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: https://ridgeandvalleyhospitalityllc.ticketspice.com/full-moon-snowshoeing-2022-season

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: ridgeandvalleytours@gmail.com, 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. https://wildhillswinery.com/

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: https://ci.richland-center.wi.us/snowshoe-rentals/ 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: ridgeandvalleytours.com 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: https://youtu.be/0hmp30SrrvU

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: ridgeandvalleytours@gmail.com 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!

Snowshoe report: January 17, 20201- Miner Hill, Richland Center

A few weeks ago when we experiencing that beautiful hoar/rime frost covering our trees I took some time to go up to the Miner Hill trails on what some people around here refer to as Tower Hill. If you want to learn more about Miner Hill you can go to our RC Tourism’s YouTube channel and watch, “Why do we call it that? Miner Hill” 

How to get there: Christy’s Sunnyside Cafe in downtown Richland Center is on Court Street and it is the perfect place to start your navigation. If her cafe is open, grab a beverage and cheeseboard to-go and have a picnic. Leaving Christy’s, you will drive up East Court street out of the downtown area, driving into a residential area for a few blocks until the road ends in a culdesac. The physical address is 700 block of East Court and it turns into Roosevelt Rd but you never actually see street sign for Roosevelt Rd. There is not a lot of public parking available at the base of Miner hill. Do not park in the culdesac at the end of the road but you can turn around in it and go back down Court street a block or so to the place of “allowed” parking. Be kind to the neighbors and respect the parking signs in this area. 

If you are wanting to snowshoe the trails, I actually suggest walking up the main driveway stretch in regular hiking/snow boots, and carry your snowshoes & pack. When you are almost to the top, you will see the picnic area and the first lookout point and railing. The views and lookout points on top of the hill are beautiful and it is worth the climb. You start out in the culdesac around 820 feet above sea level and climb until you reach the top at 1080 feet above sea level. The incline, until you get to the picnic area, is pretty sharp. The driveway is usually plowed regularly and closed to public vehicle traffic. 

There is a hiking trail that branches off the driveway to your right as you make your climb up the hill. On the city park map/brochure it is the purple trail called the “east trail.” It is a great trail to hike in the summer but I found it difficult to snowshoe. I prefer the trail on top of the hill called the “Quarry Flat trail and North Woods trail.” You can access the city park map/brochure here:

You can also learn more about the trail by looking at this link on All Trails-

https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/wisconsin/tower-drive-trail-and-north-woods-trail?ref=result-card

Once you see the picnic table, you can stop and use the benches to get your snowshoes on. You will still need to climb a little more ascent but it is much more doable in snowshoes. You will continue on the driveway path and go past another lookout point railing over the city.  This is a great time to take some pictures of the whole valley and city. You will see where the old Mill pond used to be and the Pine River as it snakes thru town. 

You will see a bit of graffiti on some outbuildings and then see all the radio towers. Go beyond the towers to the back right corner. Generally, you will see the footsteps of others that have gone there before you. 

Once you enter the woods, it is just magical. The wooded area is managed nicely and there are very few brambles to contend with. The tree canopy even in winter feels like a protective covering overhead. The trail is wide enough for snowshoeing and it is obvious where to go as the path is clear thru the trees. Continue to follow the trail and you will come out on top into a field/pasture area. I turned around at that point and did an out & back into the woods again and connected with the trail returning to the towers. There is another lookout point railing as well, giving you a city view in another direction. 

It won’t take too long to snowshoe the forest trail and I did the climb up the driveway, down the driveway, and snowshoe the forest trail in about an hour. All in all, a great workout! You will have good cell service up there. The trail is well-maintained. This experience does require some moderate physical exertion so make sure to check with your physician to clear you for physical activity. This trail usually has a little more snow than in the valleys but conditions can vary on our ridges and valleys. There are no garbage cans available so carry-in & carry-out, please. 

If you have any comments or pointers you can add to this post, please send me an email at ridgeandvalleytours@gmail.com and I would be happy to edit. I plan to have a webpage with all of our local public trails perfect for snowshoeing coming soon. 

The weather this week is a bit colder than last week and it looks like our next chance for snow is Saturday, January 23. Our current snow conditions are sketchy on some trails as we have had some melting last week. Hilltops are currently better than valleys, especially if they are on the north side. 

Curious about Snowshoeing?

View from the bluff on the Spring Green Preserve

I am very passionate about snowshoeing and have tried to share my love with just about anyone who will listen. I have helped many friends and family purchase snowshoes and instructed them on how to use them. I would love to see SW Wisconsin become a destination for snowshoeing because I really believe we have the best trails for the experience. I want to expand my influence as an expert on snowshoeing and I have begun to write snowshoe reports and reviews of trail conditions. I love educating and guiding as well. The interview I am sharing today is a glimpse of what snowshoe guiding is to me. 

I met up with a good friend, Catrina Wastlick, the other day. She has been interested in snowshoeing for a while and finally decided that this was the year she was going to get snowshoes so she could continue her love for exploring through the winter.  We talked a few times over the last month and I gave her advice on bindings and accessories. She and her husband recently got a pair of snowshoes utilizing some of my recommendations. 

She was excited to get her husband out on a trail that they had previously hiked, but never in the winter, and never with snowshoes. I sat down with her and asked her how her first experience went and here is our conversation.

The pictures of your day on the Spring Green Preserve looked great! How did your first snowshoeing experience go?  

Catrina: It was awesome! We love trying to find outdoor activities we can do together and we just love going to the Preserve. The views are so beautiful there. But it was surprisingly different in the winter compared to the other seasons. We had a great day but we ended up following the trail to the top of the bluff like we do in the summer and we found out quickly that it was way harder with snowshoes on! We were exhausted by the end of it!  We couldn’t believe how much more strenuous snowshoeing is compared to hiking. We must have snowshoed 3.5 miles that day, our first time out, and the last half coming back was rough! 

You definitely use some different muscles! That was an ambitious trek! I try to do about 2 miles of snowshoeing, as that is usually about an hour for me. It depends on how many hills I do and what the elevation climb is. If it is flat, I can do 2-3 miles. A beginner might want to do 1-2 miles until their muscles get used to it. Did you use your poles?

Catrina:  We did use the poles. That was new to us too. It definitely worked our muscles differently. We really appreciated the added stability, especially as we made our way up and down the bluff. To be honest, by the end of the trail, the truck seemed so far away and we both were dragging our poles behind us. At one point, we looked at each other and laughed. We were both thinking the same thing, “this is no longer as fun or exciting as it was an hour and a half ago!” We learned our lesson the hard way. We were a bit too excited and ambitious for our first time and weren’t aware of how different that trek would be in the snow!

I took a moment to show Catrina how to hold the poles, slipping my hand up thru the strap and the grip. I showed her how to establish the height of the poles and then showed her the stride. I will be posting a video of how to use poles in the near future. 

Catrina continued to remark “we felt the burn in so many different muscle groups;  our hips, arms, and shoulders, way more than we do a regular hike. It was more of a cardio workout than we are used to. We figured the added resistance of the snow, the weight of our winter clothing, and using the poles made all the difference! We took our snowshoes off for the last bit of the trail and noticed a huge change when we walked just in our winter boots. Snowshoes really made the differance in the deeper snow.

What did you enjoy the most about snowshoeing?

Catrina: So many things. I loved being out in nature. I loved how peaceful everything is with a fresh blanket of snow on the ground. I loved that we were doing this trek together. We saw animal tracks in the snow. Darren and I would try to figure out what they were from. It was cool to be reminded that we share this space. It was neat being able to experience a trail we have hiked many times before and now in winter. Because the trees were bare, we could see rock outcroppings and bird nests. The terrain looked so different to us.  We usually hike this trail in the summer when we have to fight off mosquitoes. If it is too hot, the trail can be unbearable because there is no shade. But going there last week was different.

The sound of the snow crunching under our snowshoes and the sound of our poles in the snow, combined with our breathing, was mostly all we heard. I found it rhythmic and meditative in a cool kind of way. So quiet. I love the stillness as it settles my mind.

I was tired and not in the best of moods before we left, but the cold brisk air energized me as we got going, and that was exactly what I needed. My mood changed. I needed a change in perspective and I find I am way more creative after a hike outside. I have hiked so much in the past year and I didn’t want to give up that time outside. Having snowshoes, and getting your support really motivated me.

I have missed my stand-up paddleboard classes I teach in the summer. I know the benefits of exercise and so I was kind of sad about putting the paddleboards away for the winter. Snowshoes are a great replacement so far. Nature motivates me. It really helps me when I look forward to doing something. I look forward to snowshoeing. 

flower meadows and forest areas

Were you able to stay warm enough?

Catrina: (laughing) We were worried we were going to be cold and uncomfortable. It wasn’t very warm out, and it was way windier than we thought when we got on the trail. But once we got moving, it didn’t take long for us to heat up and we started shedding hats and scarves and  unzipping layers. We started moving and we warmed up fast. We have a little better idea for how to dress the next time so we aren’t carrying around extra clothing we don’t need. Layers are good though, we just overdid it. Kind of like we overdid the hike itself. (laughing)  

Where are you hoping to snowshoe next? 

Catrina:I would love to check out some of the trails in Richland Center that you suggested. I definitely want to check out the Pine River Trail you mentioned, I love water, so that’s first on my list. We really live in such a beautiful area, We have our favorite hiking spots, I would like to check those out with snowshoes as well.  I’m always open to suggestions on your favorites!  I love learning about new places!  

We will keep in mind that we  don’t go as far as we did the day we snowshoed the Spring Green Preserve. I want my husband to keep going with me! (laughing) 

I was thinking of adding some yoga moves to our snowshoeing adventures. Later, Darren and I did some yoga stretches for all of those aching muscles. I was thinking it would be fun to incorporate some yoga moves into our snowshoe adventures. I have been thinking of how I can creatively use the poles and the shoes to give a new experience to my students. I am up for the challenge! 

Do you have any recommendations for other beginners? 

Catrina: I would tell them to contact you for helpful tips!  (laughing) Seriously though, I would. You were so helpful and we greatly appreciate it. Your advice before our purchase and your guidance on the trails has been really wonderful. 

I would suggest getting the right snowshoes at the perfect length and size with the bindings that tighten and release easily. I like how my snowshoes have this rubber piece that my toes fit up against so my feet aren’t sliding around. My shoes came with an incline heel bar. It really helped us when going up the bluff. I would look for sets that include poles and a carrying bag, preferably a bag with a cross body strap so your hands are free to use your poles. We shopped around online and we did go to an outfitting store locally. Ultimately, we bought them in person instead of online.

I really appreciate your guidance as we put the snowshoes on today and when you showed me how to use the poles correctly. We kinda winged it that first day. 

Oh, and this is very important- start out with a flat trail that is only a mile or so! Hydrate (easy to forget in the winter) and if you are debating whether or not to buy them, rent them from Ridge & Valley Tours first. They are an investment just like any other outdoor equipment. I wish I had them sooner!! I look forward to snowshoeing for many years to come.

I really enjoy helping people begin with the sport of snowshoeing. I find some get frustrated with their shoes or the poles but just a little bit of advice can go a long way to make snowshoeing an enjoyable experience. Snowshoes can be an investment and spending money on cheap snowshoes tends to bring frustration. I have a set of snowshoes I spent $200 on 7 years ago and they still look great today. A quality pair can last for a long time. You can contact me at ridgeandvalleytours@gmail.com if you have questions or are looking for rentals/guide services. 

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.