A hike at Lake Shetek

After a stretch of below-zero temperatures and extremely cold wind chills, it was great to see a few days of warmer weather this past week. So on Sunday, we took advantage of a nice, sunny day and headed out to Lake Shetek State Park after church.

On Jan. 1, a good number of state parks in the country had what is called a “First Day Hike.” But the weather around the area didn’t cooperate. Blue Mounds State Park near Luverne and Oakwood Lakes State Park in South Dakota were a couple of parks advertising First Day Hike events. And they were eventually canceled as the temperature was determined to stay below zero or hovering around zero. I’m sure a few hearty souls went out hiking on their own, but we ended up going to “The Last Jedi” and having dinner afterward.

Basically our First Day Hike ended up being on Sunday the 7th. When we arrived at the park, we only saw one other vehicle. We never saw the occupants of said vehicle through.

So we set off toward the Loon Island Trail loop, a familiar hike. Seeing the frozen lake and hearing a low bass sound made for a different kind of experience. We saw a few ice fishing houses on the lake but not a ton of action. The Minnesota DNR website said there are 14 miles of hiking trails in the state park, and the Loon Island Trail takes hikers through woodlands that have 250-year-old oak trees.

We could also hear snowmobiles in the distance as we hiked along. According to the Minnesota DNR website, there are about five miles of groomed snowmobile trails within the park. There may not be a huge amount of snow on the ground, but people have been taking advantage of the trails.

It was quite the aerobic exercise hiking through the snow. Since I’ve only been hiking in the snow maybe a handful of times (or less), I had to find my “snow legs.” Since it wasn’t cold outside, having the bottom of my pants leg being covered in snow didn’t feel that bad. Besides, it wasn’t like we were blazing through humongous drifts of snow.

During the hike, we did see several track, both animal and human, including some cross-country skiing tracks. Ross snapped a photo of tracks from some animal that scampered around the snow in a haphazard kind of way. He posted it on Facebook asking “squirrel tracks?” Could be.

The hike was invigorating, but it also was a little tiring as I’m trying to get over a bit of a cold. Fortunately the snow was packed where snowmobiles had gone before us. I noticed as the sun got lower in the sky, and it got a little colder. On the last portion of the trail we were on, Ross noticed a thatch of fur on the ground. A few deer must have come through the woods and one possibly got a piece of itself stuck. Or who knows how the fur got there. He picked it up and then dropped it in my hands. It was soft and fuzzy. We left it on the side of the trail and headed for the car. The sun still sets around 5 p.m., so we didn’t have more time to explore and enjoy the warmth.