GARVIN PARK ? Despite the fact the temperature hovered around zero, more than 20 people turned out for the first Moonlight Snowshoe Hike sponsored by Shetek Environmental Learning Center Saturday evening at the Garvin County Park.
Among those who came out to enjoy the quiet beauty of a winter night under the brightly-lit stars and full moon included Slayton native Sam Buesing and his girlfriend Regan Walsh.
"It's a late-night date," Buesing said.
Photo by Jenny Kirk
Sam Buesing, right, helped his girlfriend, Regan Walsh, properly strap on her snowshoes before the couple headed out on the trails for the first-ever Moonlight Snowshoe Hike on Saturday night at Garvin Park.
While Buesing lives in Duluth and Walsh in Minneapolis, the couple returned to southwest Minnesota to spend time with family during the holidays. Buesing's mom, Tammy, of Slayton, and sister, Suzie, who is currently attending college in Chicago, also took part in the snowshoe hike.
"It's so pretty out here," Tammy Buesing said.
This year marks the first time Shetek Environmental Learning Center has done a moonlight hike, program director Vicki Doeden said.
"We offered it last year, but like so many of our other snow events, it was cancelled," she said. "So this is exciting."
Doeden was impressed with the number of people who chose to attend the moonlight hike.
"It's a good turnout," she said. "We actually have a number of people who have been out here before, whether it was snowshoeing with us or cross-country skiing, so they're familiar with the trails."
Despite that fact that some of the participants had been snowshoeing before, Doeden said she was surprised at the number of people who decide to hike independently.
"I thought more people might want to stay with me, just because it's dark out, although our moon, look how perfect it is now," she said. "When I was out here on Wednesday night, I could still see my way without a flashlight. But I did suggest, just in case, because we didn't know for sure what the weather was going to be like, to bring a flashlight for safety."
Some participants did carry flashlights, while others had coal miner type lights strapped onto their headgear. Most, though, quietly stomped along the trails guided only by the light of the moon.
"It's a lot of fun," said Karla Seaberg, of Eli.
Seaberg was bundled up and ready to go hiking, along with her uncle Al Grunden, of Tracy.
"We did this last year, me and Karla, my niece," Grunden said. "It was during the daytime, but it was about this cold. We had fun that day. We actually got hot and were sweating."
Doeden pointed out that oftentimes, people don't realize how cold weather affects them while doing outdoor activities like snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
"Sometimes people will wait until the last minute and say, 'Oh, brr,' but they're going to be unzipping because they'll be working up a sweat," Doeden said. "You are cold when you are putting the snowshoes on, but once you get on the trail, it's a good thing if you have layers because you warm up quickly."
Two youngsters were also in attendance at the moonlight hike, including 9-year-old Ethan Zeug of Walnut Grove.
"I've never done this before," Zeug said. "It'll be my first time snowshoeing. I think it'll pretty much be awesome."
Skylar Hunt said he'd never been snowshoeing out at Garvin Park before and was excited to hit the trails.
"I think it'll be pretty fun," Hunt said.
Doeden, who was the last to strap on snowshoes, explained that there were different kinds of snowshoes, including Ojibwa, Huron and Bear Paw versions.
"You use Ojibwa ones for fluffy snow, deeper snow or if there is more weight, like if you're doing the winter backpacking," she said. "The Huron snowshoes have a round tip and a long tail."
Every other year, Doeden instructs a class on how to make Bear Paw snowshoes, which are popular with the hunters.
"They can turn easier, like if they're in the brush," Doeden said. "I've seen guys out here in the past with them on. They're shorter and more oval-shaped."
After their moonlight hiking venture, participants had the opportunity to gather around the fire pit and enjoy hot chocolate together.
Snowshoe beginners or enthusiasts have two more opportunities to join others for a daytime hike, from 1:30-4:30 p.m. on Sunday and again on Jan. 27 at Garvin Park. The event is open to anyone age 8 and up, with basic instruction and snowshoes provided. For registration, call 507-763-3567. The cost is $6.
"We usually go on more trails during the daytime," Doeden said. "Not all of them are luminated at night. It's a lot of fun. There's a variety of trails."