Bandit is my faithful dog/hiking partner, but when the winter winds started blowing, he signaled it was time to go home by hopping around on three paws trying to keep one paw warm at a time. Hiking in Minnesota’s winter can be a challenge. Some people keep up their hiking routine even in the winter.
I heard that Mary Phillipe is one of those hardy Minnesotans that goes outside in all kinds of weather. I caught up with Mary at her United Way office.
“I grew up on a farm near Baudette, Minnesota,” Mary reflected. “We had woods, pastures and wetlands for outside adventures. My best kid playtime was exploring out of doors. When I moved to Fergus Falls my husband and I found the state parks, like Glendalough and Maplewood, are great places to keep up our hiking habit. Recently we discovered Ferber Park north on city Road 111 in Fergus Falls. It was great fun with its twisting turning trail that surrounds the park.
“We don’t stop in winter,” Mary said with confidence. “We put on the right clothes and head out to explore the nearby trails. Last year we snowshoed part of the North Country Trail near Red Sox Park off of County Rd 1. We trekked up through the woods to the hilltop overlooking the city then over to the river bluff and down the stairs cut into the hillside and followed the river over to Main Street. Last year we did an evening snowshoe hike with friends in Glendalough State Park. We followed up the breathtaking beauty of a night hike with a bonfire. It was a great way to spend a fun adventure with friends.”
Rick and Bonnie Denzel are often on winter outings with the Phillipes. I connected with Bonnie at her home office.
“Hiking the North Country Trail section in Ferber Park brought me near my childhood farm. Walking the land instead of driving the road gave me a new perspective of the area. I was amazed at how beautiful the landscape was even though I have known it all my life,” Bonnie mused.
“There are more trails in and around Fergus Falls now and the trails are easy to use,” Bonnie reflected. “They invite people to just put on a pair of tennis shoes and get outside. The trails reveal vistas that you can’t see from a car. I take hiking poles and good warm clothes, but nothing specialized, when I go hiking with friends. I love going hiking with Dave McRoberts. He knows so much about trails in the area.”
With that endorsement, I gave McRoberts a call and asked him where he likes to go winter hiking.
“I grew up in the cities, but when I lived in Morris, Minnesota, a friend invited me to go hiking at Muddy Creek. Tromping around streams and prairies was a new experience for me,” Dave recalled. “Now in Fergus Falls, I find wonderful winter trails. The woods northwest of the Regional Treatment Center are great for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. The trails throughout Prairie Wetlands Learning Center are wide open and provide a chance to get some winter sunshine. Getting outside in the fresh air always makes me feel better. Sunshine and exercise are good for mental health too. I often tell people who are sad or anxious because of the pandemic to just get outside. You’ll feel better.”
Great advice from a local “trail expert.”
Kim Embretson is a member of the Minnesota Water and Prairie Chapter of the North Country Trail Association in Fergus Falls.