'Shoe' away winter doldrums
PRESTON — With as much as 18 inches of snow on the ground, the best way to get around Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park is on snowshoes.
Thanks to a Statewide Health Improvement Program grant, the public can do just that.
Fillmore County Public Health educator Brenda Pohlman applied for the SHIP grant and arranged to get 18 pairs of snowshoes in a variety of sizes for park use.
Park manager Mark White said Pohlman has been working to get county residents exercising outside this winter. She also helped secure a grant for a new skating rink in Rushford.
Compared to past years, there's been an abundance of snow, and White has found one of the easiest ways to get around the park is by snowshoe. The snowshoes have been used every weekend since they were made available.
"This is the year," White said. "All the deep snow we're grumbling about plowing and driving through is a snowshoer's dream."
On snowshoes, people can go wherever they want to go in the park, except for the groomed cross-country trails. It costs $6 to rent a pair of snowshoes for the day.
Those planning to explore the winter wilderness can stop by the park office to get a map.
"We recommend people get off the trails and tromp around in some of the more remote areas in the park," White said. "There's some neat places people wouldn't normally enjoy because in the summer it's too weedy. It's a lot easier to get to these places on snowshoes."
Snowshoes help keep a person above deep snow.
"You'd get tired walking through the snow without them," White said. "This is one of those years where it's really worth having them."
Although this week might be a little too chilly to be trampling around in the woods, this weekend looks like it will be fairly pleasant with highs in the low 30s.
This winter has also been a good year for skiing and snowmobiling.
While the park doesn't rent out skis, White says there are a lot of interesting ski trails.
"We've had several years of bad snow in a row, so skiing has lost some of its popularity," White said.
Ski trails in the park were groomed Feb. 3 and are in excellent shape.
Local snowmobile clubs have also worked together to make the snowmobile trails through the park wider, and the trails are currently well-groomed.