Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Voyageurs National Park: Nordic Skating Black Bay

Today I had an unexpected day off and used it as an opportunity to try some Nordic ice skating on Black Bay with a coworker.
With about 3 inches of snow on the icy surface of the bay, I wasn't sure we would be able to successfully skate. However, the conditions turned out to be skatable, though the snow cover made it difficult to judge ice conditions.

We parked at the boat ramp parking area and walked our way down to the ice where we changed into our skates. Then we headed off in southeasterly direction headed for Reuter Creek.
We enjoyed stopping now and then along the way and admiring the scenery,
and even found a bay with some nice, exceptionally smooth ice that we skated around in for a while.
Then we headed up into Reuter Creek. We checked out a beaver lodge with an opening and faint path in the snow leading to it.
The path led to a perfectly round hole in the ice and as we approached it I saw a beaver dive into the hole.
We headed a little but further up the creek before turning around and starting to make our way back to the car. Along the way we admired some ice formations along the rocky shoreline
and had another skating session on the section of smooth ice we had skated on earlier.

It was a fun way to spend a winter afternoon and got me excited for more skating adventures. Right now snow is just about at the maximum depth for good skating, but the forecast does not call for any measurable snow and so I think I might get in a few more skating sessions before I have to wait for the ice road to get plowed in.   

Saturday, December 1, 2018

The Grunwald Family Christmas Tree 2018

We went out to the Saunders U Cut Tree Farm again this year and got ourselves a beautiful spruce for the holiday season. It was a pretty drive and search as snow decorated the landscape. We spent about 20 minutes walking through a small section of the farm before Sierra spotted the "perfect tree" and I cut her down with the saw. After strapping it to the car and paying our $12 we headed home where we got the tree set up in the dining room.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Koochiching State Forest: Ice Skating Moose Lake

A little over a week ago I purchased a pair of hockey skates. Despite the fact that we've had some really cold weather lately, none of the rinks in town have been flooded yet. Still, I've been itching to get out and skate for the first time in years. Today, I had my chance. I packed up my gear (skates, ice picks, trekking pole) and set out for Moose Lake near Littlefork, Minnesota. Being a small, shallow lake, I figured Moose would be frozen solid enough for skating, and I was not disappointed.

It was a bit of an adjustment, considering I haven't skated in years.
My lack of recent experience, combined with an uneven ice surface with snow cover made for a bit of a
 learning curve.

Still, about an hour after I began my skating session, I was starting to feel more confident in my abilities.
I'm looking forward to a winter of skating on ice roads and neighborhood rinks!

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Bluffside Park: Lower Loop Hike

It was raining (and even snowing a bit) this morning, so we spent a good portion of the day cooped up in the house. After about 1 pm the sun started to pole through the clouds a bit though and so Noelle, Mom, Sierra and I opted to get out of the house for a bit.

We headed back over to Winona. This time we would explore Bluffside Park a bit. Today has been much colder than the previous few days and so we were bundled up a bit. Still, the colorful leaves made for a nice walk in the woods. We didn't walk too far, just most of the lower loop trail. I believe it is marked as the "Rollers" on the trail map. We probably spent about an hour and a half hiking.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Prairie Moon Sculpture Garden

Today Noelle, Mom, Sierra and I headed up Wisconsin Highway 35, through the town of Fountain City and over to the Prairie Moon Sculpture Garden. The sculpture park is the work of the late Herman Rusch, who was a farmer, played the fiddle for local dances and created some interesting art. Noelle, Mom and myself had last visited back on June 11 of 2011. However, this would be Sierra's first visit. While we had a difficult time convincing Sierra that she would like this place, once we got her there it was obvious she enjoyed it. Here are some photos from our visit:

After our visit of the sculpture garden, we headed back into Fountain City for lunch at the Monarch Public House. The Irish food was delicious and their own brewed beer wasn't bad either. Fittingly, I opted for the Prairie Moon Red Ale. 

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Sugarloaf Bluff Hike in Winona, Minnesota

Last night we made the drive from the Falls down to Galesville for the Minnesota Education Association (MEA) Weekend. Today was forecast for beautiful blue skies and warm temperatures. Heaven knows we haven't had much of those lately and so I made an effort to get out and enjoy it before the onset of winter.

I made the drive across the river and into Winona. My plan was to look for a birthday present for Noelle and also explore Sugarloaf Bluff, a prominent landmark above Winona. The birthday gift mission ended up being a fail, but the hike up Sugarloaf Bluff was a success. The hike starts near Edina Realty
and heads into the woods.

The leaves on the deciduous trees are in full color right now. Perhaps just past their peak with many littering the trail.
As I approached the crest of the bluff,
views opened up down into Winona
and out to the Mississippi River.

After one final ascent, the distinctive bluff was suddenly right before my eyes.
I enjoyed the view for a bit and then retraced my steps back to the car.

Update: October 19, 2018

After yesterday's hike up Sugarloaf Bluff, I decided I wanted to share the experience with Noelle, Sierra and Mom. After our visit to Prairie Moon and the Monarch we headed back across the river for my second hike of Sugarloaf. It would be everyone else's first.

Today's hike started under an overcast sky.
We made our way through the colorful forest

and up to the crest.
By the time we ascended to the bluff itself,
the sky was clearing nicely. The girls posed for a couple photos

and we watched some climbers for a bit
before descending down to the car for the drive back into Wisconsin.