Snowshoe report for 1/4/21

What a great few days we have had for snowshoeing! The second snow we had last Wednesday entirely covered just about everything in SW Wisconsin and has made snowshoeing a pure pleasure. I have been out every day trying to work that post-holiday weight gain off my waist. 

It has been truly great seeing my Facebook and Instagram feeds filled with snowshoe posts. I have also had friends report on trail conditions found throughout the county.  I will be taking their notes and my observations and writing future posts in the coming weeks. I love seeing the growing engagement with the sport of snowshoeing in Richland County. I am currently working on a snowshoe trail map for Richland County. We do have many public places you can check out. If you know of a great public access trail in Richland County-send me an email at ridgeandvalleytours@gmail.com. At this point, we have already noted well over 10 public places perfect for snowshoeing and hope to add many more. 

Today, the hoar frost was so magical at the higher elevations. Our hills and valleys were filled with pockets of fog giving our Driftless area an ethereal quality.  A drive today from Juneau county into Richland county revealed such beauty as the sand plains of the Mauston area turned into the rolling hills we all know and love in Richland County. I spent the weekend doing some snowshoeing up by Lake Pettenwell and found that area beautiful in Winter. But I have to be honest, nothing compares to the beauty of Richland County. When I look at snowshoeing a particular trail, I look for a few different qualities.

I prefer my trail choice to have some elevation changes of between 100-200 feet. Our rolling hills are perfect for kicking up your heart rate without causing extreme fatigue. But don’t underestimate the physical exertion you will expend with snowshoeing! It can be a demanding sport that should be cleared with your medical doctor before engaging. Our hills provide just the right amount of elevation changes and I try to snowshoe hills with gradual ascents.

I am always looking for variety in my trail-prairie meadows and forest edges. It’s helpful to have mowed areas as well. I love a forest view that includes hardwoods and conifers. I like to see birds, squirrels and follow deer tracks. And, I look for trails that are secluded so all I have to hear is the sound of snowshoes crunching the snow. I am always looking for the interesting geological formations our area is famous for. It is so much easier to see those limestone and sandstone outcroppings in the wintertime when the foliage is off the trees. And,  I enjoy seeing a flowing creek/river more than looking at a frozen lake. 

Up at Pettenwell (pictured above), I did snowshoe a bit across the frozen lake water and found my snowshoes gripped ok but the pole tips slid as I did my stride. Of course, I did pre-determine that the ice was thick enough and I walked in the path where others had gone to ice fish. I did find the area to be relatively flat and snowshoed the power-company trail around the lake a couple of days in a row. 

The trail/area I chose to snowshoe today was the Weston School Forrest. The school has a beautiful area to explore and I have snowshoed there in previous years.  Parking is easy as you head behind the school towards the football field. The physical address for the school is-E2511 County Hwy S, Cazenovia, WI 53924. The snow always seems a bit deeper and the wind blows a bit harder up on the hill but once you get into the forest, it is quite pleasant. Head all the way behind the home team side of the football field to the far back corner on the right, following along the fields. 

Weston access point-head to the back corner, beyond the field, where the trail starts (no signage)

You will see an opening into the forest and once you are inside the trees, you will see marked trails with various colors. The trails are open and easy to traverse as the brambles are trimmed up pretty good and there is only an occasional log across your path. It is actually hard to find a snowshoe trail inside a wooded area that is easy to traverse unless the forest is well-managed and maintained. There are interesting plaques along the trails indicating what trees are present in the arboretum. There are two separate bridges that cross a small creek and two park benches overlooking a nice vista. This trail experience checks all of my boxes! 

The trails do have some elevation changes but they are short in duration and allow you to recover fairly quickly. My app showed about 100 feet in elevation changes. The trail down to the creek and bridge is steep and necessitates side-stepping and the use of poles for balance. Exploring this area feels like you are in the backcountry. Remember, you are doing so at your own risk. Honestly, it is best to do this experience with a buddy as there are a few areas where you could misstep and cause injury. The cell service up on the hill is not the greatest so always plan ahead. 

You can do about 1 mile if you take every marked trail inside the forest. I like to come up thru the meadow area where all the sumac trees are and then continue to snowshoe all the way around the perimeter of the football field in the mowed areas. You can snowshoe near the sheep barn and see the sheep cared for by the students at Weston and continue out and around the elementary playground area. I always like to snowshoe for at least an hour and 2+ miles in distance.  There are all kinds of hills where you can increase your heart rate for intervals. 

I have many other trails I want to explore this week and the weather looks cooperative. We have a 25% chance of precipitation on Monday and cloudy skies for most of the week. The temps forecasted look to be average for January, 20-30 degrees. Tuesday is forecasted to be 35 degrees and we might see a little of our snow melting but we should keep that base we need for snowshoeing. The winds will be favorable and the windchill shouldn’t be a concern. 

I have a few interviews to share with you in an upcoming report. If you are looking to rent snowshoes or are looking for some advice-feel free to contact us at ridgeandvalleytours@gmail.com. We are always happy to help and want to see Richland County be THE snowshoeing destination of Wisconsin. 

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