Snowshoeing in Ft. Snelling State Park, MN

Ft. Snelling SP is located about seven miles from either downtown St. Paul or downtown Minneapolis, MN. It’s adjacent to MSP International Airport, and sits at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers. Located in the heart of the Twin Cities, the park entrance is off State Hwy. 5 at Post Rd. near the MSP airport.  Additional historic references follow near the end of this post.

Wildife includes white-tailed deer, fox, woodchucks, badgers and skunks. Snapping, soft-shelled and wood turtles are often seen on a log or a rock along the rivers or lakes. Eagles, hawks, owls and numerous song birds can be seen throughout the park.

In late January, an old friend -Tom N. (recently retired) joined me for an afternoon of snowshoeing in Ft. Snelling SP. It had been decades since I’d visited the park.  We had just received “7-10” of fresh snow a day or two earlier, and I wanted to get out before the weekend crowds. Perhaps Tom and I will get out more often, now that he’s retired -time will tell! 🙂

[sidebar] I’ve hiked/snowshoed sections of the adjacent Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, which includes 72 mi. of the Minnesota River and it’s wetlands, west of Ft. Snelling, many times over the past decade. I highly recommend the MVNWR for year-round outdoor adventures, close to home -crowds are almost non-existent, especially twenty miles upstream!

We parked the car, hiked a quarter mi., and crossed a backwater channel (over a bridge) of the Minnesota River to Pike Island, then leisurely hiked about a 5 mi. loop. We met a few other individuals, definitely no crowds, or even small groups on the trail! It was a slow walk through the woods -we enjoyed the views, and looked for wildlife.

 

Snowshoeing, Pike Island, Fort Snelling SP 1-18

 

History of Three Islands in the upper Mississippi

 

Snowshoeing, Pike Island, Fort Snelling SP 1-18 2

 

Snowshoeing, Pike Island, Fort Snelling SP 1-18 3

 

Tom N., Pike Island, Fort Snelling SP 1-18

 

A picture like this always reminds me of Central Park in NYC on a cold day when no one is outdoors -but that’s never the case in NYC! I guess it’s just the overhead canopy and the snow. The two locations wouldn’t look alike during the summer.

 

Snowshoeing, Pike Island, Fort Snelling SP 1-18 4

 

Snowshoeing, Pike Island, Fort Snelling SP 1-18 5

 

‘Wood Person,’ Pike Island, Fort Snelling SP 1-18 6

 

Deer along Trail (100 yds), Pike Island, Fort Snelling SP 1-18

 

Deer along trail (50 yds.), Pike Island, Fort Snelling SP 1-18

 

More deer (50 yds.), Pike Island, Fort Snelling SP 1-18

 

The deer made my day. They let me walk closer and closer… slowly. It was a good day in the woods with my old friend, Tom! Next good snow, I’m headed to the North Shore and the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) for a little more challenging snowshoeing. Anyone interested, drop me a note/email -probably a long, three-day weekend (minimum).

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Historic Fort Snelling (the Fort), located on the bluff overlooking the rivers, was built between 1820 and 1825, for the purpose of protecting the fur trade, including keeping the British traders out. Later, the Fort was the site of military training and operations from the Civil War through World War II. Fort Snelling has an interesting history to say the least. See the links below (including bibliographies), for additional information.

http://www.mnhs.org/fortsnelling/learn

http://www.historicfortsnelling.org/history/us-dakota-war

http://www.historicfortsnelling.org/history/slavery-fort-snelling

http://www.historicfortsnelling.org/history/military-history/civil-war

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Fort Snelling National Cemetery Fort Snelling Cemetery was established in 1870 to serve as a burial ground for the soldiers who died while stationed at the post. Following World War I, as new legislation expanded the eligibility requirements for burial in a national cemetery, the citizens of St. Paul organized a petition to designate a national cemetery in their area. In 1937, Congress responded with legislation that authorized a portion of land at Fort Snelling Military Reservation for this purpose. Fort Snelling National Cemetery was established in 1939 with the first burial on July 5, of Capt. George H. Mallon, whose acts of heroism at Meuse-Argonne in France were recognized with the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Following the dedication of the new cemetery, arrangements were made for the exhumation of the remains of those buried at the older post cemetery and the reinterment of the 680 soldiers who served from 1820-1939 buried in Fort Snelling National Cemetery. The 1930s were also a major boom era for national cemetery growth. Ft. Snelling is one of a dozen or so very large cemeteries conceived between World War I and World War II to serve large veteran populations in some cities.

In May 1960, Fort Snelling Air Force Station transferred 146 acres of land to the national cemetery. One more land transfer of 177 acres followed in 1961, bringing the cemetery to its present size. Because of the frigid winters, about 1,000 graves are dug each fall to be used for winter interments.

 

A proud American family - the Rangers!

A proud American family – the Rangers! Ft. Snelling National Cemetery

 

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73 de Mike, KEØGZT

 

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More amateur radio in 2018, and more snowshoeing too!

More amateur radio in 2018…

I’m a member of two local amateur radio clubs in the Twin Cities, and I’m an honorary member of the Toronto QRP Society -which as the name implies, focuses on low-power (the QRP designation), often mobile/portable radio operations. My longtime interest in backpacking, hiking and camping is very conducive to QRP’s lightweight radio operation in the outdoors. In fact, it’s my back-country, emergency response/communications interests that brought me to amateur radio. I like the idea of being able to carry my lightweight radio gear to mountaintops and other back-country locations, and communicate where cell phones often don’t work. It offers a new way to communicate during emergency situations, when normal communications networks are down. The radio clubs offer a degree of comradery between members with similar interests -simple as that!

Successful amateur radio clubs require new members for long-term success -especially younger members, since most club members are often in their 50’s, 60’s and beyond. Many younger new members have recent/current military affiliations or they simply enjoy science/electronics and radio communications, including short-wave. It’s great to see them getting into amateur radio, although some bring the radio experience along with them to the club, which is even greater!

Recruiting new members and maintaining older members requires constant effort by club leadership and regular members as well. Regular meetings must be well-planned and offer members interesting programming and projects, in order to remain relevant in today’s busy environment. It’s tough because everyone is so busy -overextended regarding family, friends, school, jobs and other community commitments. Just meeting with fellow members informally for coffee or lunch, helps keep it real! But the meetings and nets (on-the-air meetings via radio) are important. It’s only as good as we make it! In the end, the commitment/duty falls to each of us -the members.

I’ve been a FCC-licensed amateur radio operator for just over two years now. My technical progress has been slower than I’d like, but I’m just a busy guy, like everyone else. I mention this because I’m interested in promoting amateur radio and helping others improve their proficiency.  It’s important to realize that it’s probably not realistic to set lofty goals as a relatively new radio operator – that’s the case for me anyway. Others have helped me become a better radio operator, and they continue to make themselves available by sharing their time and knowledge, and that’s much appreciated.  I simply want to help facilitate the expansion of that ongoing learning curve, and the clubs offer a great mechanism to accomplish those tasks.

Several months ago, one of my local clubs held the annual meeting to nominate candidates willing to run as club officers. It’s often difficult getting folks to step forward and run for office, because it requires an extended  commitment over a period of time. It was the last meeting to nominate candidates, in person, before the actual vote -which was scheduled for the following month’s meeting. I think people often avoid those nominating meetings because of the pressure it can place on attendees, when willing candidates don’t step forward. Long story short, three of us at the meeting (the only members present), tossed our hats in the ring -and wouldn’t you know -we all three got elected the following month! Reminds me of that old saying, paraphrased as… “If not me/us, then who?” So we have officers! 😉

As  one of the newly elected officers, I’m sure I speak for all of us, when I say we’re all looking forward to well-attended meetings, complete with challenging topics, projects and Thursday night nets  in 2018! I know that I, as a new officer, will accomplish more this year with my radio gear, than in the past -just because of my increased commitment to the club! It’s going to be a good year!  I’ll talk w/ you on the Thurs. night net!  KEØGZT, Clear!

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…and more snowshoeing too!

I tossed my snowshoeing gear and a thermos of hot coffee in the back end of my car about 0930 on Thurs., January 18th, and headed about an hour northwest on I94 towards Monticello, MN.  Then went west about five miles to Lake Maria State Park. I’d planned to do this trip with a friend, but unforeseen changes turned it into a solo trip -no problemo!

 

Lake Maria SP, MN, 1-18-18

 

Lake Maria SP consists of about 1,600 acres of rolling wooded terrain, several small lakes and woodland marshes. The Big Woods include old-growth oak, maple and basswood; several loop trails which tend to criss-cross throughout the park, and maybe a dozen pack-in tent sites. In the winter, a lot of trail mileage is groomed for x-c skiing, a lesser mileage is open to snowshoeing/hiking – maybe 15-20 mi. total. I’ve noticed a strong bias toward groomed trails over snowshoeing trails -hopefully that bias is only evident in the more ‘urban’ parks near major population centers -I first noticed it in Frontenac SP, along the Mississippi River, a few weeks ago.

I think snowshoeing trails are more prevalent in state and national forests, and along the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT), which runs basically from Duluth to Canada along the North Shore of Lake Superior.  The SHT does cut right through Lutsen, a well-regarded downhill ski area along the North Shore (they also have some groomed x-c trails). Most of the SHT can be snowshoed -it’s great as a matter of fact! The many rivers and waterfalls add to new challenges, and most trails are great via snowshoes! All the ups and downs on the trails make for a real good workout!

 

Long sight lines and a deer trail, Lake Maria SP, 1-18-18

 

Me and the deer on the groomed trails… Shame, Shame

 

Slough Lake and wetlands, Lake Maria SP, 1-18-18

 

Lake Maria from Lake Trail, 1-18-18

Being a Thursday, there was little activity in the park -at least in the area I was using. I didn’t encounter any people the entire time I was snowshoeing out on the trails (3-4 hrs.).

 

Self Portrait, MH in Lake Maria SP, MN -a solo Thursday 1-18-18

 

73, de Mike, KEØGZT    QTH (my location) -EN34iw (Twin Cities, south central MN)

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Snowshoeing, at long last!

The snow arrived as promised, but it seems there’s -#NEVER ENOUGH. I previously mentioned a planned snowshoeing event at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum on New Year’s Eve -where I ended up as the ‘sweep’ on the event. I was the last guy in the group, making sure we didn’t leave anyone behind, out on the trail. It was cold (-5 degrees F) and the turnout (about 30) was about 1/2 of what had been planned. I was following a young mom with her 7 year old boy, and they were moving pretty slowly. The boy dropped a snowshoe and I helped get him going again, then he kept taking his mittens off to make snowballs -too cold for that!  It was their first time snowshoeing and they enjoyed it. We didn’t lose anyone, and folks had fun -with no frostbite! I guess it was a success!

I brought my HT (handheld transceiver), aka a small amateur radio, along just to test it on 2 m simplex (146.52 MHz) as we snowshoed. I reached a couple of drivers traveling the nearby highway. The area normally has cell service, so a phone could be used if emergency personnel were required (but it’s nice to know there’s a viable back-up). I didn’t have any local repeater programmed in the radio -it’s a rural area, but I expect there is a repeater or two within reach. I’ll have to check that out!

 

MN Landscape Arboretum Snowshoe Hike (1), 12-31-17

 

MN Landscape Arboretum Snowshoe Hike (2), 12-31-17

 

Just over a week later, we got a good snowfall,  10″-14″ locally/regionally. The snowblower came in handy, and had it’s first real workout this season. I’ve now been out snowshoeing a few more times in recent weeks.

The first trip, since the good snow, was December 12th, to Frontenac SP ( about 70 mi. south of Minneapolis) along the Mississippi River, (also about 10 mi. So. of Red Wing, Minnesota. It’s a small park along a wide expanse of the river known as Lake Pepin, just north of Lake City. There are many large, scenic bluffs along the river valley in this area -very picturesque in any season.

We had received good snow the day before, and I was determined to get out. Again it was well below zero (day’s high was -5 degrees F), and I saw no one else in the park while I was there. I had fresh powder and freezing cold, all to myself ;-). Continually removing my gloves to take photos quickly became difficult, given the cold weather.

 

Snowy grassland hilltop, Frontenac SP

 

Fresh powder in Frontenac SP, 1-18

 

Sign of only me (below) and some of the critters residing in the park – deer, snowshoe hare, and something very small leaving the diagonal tracks across the above photo.

 

Me and my shadow… and deer prints formed a trail across the road.

 

Bluffs across the Mississippi, in Wisconsin. Viewed from Frontenac SP in Minnesota.

 

The Mississippi River, looking downstream.

 

After a couple of hours snowshoeing and taking photos in Frontenac SP, I decided to revisit the Ranger Station and warm up a bit. I found that I was indeed the only person to visit the park that day. I soon departed and headed north to Minneapolis, hoping to avoid heavy rush-hour traffic after my 90+ minute commute back to the city.

On my way home, I decided to swing by Minnehaha Falls, for a winter view.

 

Winter view of Minnehaha Falls, Minneapolis

 

For a summer view of the Falls, the creek and Minnehaha Park, look here. I’ve also been snowshoeing at Lake Maria SP and Ft. Snelling SP over the past ten days, and those adventures will appear shortly.

I’ll post the additional snowshoeing next week -hopefully. I continue to have problems uploading photos to the blog, and cannot figure it out. I’ve contacted my blog host and WP seeking help -to no avail. It’s getting frustrating, and I have other things to do besides this blog! It shouldn’t be this difficult! Wish me luck!  WP -HELP!

73 de Mike, KEØGZT

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