Snowshoe report for January 23, 2022-The Aaron Black Trail

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.

Group at Full Moon Twilight Trail-Saturday night

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.

Airbnb Experiences group trek at Ash Creek Forest

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.

Snowga class at Ash Creek Forest-2022

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.

Snowga class on the Aaron Black Trail-2022

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!

Cold Weather Tips for Snowshoeing

We just finished our weekend of Full Moon Twilight Trail snowshoeing and I came away from our experience with thoughts about the variety of winter conditions we dealt with this weekend. And, after snowshoeing for the last 8 years and helping countless people get snowshoes on for their trail experience, I have some tips for staying warm in our frigid Wisconsin winters. Snowshoeing is only fun if you stay warm.

Those Scandinavians love to say, “there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing” and I live by this motto. I have invested in some really great gear for cold weather and it has made all the difference. Fleece lined thermal pants, a variety of vests, neck gaiters, and jackets that have a wind-proof shell. I have gotten great gear at Costco and I have also splurged on higher-end outfitters. Natural fibers like wool are great and they dry quicker under the right environment. Merino wool is wonderful because it is softer and it makes a great base layer. Cotton is not a good choice, as it helps accelerate hypothermia and in turn makes you body work harder than it needs to stay warm. You will enjoy your time outside so much more if you have some great clothing that protects you from the elements.

Footwear is important while snowshoeing. I prefer a boot that comes up the ankle. Don’t get boots that are too small or wear too many pairs of socks to constrict blood flow in your feet. Compression to the feet, especially in the toes will cause them to get cold very fast and issues arise shortly into the trip. But you don’t want your feet to slide around as well. I see a variety of boots when I help people put snowshoes on and some will have heavy snow boots that are very bulky. Remember, you will have the weight of that heavy boot and snowshoe while making tracks. It can be almost impossible to get the snowshoe bindings on over really bulky boots as well. Your feet are in constant motion during snowshoeing and they will be much warmer than when you sit passively on a snowmobile or hang out on the ice during ice fishing. You will also find your legs produce a lot of heat and they don’t need the layering that your upper body needs.

A solid water-proof, hiking boot that allows for an extra pair of socks may actually be better than a pair of heavy snowmobile boots. If you know you are going to be snowshoeing in really deep snow (more than 6-10 inches) you may want to consider boot gaiters that surround your footwear and come up around your pants. They are great when the snow is deep and wet.

It is far more difficult to warm back up after getting chilled so it’s important to start your excursion with good clothing, gear and good habits. Evaporation is when the sweat on our body cools. Insensible perspiration is the constant evaporation of water thru the skin the we can’t help and don’t notice because the fluid released is not enough to be detected as a moist on our skin. It evaporates quickly. It causes us to lose roughly 20% of our body heat. However, sensible perspiration-the sweating you see and feel is the bigger issue during snowshoeing. You can actually loose 85% of your body heat with sweating. Never snowshoe so hard that you are actually dripping sweat. When you sweat, the clothing next to your skin gets wet and makes you feel cold. When you are working hard, adjust your layers and wear moisture-wicking clothing with ventilation in your armpits and other areas you sweat. I love wearing thermal long sleeved shirts with a vest and then I layer my winter coat over the top. As I snowshoe and get warm, I will unzip my winter coat and allow some airflow and yet, I have the protection of the vest to keep my core area warm.

We lose about 10% of our heat thru respiration, as insensible losses. I always wear a neck gaiter that can come up over my chin/mouth area. This helps to retain heat by warming and humidifying the cold, dry air I am breathing before it reaches my airway. I have worn face masks on the coldest days but I usually find, if I need a face mask, it is likely just too cold outside for me. Those days when your snot freezes is too frigid for me to be enjoyable unless there is abundant sunshine and no wind.

Forced convection-wind blowing through your clothing-can cause you to loose another 15% of your body heat. It is important to have clothing that is insulating, waterproof and windproof. Trapped air is actually the best insulation and that is why layers and bulky materials like wool are the best insulators. They have tiny air pockets that keep warm air next to your skin. It is also a good idea to tuck the layers next to your skin tight into your clothing and have an outer wind/water proof shell.

I also look at weather apps and find the direction and velocity of the wind. In the Driftless area, we have so many hills and valleys, there is likely a sheltered area to go snowshoeing. Deep valleys can be protective and block the wind, making your trek more enjoyable. When the wind is blowing, I try to snowshoe in the direction of the wind in the beginning of my trek and then double-back into the wind once my body is all warmed up. And I am always ready with my neck gaiter, ear muffs and hats to protect my head/face in those circumstances. You can also snowshoe after dark when the wind dies down. It is easy to see where you are going on a night with a full moon.

If you think you will be stopping along the way, remember to bring a foam sitting pad as they impede heat transfer as you sit on cold items like the snow. Up to 5% of body warmth can be lost when you touch a colder object thru the process of conduction. When we do our Snowga classes, we will carry our foam/neoprene yoga mats on our backs and we will use them at the very end of our Snowga class when our bodies are all warmed up from snowshoeing. Laying down on the cold snow with the yoga mat feels quite good at the end of a great workout but we are cognizant to not stay there too long in case we catch a chill.

At least half of your warmth is forfeited to radiation, a process in which heat moves away from the body, usually from the head mostly but also from exposed skin, like wrists and ankles. Long sleeved shirts with the thumb holes allow you to bring the wrist area covering lower and then bring your gloves over the top. Wearing thermal leggings and then covering up with longer wool socks helps with the ankles. I always need ear muffs or an ear band. If my ears and hands are cold-I am literally done. I do struggle to find good ear muffs that fit well and yet allow me to hear. The struggle is real. It’s also hard to go a whole season without losing the ear muffs!

Hypothermia and frostbite are two weather-related conditions to be aware of. Both are caused by exposure to the cold. Hypothermia happens when the body loses heat faster than it can produce it, dropping the body temperature to an unsafe level at which normal muscular and cerebral functions are impaired. Just dropping from 98.6 to 95 can constitute a serious emergency.  Lengthy exposures will eventually use up your body’s stored energy, which also leads to lower body temperature. There are several things that can lead up to hypothermia such as cold temperatures, improper clothing, getting wet, exhaustion, dehydration, lack of food, and drinking alcohol. So, it’s important to have snack bars with you when you are out on a excursion. Contrary to popular belief, alcohol does not warm you up but, rather, has the opposite effect. It is preferable to drink a warm, sugared, non-alcoholic drink that is free of caffeine.

Prevention has a lot to do with your preparation and knowledge of hypothermia and the signs of an onset. Watch for the “umbles”-stumbles, mumbles, fumbles, and grumbles which show changes in motor coordination and levels of consciousness and awareness. Shivering will become involuntary and the ability to do some activities will be limited, but the victim may still be able to walk. If you notice these symptoms in other’s, it is imperative to get them to a warm shelter, remove any wet clothing, and heat up the center of the person’s body with blankets, clothing, or skin-to-skin contact.

Frostnip is slightly less dangerous but it is a precursor to frostbite.  Frostnip can be seen as a swelling, whitening, reddening and/or chapping of the affected areas. Sometimes frostnip isn’t as noticeable and left untreated in the field could advance.  Frostnip is not only a current ache, but it could cause you to be more prone to cold weather discomforts and injuries in the future. I definitely think I have had frostnip a few times as the top/back of my hands quickly get cold and uncomfortable.

Early signs of frostbite include redness or pain but it can change to include a grayish-yellow coloring of the skin, numbness, and skin that feels too firm or looks waxy. Put the affected area next to your body. I have had times where my hands are so cold, I have put away my poles and brought my hands/arms inside of my jacket and crossed my arms, and put my hands in my armpits to warm them. Then I will tuck the poles under my arm and get back to shelter ASAP. You can also warm the affected area by putting it into lukewarm water but resist the urge to rub the area as that can cause more damage.

Big, bulky gloves and mittens are not always the best when using poles. I like to use the wrist straps on the poles and it is important that they are wrapped properly. So I will take the gloves off, place the wrist straps on correctly and then put my gloves back on. I honestly use a thinner pair of driving gloves most of the time when I am snowshoeing as I like the flexibility they offer. If it’s too cold for my hands, I will likely turn around and go home but that is pretty rare.

It is always important to know your trails, your surroundings and realize that there are fewer people out on the trails in the winter. Realize your cell phone may not have service in our Driftless area and your phone battery will lose it’s charge really quickly in cold weather. Download maps for off-line viewing or take a picture of the map so you always have access to the trail layouts. Especially when you are at Ash Creek Forest as there is over 350 acres of wilderness. It is best to go with a buddy as well. Enjoy our beautiful trails but be ready for the elements. And remember, snowshoeing is only fun if you stay warm.

I utilized many different resources to write this article. The Lake Placid Adirondacks USA website had many articles. 5280-The Denver Magazine, November 2021 issue had the Beginner’s Guide to Winter Camping article full of great tips. Wikipedia was consulted for various definitions. I have also gleaned much personal experience as an avid snowshoe enthusiast. Please feel free to comment and add your tips!

What is Snowga?

Last year, our tour business, Ridge & Valley Tours, LLC began a new tour offering that many are curious about-Snowga! We are offering snowga classes again this year and you don’t want to miss this experience! At the end of the article, you can see the link to purchase tickets for our upcoming classes.

Last year, I was talking with a good friend, Catrina, and we had a conversation about staying active in the winter time. I shared how I was passionate about snowshoeing and the mental benefits of being outside in the winter. She shared her love for yoga and how therapeutic she found yoga to be after the passing of her father. Catrina has been a yoga instructor for a few years now and she is very familiar with teaching stand-up paddle board yoga in the summer. We both love the benefits of being in nature. We both agreed the connection with the outdoors was truly the best part.

As our conversation evolved, we began to explore the idea of melting both of our passions into a new experience. I asked her if she thought we could do some yoga moves during a snowshoeing experience. We talked about what that could look like. She gave it some thought and did a little research. She saw the idea mentioned in upstate New York and told me about her ideas. She said they called it snowga and we both found the idea to be very interesting. 

I asked her if she could come up with some yoga moves we could do while snowshoeing and she set her mind to coming up with some yoga flow to add to our snowshoe tours. We had our first experience in Richland Center at the Old Mill Pond park with a great group of ladies. We set a few guiding principles to our class realizing we wanted to engage the body and the mind. We outfitted each of them with snowshoes and a yoga mat to carry on their backs. 

We began with a time for socializing as we put on the snowshoes that morning. Many of the ladies had never snowshoed before and I took some time to help them put their snowshoes on and how to take their first strides. Many of the ladies were good friends but due to Covid, they hadn’t seen each other in awhile. It was great for them to be outside, together and yet be safe. Snowshoeing still remains a great activity to do that naturally allows for social distancing. There was a lot of talking and laughing as they took their first strides together. 

What I love about snowshoeing is how the body warms up pretty quickly. When engaging in snowshoeing, you use all four extremities and some muscles that haven’t been used in awhile. The glutes and leg muscles are especially utilized while tracking thru the snow. Even if the day is really cold, it takes very little time to warm up. We snowshoed as a group for about 10-15 minutes getting used to the snowshoes on our feet and getting comfortable with the rhythm of our poles. 

At that point, we had practiced going up and down small hills and getting our coordination under control. We stopped in a lovely clearing and gathered in a semi circle to begin our time of yoga. Our heart rates were up and our breathing was labored just a bit as we all began a standing yoga flow with our snowshoes and poles. The snowshoes provide a really nice base of support and the poles helped to keep us steady. This experience is perfect for beginners. The moves are easy for anyone to do and balance is easy to maintain. 

Catrina is very careful as we begin to do various standing poses and she always instructs us to protect our knees and body with good alignment. We reached for the sky in sun salutations and extended our stretch with side bends. We engaged slowly in warrior poses 1, 2 & 3, always careful to watch our alignment as we progressed through the moves. Everyone could move at their own pace and work the kinks out of their bodies. We slowed our breathing and greeted the day but before we could get cold we took off again in our snowshoes. 

As we embarked back on the snowshoe trail, we had them stop for a moment of pictures. We found a spot that allowed for pictures. It was important to preserve these moments for the future. The snowga class was such a nice bonding experience for the participants. Another thing we love about snowga is the fact that we all are wearing bulky winter clothing and all thoughts of body image during yoga are no longer an issue. 

After our photo-op, we asked the ladies to snowshoe for a bit in silence. At this point, we were snowshoeing a trail along the Pine River. It was so peaceful to see the river current with ice and snow floating down it and watch the mist rise up from the water. We asked them to allow the sound of their snowshoes crunching in the snow to get them in a meditative state. 

We continued along the river and finally broke out into the area on the banks of the Pine River where the water tumbled over the rocks. It was such a lovely sound being near the rapids. We had them drop their mats into the snow and ease down to the mat. We did keep the snowshoes on for a bit, using them as extensions to grab in various poses but we did finally take them off and stretched out our newly awakened muscle groups. Snowshoeing had done a great job of warming them up again and as they laid on the mats in the snow, being cold was not an issue. 

We had a similar experience up at Wild Hills Winery when we did our tour there. This time was unique because we had 3 couples and a few other ladies. The guys had never done yoga before but they found it to be really easy to do. We find snowga is a great mix of activity for the body and the mind. We tracked through the winery and found a similar place to stop and do our standing poses. The Winery provides a great opportunity to really get your heart rate up with the hills. We then asked them to snowshoe in silence through the pine forest. We all listened to the snow crunching under our shoes, the wind thru the pine trees and the birds singing us a song. As we exited the forest, there was a big hill to climb. It really can push one to their limits but as we ascended the last hill we all felt victorious at the top. The view at the top of Oak Ridge at the winery is so impressive and it’s the perfect place for a photo-op. Once we were done with pictures, we finished the last quarter mile and dropped our mats in the snow and finished with lying down poses again. 

We have done snowga about 5-6 times and each experience is unique. Snowga engages our minds, spirits and body in such a different way. But nature is the real star of the show! We intend to have many snowga opportunities this winter and are planning some really special trails in different locations this year. Please join us! You will love every moment!

If you are interested in trying out Snowga, you can sign up for a drop-in class or you can buy a 4-pack of tickets for every Saturday in January. click on the link below.


The Upcoming Snowshoe Season-2022

This time of year between Thanksgiving and Christmas always has me longing for just a bit of snow. Once those leaves fall, I am looking for the snowflakes to come next. The Richland County area is beautiful but it looks so much better at this time of year with about 4″ of snow on the ground. As my thoughts go to snowshoeing, my mind is constantly planning my next opportunity to put those snowshoes on.

I am always excited to hear people tell me they got snowshoes at the end of the season last year. I want them to enjoy the activity as much as I do and I hope they are anxious to get out there as well. Snowshoes are tough to find during the season so now is a good time to be looking for them. Expect to invest between $75-200 for a great pair of snowshoes. They tend to last a while, so choose wisely. I have had great experiences ordering from REI sporting goods but you can find them at Costco, Amazon, and other sporting goods stores. My personal favorite is the Atlas brand, as I have had my Atlas pair for over 8 years now but I also love the Yukon Charlies brand and Tubbs makes a great pair as well. I also recommend a strap binding over a ratchet binding because I believe they will last longer. But many people like the ease of ratchet bindings and we have a mixture of both in our rental inventory.

We have diligently reinvested our snowshoe income from last year into our snowshoe inventory and we now have upwards of 30 pairs of snowshoes. We have a variety of children’s sizes as well. Wild Hills Winery was also pleased with the impact snowshoeing had on their bottom line and they invested their money into 30 snowshoes. The City of Richland Center’s Park & Rec Department had over 15 pairs of snowshoes last year and they have purchased some new snowshoes as well. There are options all over Richland County to rent snowshoes! We welcome all of this great inventory because we are passionate about Richland County becoming the snowshoe destination of Wisconsin. If you are a short-term rental unit in Richland County and you offer snowshoes to your guests for use-let us know as we are trying to keep stats on how many snowshoes are available in the county. We are trying to evaluate the impact snowshoeing has on the tourism industry in our area and want to show that impact to Travel Wisconsin and other regional tourism entities.

Last year, I wrote a few snowshoe reports with trail information for many of our public local parks in Richland County. We had some of our short-term rental guests that used our snowshoes on those trails. They loved the snowshoe experience on our beautiful trails. I intend to continue writing those reports this winter and making those posts available to all. I welcome reports from others, as there are so many trails in our area-it is hard to keep up with all of them!

We are excited to announce our Full Moon Snowshoeing event dates just released yesterday. We are collaborating with Wild Hills Winery again to bring you a great opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors in a unique way. Come to Wild Hills Winery and enjoy a magical evening of twilight snowshoeing along the ridge tops and down into the valleys of the vineyard.

Our event is Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights on January 14, 15, 16, and February 17, 18, 19. The trail opens at 5 pm and there are tickets for each time slot until 8:30 pm. The trail will be closed down at 9:30 each evening.

There will be the full moon, multiple bonfires, solar lights, and tiki torches to light our twilight trail. Your ticket holds your snowshoe rental, any needed assistance with applying snowshoes, your time slot on the trail, and participation in the snowshoe portion of the event. Sorry, but we cannot give any price breaks if you bring your own snowshoes. We will be happy to help you put on your snowshoes if you are new to using them. Liability waivers are required for all Twilight Trail participants and can now be signed online during the ticketing process.

This year, all wine tastings and food options are booked directly with Wild Hills Winery and are not included in the twilight trail ticket price. We encourage you to stop at the tasting room to order your tasting and any food options before your trail experience. We will have complimentary hot chocolate available in the snowshoe pavilion at the top of the driveway. The Full Moon Snowshoe events are perfect for groups to do. Drop us an email if you are wanting to coordinate a group larger than 6 and we will make every effort to coordinate your special group event.

Because we know snowshoeing is a weather-pending event, we set up the tickets with a pre-registration option. You will book your tickets for each participant and place your credit card number on file securely with TicketSpice. They will do a pre-authorization for the validity of the credit card on file but no charges will be incurred and no holds will be placed at the time of ordering.

On the Monday prior to the event, we will determine if the snow conditions and weather forecast are conducive for our event. Your credit card will then be batch processed that Monday at 6pm. We felt this option would be easier for us to cancel if necessary and easier on your holiday budget. Please reserve your ticket today knowing that we will make every effort to hold our event if our Wisconsin winter provides us with snow. Click on this link to order your tickets:

One of the most talked-about features of our 2021 Snowshoe season was our Snowga classes. We had such a great time developing these classes last year. Catrina, our yogi instructor, coined the term “snowga” (snowshoeing & yoga together) and it’s stuck with us ever since. Catrina will be back this year as our instructor and I will continue with the snowshoe guiding portion. A true collaboration where we can take larger groups to give you a unique experience. We felt the snowga class really helped our participants to enjoy the snowshoeing sport to its fullest and the engagement of our minds & spirits with yoga really brought awareness to the nature & beauty surrounding us. As we move forward with planning our snowga classes in the next week or so, we want to bring a consistent day and time to our schedule. Look for those dates in the very near future.

It has been my goal to start a snowshoeing group in Richland County. We will begin simply by having a weekly snowshoe group experience. No costs involved (unless you need a rental) and each week we will meet at a different trail at the same time and go out together. Informal. No structure. A perfect opportunity to meet with others that enjoy snowshoeing and want to see it become a “thing” in our area. If you are needing weekly motivation to exercise, join along. I am thinking Friday mornings, beginning in January, at 9:00 am starting as soon as there is enough snow. If we have enough snow in December, we will meet on Thursday mornings (to accommodate my work schedule.) Once the snow flies, I will announce the trail meet-up location and we will go from there. If you need a rental set of snowshoes, let me know via email:, and I will bring the appropriate size along.

I will be offering guided snowshoe tours throughout Richland County on Airbnb experiences and thru our business. If you have short-term rental guests or friends/family visiting the area and you want them to have a great snowshoe experience in our area, I would love to connect with them and either set them up with a rental or a guided tour. I can help all levels of participants from beginners to those looking for a full & challenging experience. Wild Hills Winery also has guided snowshoe experiences available at the winery, see their website for details.

We will have rental snowshoes available for rent most weekends except for our Full Moon Weekends (January 14-17 and February 17-20) of $20/pair. Pickup of snowshoes will be at our home: 23921 State Highway 58 Richland Center, by appointment. You will receive brief instructions on wearing/using the snowshoes and advice for the trail system in our area. They must be returned by Monday morning. Photocopy of Driver’s license will be required. The City of Richland Center Parks & Rec Department has snowshoes available to rent as well: You will also find trail information at this link.

Please watch for all of our upcoming snowshoe reports for trail conditions, snowshoe gear advice and, locations of some of the best trails in our area. Once we have snow, we will begin the weekly group experience. Share this snowshoe report and our website: with others and spread the word-Richland County Wisconsin is the place to go for snowshoeing!

Snowshoe report: Ash Creek Forest

The Ash Creek Forest or Richland County Community Forest is Richland County’s largest park at 354-acres. It is located two miles south of Richland Center on State Highway 80. Ash Creek, a Class One brook trout stream, runs through the middle of this recreational property. There is also a “spring” on the property where we saw bright green water cress growing. We have done some hiking in the summertime but we wanted to explore the forest in the wintertime to see a different view.

What a delightful place to snowshoe on public land. There are four miles of primitive hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails. Do consider the current hunting seasons as the Community Forest allows public hunting in season. If you want to know more about the Forest and it’s beginnings, you can watch this video by Richland Center Tourism:

If you are wanting to snowshoe this great preserve-I suggest a couple of different areas to park. The first place is really easy to find-2 miles south of Richland Center on Highway 80. You will see the parking area on your right and a red sign that says, “Richland County Community Forest.” There is plenty of room to park. This parking lot gives you the best access to the Black trail on the map.

The Black trail is the easiest to follow and is full of beautiful scenery. You enter the park surrounded by trees right from the start. The path is wide and great for snowshoeing in pairs. It is obvious where the trail is going, even when you don’t see any markings. You enter the meadow area after a few minutes and snowshoe along the meandering Ash Creek. Meadows can really be pretty when the dried wildflowers like Queen’s Anne Lace catch the snowfall. When I evaluate a snowshoe trail-I am looking for varied scenery. I love shrubbery that stands out against the snow. When the plants vary in height, it gives a lot of variety to the scene. You will see lot’s of birds thru out this great park.

The trail takes you up into the forest areas full of hardwood trees and you see patches of conifers along the way. In my opinion, each type of forest allows you to truly enjoy the scenery. Conifers catch the snow differently than hardwoods and make the landscape magical, especially after a fresh snow. The brambles are minimal along the black trail which is important because berry briars and brambles can get caught in your snowshoes and cause trips and accidents.

As you go farther back into the forest, the trails appear to be obvious but it is a little confusing exactly which trail you are on. The trees are marked with spray paint and you really have to look to find the markings. At one point you cross an earthen dam area which cool to see.

There is a Boy Scout project coming up soon to mark the trails better. We crossed over to the Green trail for awhile. My advice when it comes to snowshoeing-if you get lost, just go for about 1 mile or so (30″) and then turned around and follow your tracks back out. An average snowshoer can do about 2 miles an hour and burn around 500 calories. We always use the free account, “MapMyFitness” and use the snowshoe setting under “winter sports” and it gives you a nice map and statistics post trail. Surprisingly, the elevation gain on the black/green trail was actually 290 feet! It is a slow, gradual climb and so it is not as noticeable.

Then on Friday, I went on the Red Trail and parked at the top portion of the Ash Creek Forest. This parking area is a little tricky to find and you want to have good tires and 4 wheel drive. You will be driving up Paul’s Hill Road and it is a curvy climb up the hill. The physical address you want to use for the parking lot directions is: 27124 Hillview Drive, Richland Center. It is on a sharp corner and there really wasn’t a place to park because the ditch line was full of snow. I just parked off the road a bit. This trail is a treat but it is much more remote. I wouldn’t do Paul’s Hill Road right after a snowfall as it can be slippery!

I was completely alone on this trail which is nice but it does feel a bit more remote. In hindsight, I know it is likely very safe but I wouldn’t send a single women out there alone! I did have cell service thru out the whole trail. This is “outback” and remote for Richland County so make sure you have a small pack with water, small first aid kit, snack bar, headlamp, and charged cell phone for safety. Remember, your cell phone battery will drain quickly in cold temperatures.

The Red trail was tree covered and gorgeous as well. It begins as you snowshoe past a small pond/collection dam at the top of the hill along a grove of conifers. You head down the hill quite quickly along a ravine on your left-hand side into the hardwood forest. Our Driftless area is famous for these ravines that are basically sink holes in the valley. They are classic Driftless topography and Karst geology. The afternoon sun was very nice as it settled into the valleys.

As you come to the bottom of the hill there are many obvious paths to go on but they are not really marked well. I did many out and back trails along the Ash Creek again and saw the upper end of the Black trail I was on the day before. I also found the other parking lot with the physical address of: 27509 Mutch Lane, Richland Center. This parking lot is a lot bigger than the corner up on Hillview Drive and it is paved. This is where I will likely park next time if I do the upper part of the Ash Creek Forest trails.

As you do the Red or Yellow trail on this upper end of the park-keep in mind, what goes downhill must go uphill again! My MapMyFitness said my gain was 226 feet. It felt a lot more than that! I had to stop many times on the way back up. The red and yellow trails are clear of brambles/logs but do keep in mind, you are fairly remote. This area of the park will be so wonderful once we get the trails marked better! If you are a local, go check out these great trails. If you are new to our area-you will still find the Black & Green trails very nice. I have included a pdf map of the whole community forest-there are other trails to see and do and I will report on them if I get back to them this year. If you have any comments or advice-please send it to: and we will add notes to this report.

I find the weather forecast quite frustrating anymore! We were supposed to get 3-5 inches of snow last night and we are lucky if we got an inch. Our snow is still present but it is icy and hardpacked. I rate our snow currently poor-fair. What a difference a fresh coat of powder makes! We have a few opportunities for light snow this week and next weekend there is a forecast for more heavy snow. I sure hope so! Follow these reports as I continue to make my way around all the public trails in Richland County!