The snowshoeing season is off to a great start this year. We have had some really great events like our Full Moon Twilight Trail event at Wild Hills Winery. We had over 50 people on Thursday night, 25 brave souls on Friday night (it was so windy!), and well over 60 people on Saturday night. The Saturday night experience was the best full moon snowshoeing we have had up on Oak Ridge. We had beautiful clear skies, a bright moon, and little-to-no wind.
We also had 2 Airbnb Experiences groups in the last two weeks. These are guests that have found us on the Airbnb platform and booked us a tour. We took our guests out to Ash Creek Forest-and it never disappoints! These 2 tours had guests from Minneapolis, Chicago, Milwaukee area, and Central Wisconsin/Wausau area. They have all loved the Ash Creek Forest Black & Green trails. It is so wonderful to have the trails marked so well now as they were marked by a Boy Scout last summer and it has made all the difference.
The Ash Creek Forest is a great place to snowshoe because it has it all! A protected valley amongst the hills keeps the wind to a minimum. The snow is usually drifted and a little deeper there as well. There are forest views and prairie views along the Ash Creek stream with plenty of wildlife. There is a beautiful spring area with watercress growing as well. It is the perfect place to send your guests and visitors as there is easy-to-find, convenient parking. The Black & Green trails are fairly easy to navigate and if your guests have never been there, encourage them to stay on the Black trail. The other trails can get very hilly and steep. They are all perfect for hiking but snowshoeing the steep trails can be a very strenuous workout.
We also had Snowga (read our blog article-“What is Snowga?”) classes the last three Saturday mornings. This year we are exploring different trails each week to keep the classes fresh. We did Old Mill Pond the first week and it’s always a favorite to snowshoe along the Pine River and hear the rapids. The Old Mill Pond, right in the heart of Richland Center is always a perfect option for beginners to snowshoeing. There is convenient parking and it is easy to get on the trail. The trails are mowed all summer so even when there is little snowfall, the trails are usually covered. Our second week we went to Ash Creek Forest and enjoyed taking in the wildlife as well. We got to see an interesting beaver dam on the Ash Creek in the lower prairie area. This last week we did the Aaron Black Trail just on the north side of Richland Center and that brings me to write about that particular trail.
The Aaron Black Trail is another wonderful trail in the Richland Center Parks Department collection of trails. Aaron Black was a Boy Scout who worked on this particular trail for his Eagle Scout project. I have snowshoed the trail twice now and I find it very nice for snowshoeing. This trail is generally level and perfect for beginners to snowshoeing.
One word of caution, this trail is predominately used by cross-country skiers in our area and we want to be cognizant of their use and NOT track our snowshoes over their tracks. Last year, there were 2 tracks solidly packed by local cross-country skiers and they were obvious to see. This week, I didn’t see any cross-country tracks yet but it is a courtesy to stay off to the side of those tracks when you see them. We also saw a fat tire biker out on the trail yesterday morning. Let us all share the space!
If you are wanting to do this trail there is actually a few entry points and parking areas. We parked at the Woodman Happy Tails dog park, 151 North Industrial Drive (Google this address) yesterday but you need to walk along the roadway to get to the entry point at Trailhead #1. It is located on North Industrial Drive by the end of the bridge, with limited parking on either side of the road. There is a Port-a-Pot located near Trailhead #1 at the dog park. As we did the trail yesterday during Snowga, we noticed a much more convenient place to park by the cemetery. This is Trailhead #2 and it is located on Bowen Circle (Google this road) off of County AA, parking in the cul-de-sac or along the road. Both Trailheads are marked with beige Richland Center City Parks signs. Here is a wonderful map showing the trail and the trailheads for entry and parking.
This trail is a great trail to send guests that have never been to our area. It is easy to find the dog park and the cemetery parking lots with Google. It is a safe area and the parking lots are lit with street lamps. You will find an occasional person out on the trail but it is not heavily used. It is not as isolated as the Ash Creek Forest trails. There is a north part to this trail that we did not do as the Richland Center website said Trailhead #3, located on County AA by Bowen’s Mill bridge, is TEMPORARILY CLOSED due to trail bridges being out. The Parks Department says the bridges will be replaced this spring.
If you go to this trail at the end of the day, it is nice as it gets some sweet sunset light as the sun goes down. My husband and I did this trail at dusk and it was dark as we were coming back and yet it was quite enjoyable to snowshoe in the darkening light. The trail covered by snow is obvious even in the dark. It follows along the winding Pine River and around every corner there is another view of the river. The dark tree trunks create a beautiful contrast amongst the snow. There is a section along a cornfield that opens up and gives a nice view of the hills in the distance. We saw hawks and other birds along the river. If the wind is blowing North to South, you will get some wind thru this valley but it is not as blustery as it can be up on our ridge tops. There is some road noise from Highway 80 but if you put on some headphones with music, it can really be peaceful. The trail we took yesterday will take a full hour.
We are so blessed in Richland County to have some really nice trails for snowshoeing. I encourage you to share these reports with your guests if they are looking for trails to hike, cross-country ski, fat tire bike, or snowshoe. This trail is perfect for those late-in-the-day excursions.
Last night we had a nice 2-3 inch snowfall to freshen up the snow. The world looks quite beautiful today, covered in a fresh blanket of dry powder. The first few days this week will be pretty cold but they come with sunshine. There are always tradeoffs with the weather! Towards the end of the week, we see a warm-up for next weekend. Hopefully, our snow can hang around thru next weekend. We are hoping to write a report on the Smart Farm trails next-so stay tuned!