In summer and fall, hikers by the thousands take to the hiking trails on Minnesota's North Shore.
In winter? Not so many. But those who strap on snowshoes to climb river gorges and follow the blue blazes of the Superior
Hiking Trail are rewarded by stark beauty.
The brittle winter sun throws everything into high relief: Black lenticel pores seem to pop out on trunks of birch that are a
brilliant white against the blue sky.
On the week before Christmas, I figured I’d found the prettiest place in the world.
Fresh snow had fallen around Hayward, and the forest was sparkling. We made our way down the intimate lanes of the Makwa
Trail on snowshoes, brushing past heavily laden balsam boughs as we scaled gentle ridges and descended into snowy
Each new tableau was more beautiful than the last, and I congratulated myself on the discovery that single-track mountain-biking trails are great for snowshoeing.
If you do only one thing outdoors in winter, do it by candlelight.
Nothing is more magical than a forest full of flickering lights. I got hooked when I skied in Minnesota's Mille Lacs Kathio
A fat blue moon hung in the sky, sparkling hoarfrost made twigs as nubby as reindeer antlers and more than 400 glowing bags gave the forest a fairy-tale aura.
There are many good reasons to go off trail, and the chance to see moose definitely is one of them.
When we were at Bear Head Lake near Ely one January, we hiked first along a lakeside ski trail that was so packed we didn't
But then the ranger mentioned she'd seen moose tracks in fresh snow near the park entrance, and we decided to go moose-tracking. Strapping on our snowshoes, we plunged from the road into deep woods.
Everyone likes to snowshoe. It's cheap, easy and you can do it anywhere. Or can you?
Often, I've wound up ditching my snowshoes when I'm in a state park, because the trail to wherever I'm going is so packed I don't need them. Yet trails give you a cleared path through brush and are laid to take in the best scenery, so it's hard to ignore them.
"So many people want to snowshoe,'' says Jen Westlund, a ranger at Bear Head Lake State Park near Ely, Minn. "But they don't want to be told the whole park is open for snowshoeing. They want a trail.''
It’s easy to see why snowshoeing is so popular. It’s slower than skiing, but you can go wherever you want, on footwear that doesn't need to be waxed and on trails that don’t need to be groomed.
A lot of people will be getting or giving snowshoes as holiday presents. Many people automatically head for the high-tech metal shoes that are ubiquitous in sporting goods stores, but it’s worth considering other kinds.
Aluminum snowshoes are light and have crampons for scaling hills, but they don’t give wearers much loft in deep snow,
and they’re kind of noisy.
On the western tip of the Upper Peninsula, snow comes as regularly as mail.
Gusts of wind make the deliveries, picking up moisture and warmth over Lake Superior and then dumping it as snow when they hit the cold inland air around Ironwood and Bessemer.
The two ski towns are little more than four hours from the Twin Cities, but they look more like the North Pole in comparison. Snow comes early, piles high and stays late, into April.
If you’re a paddler, you’re done for the winter. But when one door closes, another opens.
I’ve been meaning to paddle Minnehaha Creek through the heart of Minneapolis for years, but the water won't stand still — sometimes it's too high, sometimes too low.
This 22-mile creek, named for a romantic character in an 1855 hit poem, connects everything that makes Minneapolis famous: the Mississippi River, Minnehaha Falls, the Chain of Lakes, Lake Minnetonka.