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Wild Side: Enjoy a winter hike

Dan Wilcox photo

After a week of cold and windy weather it's a joy to go outside without freezing my face. We are not made for hibernating in winter. We are made for walking. Recent reports about the adverse health effects of sitting make me want to get off my duff and hike around, even though I enjoy reading a good book by the fire while the wind and snow howl through the trees outside.

Fortunately, we have plenty of beautiful places to hike around here. The snow has been crusty enough to walk on since the January thaw a few weeks ago. Hiking in winter is invigorating. All it takes is a good pair of boots and some light warm clothes. Gaiters help keep snow from sneaking into your boots. Snowshoeing and cross country skiing require a bit more gear but enable travel over deeper snow.

The White Pathway in downtown River Falls allows circumnavigation of Lake George on a plowed trail and close encounters with hundreds of ducks and geese. The City of River Falls has an extensive trails network along the Kinnickinnic River starting in Glen Park and going downstream along the river through River Hills Park. You can visit the old lime kiln and see brook trout in the spring-fed Rocky Branch. A hike up the bluff in Hoffman Park provides an overview of the city and surrounding area.

The Kinnickinnic State Park west of River Falls has excellent trails to walk with beautiful views over the Kinnickinnic River canyon and the St. Croix River. Eagles, ducks, geese and swans can be seen around the open water where the Kinnickinnic River meets the St. Croix.

Willow River State Park has miles of groomed trails for cross-country skiing. An easy trail follows the Willow River downstream of the dam starting at the lower parking area. More challenging trails course down through the oak woods from the main entrance parking area, through the valley past herds of deer and to the frozen waterfalls. You can see wintering flocks of robins in brushy areas along the river.

The Eau Galle Recreation Area at Spring Valley has several miles of hiking trails around the reservoir. There are also several miles of equestrian trails on the north side of the reservoir starting from the campground area.

Nugget Lake County Park in Pierce County has several miles of hiking and cross-country ski trails. You can purchase a guidebook to the park's unique geology at the park office. William Cordua, Geology Professor Emeritus at UW-River Falls and student Amy Nachbor prepared the walking and driving guide for the geology tour. A meteorite thought to be the size of Lambeau Field created an impact structure with unusual formations four miles in diameter. Gold and diamonds have been found in the Rock Elm Disturbance area.

There are many other beautiful places to hike in our area outside of public parks. Among my favorites are the lightly-travelled town roads in the Cady Creek, Plum Creek and Lost Creek watersheds. There's lots of wildlife in these areas so you can see plenty of fresh tracks after a snowfall.

Enough of this sitting at the computer! I should get out for a hike.

Please send any comments and suggestions for this column to me at RFJSports.