your personal winter getaway.

Cuddle together in the crisp winter air and listen to the music of brass bells as the sleigh runners cut through the snow!

webDanielsonSleigh

Horse Drawn Sleigh Ride

Your horse drawn sleigh ride begins in scenic Duschee Creek valley near Lanesboro.  Heavy lap blankets will keep you cozy as you glide through the fields and into the woods. From there the horses know their way home.  Back in town a steaming cup of hot cocoa or cider awaits you!

The Hillcrest Hide-Away B&B is your perfect winter getaway destination.  Two of our spacious suites have electric fireplaces where you can curl up with a good book and enjoy the peace and quiet.

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Minnesota Tundra Swan Migration

Last week we took a day off and observed the  Tundra Swan migration near Brownsville, MN.  Brownsville, MN is located 10 miles south of LaCrescent, MN on MN state hwy 26.  The US Fish and Wildlife Services has created an overlook just south of Brownsville on the Mississippi River where the swans and migrating ducks can be seen by the thousands.

A Swan Family Feud

A Swan Family Feud

The swans are graceful birds with over a 7 foot wing span!  The swans migrate from their summer habitat near the Arctic Circle to their winter habitat in Chesapeake Bay, Maryland.

The interpreters at the overlook told us that the swans fly non-stop from the Arctic Circle to the Mississippi River where they refuel for the next leg of the migration.  They remain in Brownsville until the colder temperatures and reduced feeding habitat pushes them on.  They may stop in Lake Erie for another refueling stop making their way to Chesapeake Bay.

Migrating Swans

Migrating Swans

The photos really don’t do the experience justice.  There are places where the sand bars are white with birds.  It looks more like snow in the distance!

We have had a warm November so the swans may be around for a few more weeks.  The viewing area is about an hour drive from Lanesboro.

Lanesboro is dressed for Christmas with new downtown decorations.  Take in The 1940′s Radio Hour at the Commonweal Theatre and stay with us at the Hillcrest Hide-Away.  We’re ready for  Christmas too  including Carol’s extensive Santa collection.

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Girls Getaway Weekend Vacation

Last weekend we hosted a group of sisters and their daughters for a girls getaway weekend.  They left their husbands and kids at home and filled our home with laughter and fun.  Friday night they shared a pot luck spread of snacks (including a marvelous trout pate’ spread) and wine in our living room.

Breakfast for Sisters/Daughters group

Breakfast for Sisters/Daughters group

Saturday morning they gathered for breakfast (after munching on home made bread of course).   There was no need for gentle background music.  There were at least three simultaneous conversations most of the time.

Then they ventured off to the farmers market, shopping downtown and enjoying their time together.

We often host groups of ladies who vacation together.  It is always interesting to hear how they are connected and how much they enjoy traveling together.

Plan your next girls getaway with us at the Hillcrest Hide-Away B&B.  Hunting season is coming.  You deer hunting widows need time away too.  While the hunters are shivering on those deer stands, you can cozy up with book next to a fireplace at our inn.

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Minnesota Theatre November Opening

The Commonweal Theatre in Lanesboro, Minnesota announces the opening and production of their 100th show: “A Midnight Dreary” by Scott Dixon, October 31st – November 15th, with previews on October 29th and 30th.

Commonweal Theatre

Commonweal Theatre

From his hospital bed, Edgar Allan Poe – the first Master of the Macabre – wanders through a feverish dream mixing scenes from his life and works. But is he simply lost in a labyrinth of his own making, or being given a last chance to set things right?

 Hal Cropp, the theater company’s artistic director, directs the show. “This telling of Poe’s life,” says Cropp, “centers around the ghosts that ‘haunt’ us, and what it is about our lives that will echo on after we’ve gone. And the questions are raised in a manner that infuses the story with the beauty of Poe’s poetry and the titillation that accompanies his most famous stories.”
 
The Commonweal Theatre will offer preview performances on October 29th and 30th at 7:30 p.m. All preview tickets are $15.  All performances are in the new theater located at 208 Parkway Avenue North in downtown Lanesboro.  Ticket prices are $25.  Tickets are available at 800-657-7025 or 507-467-2525 or by email at tickets@commonwealtheatre.org. For more information and online reservations, visit www.commonwealtheatre.org.

 Make your visit to Lanesboro complete by reserving a stay at the Hillcrest Hide-Away Bed and Breakfast.  Awaken to the aroma of freshly baked bread delivered to your room – followed by a hearty breakfast in our dining room.   Visit Lanesboro, the Bed and Breakfast Capital of Minnesota.

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Minnesota Bed and Breakfast Italian Strata

Today we served a new recipe for the main breakfast entree at our bed and breakfast.  The recipe is Carol’s creation and she calls it an Italian Egg Strata.  With Italian Sausage as a main ingredient, it is a good way to wake up the taste buds for breakfast.  Fresh ingredients from our garden include tomatoes, peppers, parsley, and basil.

Our guests offered rave reviews for its flavor and how light and fluffy it is.  The dish is prepared the night before, so all the flavors have a chance to merge  before baking.  This dish would be a perfect recipe to serve your next brunch gathering allowing you time to enjoy your guests while breakfast is making in the oven.

You can make this recipe at home, or you could enjoy it when you visit our bed and breakfast in SouthEast Minnesota’s Bluff CountryFall colors are beginning to peak and our valley offers wonderful vistas to view the meadows, hardwoods, rivers and wildlife. 

Italian Egg Strata -
Created by Carol at Hillcrest Hide-Away B&B  Lanesboro, MN

1 (1 pound) loaf of Italian or French bread, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 pound Italian sausage, browned
½ cup canned roasted red pepper (or fresh peppers), chopped
½ cup diced sun dried (or fresh) tomato
3 Tablespoons fresh basil, cut fine
4 green onions, thinly sliced, tops and bulbs
1 cup    grated parmesan cheese, divided
1 cup chopped fresh mushrooms
2 cups grated tomato and basil Monterey jack cheese
12 large eggs
3 cups milk
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1 pinch cayenne pepper
Salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
1 cup mozzarella cheese 

Grease a 9×13 glass baking dish.  Spread 1/2 of the bread on the bottom.  Combine the browned sausage, red pepper, green onions, ½ cup parmesan cheese and fresh mushrooms.  Layer on top of bread.  Spread the jack cheese on top of this mixture.  Layer remaining bread on top. 
Whip eggs, milk, Italian seasoning, cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper, then pour over the whole strata.  Sprinkle with remaining parmesan cheese.  Put in refrigerator at least 4 hours or overnight. 

 In the morning, preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Bake for about 40 minutes until eggs are set.  Sprinkle parsley over the top and cover lightly with mozzarella cheese.  Return to oven until cheese melts.  Remove from oven and let it sit for about 10 minutes before cutting into squares.

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MN B&B Melon Sorbet

Melon season is upon us and often we have extra on hand.  Our local farmers markets in Southeast MN have melon too.  Here is a good way to save melons for serving later in the season.  I found this melon sorbet recipe online and served it for breakfast at our B&B last week.  It is a good way to start breakfast with a refreshing treat.

Melon Sorbet

A tidbit of orange flavor really gives the melon (whichever melon you choose–watermelon, cantaloupe, or honeydew melon) a kick.

1-1/2 cups water
1 cup sugar
5 cups cubed,  watermelon, cantaloupe, or honeydew melon  
2 teaspoons finely shredded orange peel
1/2 cup orange juice

Syrup

In a medium saucepan combine water and sugar. Cook over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Cover and chill until cold.

Place orange juice and orange peel in the blender and whip until orange peel is dissolved.

In a large mixing bowl combine melon, orange peel, orange juice and chilled sugar mixture. Place one-third to one-half of the melon mixture in a blender or food processor bowl. Cover and blend or process until smooth, stopping and scraping sides as necessary. Place pureed mixture in another bowl. Repeat with remaining melon mixture.

Freeze in an ice-cream freezer according to manufacturer’s directions. (Or pour the mixture into a 9x9x2-inch baking pan. Freeze about 3 hours or until frozen around the edges. Spoon into a large chilled bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on high speed until smooth, but not melted. Return to pan. Cover and freeze several hours or overnight.)

To serve, let stand at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes. Scoop into dessert dishes. Makes 8 servings

To learn more about our B&B, visit www.hillcresthideaway.com

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Minnesota Fall Color Get Away

Labor Day has come and gone.  Cool, crisp nights are upon us and the first maples are starting to show their fall colors. 

Root River Valley Fall Colors

Root River Valley Fall Colors

South East Minnesota beckons you with vistas and valleys, hardwood forests, and plentiful wild life.

 

 

 

 

Rolling fields awaiting harvest

Rolling fields awaiting harvest

Farms form a patchwork quilt of crops awaiting harvest on the rolling country side.   The Amish dry their corn the old fashioned way with rows of corn shocks standing tall to catch the fall breezes.

 

 

Root River Bike Trail

Root River Bike Trail

Lanesboro, Minnesota and the Root River Trail offer an excellent venue for enjoying the fall colors.  Freshly fallen leaves crunch under your bike tires as you ride under the fall canopy bordered by bluffs on one side and the Root River on the other.

After an enjoyable day of biking, savor dinner in one of Lanesboro’s fine restaurants and then take in an evening at the Commonweal Theatre.  The theatre features 2 plays this fall season: “The Odd Couple” and “The Rainmaker”.  Shows are performed Thursday through Monday each week.

Lanesboro has lodging options suitable to any taste from  hotels, to inns, and bed and breakfasts.  Your bed and breakfasts hosts are there to help you get the most out of your stay.  Make Lanesboro your destination for your fall color get away.  Visit our web site at www.hillcresthideaway.com for more details.

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