CAMDEN STATE PARK - Cross-country skiers and snowshoe enthusiasts explored candlelit trails under a full moon in Camden State Park Friday and Saturday night, enjoying the silent calm of the forest in the twilight hours.
The warm weather last week cast doubt on the event as snow melted away across the region. Fortunately for park staff, the trails along the north picnic area were shielded from the sun by trees and the steep banks of the river valley. Plenty of snow remained, but much of it was crystalline ice - not the ideal powdery snow desired for a snowshoe event.
"I've been fretting all week long wondering what I could do," assistant park manager Elizabeth Murray said. "We have some trails were we've been able to break through the ice and re-groom the trail. It was a last minute call if we were going to let people try skiing or snowshoeing."
Photo by Phillip Bock
Four-year-old Ana Wambeke of Marshall was the youngest snowshoer to hike the trails at Camden State Park this weekend. Her parents, Joy and Dan, said she enjoyed the hike, but got tired towards the end of the trail.
More than 30 people turned out on both Friday and Saturday nights to enjoy the candlelit walk. The majority chose to snowshoe because of the poor snow conditions, but a few braved the icy surface and strapped on their cross-country skis.
This year marks the third in a row that Camden State Park has had the event. The first year Murray said the event was at the south picnic area, but in later years it was moved further into the park to be able to accommodate a wider range of skill levels.
"This nice thing about having it down here is we have trails that are easy enough for everyone to do," Murray said. "Otherwise you go down the river trail and there are up and down hills and it can be a little more challenging."
For many that turned up for the event, it was their first time snowshoeing. The park had several pairs of snowshoes for newcomers to try out on the trail.
Kathy Buysse of rural Minneota, an avid cross-country skier, decided to give snowshoeing a try this year. Buysse said she had skied in the park during the day, but had never tried a night excursion.
"Last year I heard it was a lot of fun, but I missed out," Buysse said. "I thought I'd come out and see what it's all about."
Others that turned out for the event were no stranger to the park's snowshoe trails. Myron Green of Lynd said that he and his wife often explore the park in the winter, but have never made it out at night.
"This is our third time down in the last two weeks," Green said. "But, we've never done the night snowshoeing."
The youngest trailblazer of event was Ana Wambeke of Marshall. The 4-year-old, along with her mother Joy and father Dan, strapped on a pair of snowshoes and made her way around the trail. By the end she was pretty tired, Joy Wambeke said, but the roaring fire and hot cocoa helped perk her back up.
"She liked being in the forest at night," Dan Wambeke said. "I think she enjoyed the magic of the night."