A winter hike at Sibley

Facebook image It’s become our custom to do a “selfie” in the parks we visit.

Last weekend I stumbled across a meme that said “Only in Minnesota can 40 degrees bring so much joy to so many people.” And this past Saturday I could relate to that as the temperatures were around 40-something. The day called for a hike outside; we just needed to figure out a location. Ross and I were already heading north on Highway 23, so I suggested going to Sibley State Park near New London. We’ve been there a few times before, but I think it was our first winter hike in that particular park. I wasn’t sure what to expect when we hit the trails. There had been some melting going on mid-week with the warmer temperatures, but I prepared for anything — puddles, slush, ice, chilliness.

Ross and I parked by the park’s interpretative center. There were several cars parked there, so others were also taking advantage of the nice weather. There was a family sitting outside doing some sort of activity (I didn’t look close enough to see what they were doing). We changed footwear, grabbed our walking sticks and hit the trail. Aside from a couple walking their dogs, we didn’t meet anyone else on our journey.

Sibley has a few opportunities for winter recreation — eight miles of cross country skiing trails, six miles of snowmobile trails, snowshoeing, and skate-skiing (that’s a new one). There’s also a sledding hill near the interpretive center. I noted how well-groomed the trails were as we hiked along. It was welcome as I toddled along the trail. I didn’t have to worry too much about slipping on the ice or trying to navigate around puddles or rough terrain. There were times where my feet sunk in the snow (not too deep thankfully). It was a rather enjoyable trek.

We had gotten a later start to our hike, around 3:15-ish or so. We try to get as much out of a park visit as we can while we still have daylight. Plus I think we also hope for the best and that we make it back to the vehicle before it gets pitch-dark outside.

As we walked along, I paid attention to how the sun shone through the trees, casting a brownish-red light. I breathed in the crisp air, heard the laughter coming from those using the sledding hill (at least I think that’s where it was coming from), and tried my best to keep up with Ross.

As we were approaching the second hour of our hike, I was running out of energy. The soles of my old boots are extremely thin, so I could feel the blisters forming. We had reached Mt. Tom by then, but the trail leading to it was a ways off. So Ross had suggested taking a shortcut and climbing the hillside. Ugh. The sun was starting to set, and I mustered up whatever energy I had left to make my way up the hill. I’m dodging the scrub brush, and I kept turning around to catch glimpses of the sunset. Just a few more yards…. My motivation was to look at the sunset from the shelter at Mt. Tom. When I finally reached my destination, I just plunked down at the base of the shelter. The sunset was beautiful though.

The sun made its descent, but we still had a way to go before we reached the interpretive center. So it was a race against time to make it to the truck before dark. As long as I could sense Ross’ movement in front of me, I knew where I was going. When we got to the parking lot, there were still a couple of vehicles there, so we weren’t the only ones out in the twilight.