COVID-19 Update: All members and visitors need to make a reservation in advance of their visit to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. Find updates and information here.
By Tony Baisley
As life continues to be confined to home offices, masks and quick errands, nature can be a refuge – even in winter! That’s part of the reason why the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum teamed with the Star Tribune to support the Embrace Winter 30-Day Challenge. Currently in the middle of week three, in each Sunday paper you’ll find ideas and challenges to get out there and make the most of Minnesota’s serene winter splendor! (Check out our ongoing coverage of it on our Facebook and Instagram.)
It was with this in mind that I decided to give myself an unusual assignment last Wednesday: to get back on-site, but not to my desk, instead to meet with colleagues – Wendy Composto (events) and Charlene Wickenhauser (guest services) – to snowshoe. Did you know, the Arb has more than 8 miles of trails available to snowshoers – in addition to our cross-country ski trails?
I have been with the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum as the associate director of Marketing, Communications & PR for just under two years. Of course, one of these years has been anything but business as usual, with much of the Arb staff working from home as we’ve all had to adjust to a new normal to keep pandemic safe. While I’ve continued supporting the Arboretum daily from my dining room table, I’ve missed the connection with colleagues – the hallway conversations that spark ideas – and, of course, that incredible access to nature: 1,200 acres of it right outside our office windows.
Once I got strapped in to my rented snowshoes, we set off. I had never snowshoed before, but I was inspired to try it given it’s popularity at the Arboretum! I found myself literally going over and through the woods with only the faint sound of the wind in the trees – and the conversation of my coworkers – to keep me company. Have you ever noticed how beautifully quiet it is at the Arboretum in winter? (It’s hard to imagine we’re only 30 minutes away from the heart of Minneapolis.)
I was quickly reminded of the diversity of landscape available to all of us Minnesotans. After walking through tightly wooded trails on both sides, we would emerge into wide open prairies, featuring stunning tall grasses whose soft colors were the perfect complement to the freezing temperatures of February.
The paths were surprisingly steep in places, but well-marked. Paths are two-way traffic, so you just move over when you see friendly faces coming towards you. (Note: Hikers can also walk on the snowshoe trails, sans snowshoes, without fear of harming the trails. This does not apply to the cross-country ski trails, however.)
There are several different paths you can take. Today, we passed Wood Duck Pond on our way towards the Dog Commons, and I don’t think I would have appreciated it the same way in summer. You can plan your adventure by checking out our digital map and clicking on the ‘Winter Trails’ layer. Make sure to check out the current trail conditions at the Arboretum, too.
We finished our informal meeting in just over an hour, just as we arrived back at the Oswald Visitor Center. It felt good to exercise my legs (and lungs) in the middle of the day. While the peace provided by nature is always nice, I suggest snowshoeing with colleagues and friends.
So, change your scenery, grab your winter gear and head to the Arboretum for your very own outdoor adventure. Reservations are required to visit. On-site snowshoe rentals (available first come, first served in the Oswald Visitor Center) start at $7 for the first hour.