Fresh snow had just fallen, so it was time for the Sievers family to go snowshoeing. We trekked over to Quarry Hill Park (701 Silver Creek Rd. NE, Rochester) after calling ahead to make sure their snowshoe rental was operating. We’d never tried it before, but were excited to see what the park would look like from a slightly different vantage point.
It was easy and inexpensive to rent snowshoes. After a quick inquiry at the Nature Center, a volunteer helped us pick gear appropriate for the depth of snow and our weight, then, while the rest of my family got strapped into their snowshoes, I returned to the front desk to pay for the rental and leave a short form, as well as my car keys as a deposit for the rental. We snowshoed for about two hours, and a four-hour rental for adults was $5. For children under 18, it was $3. Our whole family could rent snowshoes for less than $20. Members of Quarry Hill Park get an additional discount.
One of the most important things about snowshoeing is to make sure that your snowshoes are strapped on tightly. It isn’t much fun to have to take your gloves off in the cold and fumble with snow-crusted straps when a shoe gets loose. We wore warm winter boots, and after a few adjustments, we were able to keep the shoes strapped on our feet tightly.
It didn’t take long to get the hang of sliding the snowshoes along the top of the snow, making sure the front tips were up. Your heel isn’t fixed to the snowshoe, so the actions required really aren’t that different from walking. Backing up, however, is no easy feat, so as in so much of life, it's best to keep going forward.
As we snowshoed through the wooded paths that led up to the top of Quarry Hill, we saw fresh rabbit, squirrel, and deer tracks. We went for our adventure at about 10 a.m. after a big snow the night before, so it was exhilarating to leave the first human tracks in the snow that day. After we made it to the overlook and looked down into Rochester’s valley, catching a glimpse of the golden Plummer building poking through the cold haze, we trekked across the cattail-studded quarry bottom and enjoyed the incredible sight of the snow-clad trees perched on the surrounding stone outcroppings.
Overall, the experience was a fun way to get outdoors on a winter day. We were able to do something active and see some incredible sights all while trying out a new, but not too difficult, activity. Our next winter adventure will have some big shoes to fill, since we had so much fun snowshoeing.
It was pretty cold -- 7 degrees with a wind chill of -12 -- the day we went snowshoeing, so it was a treat to return to the Quarry Hill Nature Center to spend time checking out the exhibits and warming up. We were happy to find Horus, the American kestrel, the saw-whet owl, and Fredricka, the 49-year-old snapping turtle, there to greet us. Abigail loves going in the tunnels under the 1700-gallon fish tank to look up at the seven types of Minnesota native fish swimming above her.
Abigail (age 10)
Recently I went snowshoeing with my family. One of the most interesting parts of it for me was what the snow’s texture was like. It had a thin layer of ice on top of it, making it feel like you were stepping on a giant potato chip. Me and my sister would stomp a square in the snow and then pick up the piece of ice that it left behind. I also enjoyed knocking snow off the pine trees, revealing a thin layer of ice under the snow on top. One thing that I think is cool about snowshoeing is the different tracks each brand makes. Some tracks are pretty but others not so much. We also encountered great views from the top of a small cliff, giving us an amazing new perspective of Rochester.
Eleanor (age 12)
I was excited to go snowshoeing because I had recently read this article about a man who makes art by walking through snow. He finds an empty field, and then walks through it to make different patterns, and when he’s done, from an aerial perspective it looks like a mandala. I was curious to see what my footprints would look like with snowshoes on, and how it would feel to walk in them. At first it was weird walking with snowshoes -- my feet were three times longer than normal and two times wider. But gradually it got more natural, if not perfect. It was actually weirder taking them off after walking in them because my feet were suddenly shorter and skinnier, making it seem a lot harder to balance than normal. I thought snowshoeing was a fairly easy-to-master, fun activity for the whole family, and I hope you get the chance to try it.
To get all the details you’ll need to try snowshoeing or ski rental at Quarry Hill Park, go to www.qhnc.org/park/cross-country-skiing, or call (507) 328-3950.