A layer of fresh white snow covered the landscape at Lake Bemidji State Park.
Naturalist John Fylpaa led a group of Thursday snowshoers when they came across a trail of timber wolf tracks leading to Big Bog Lake.
The track met with other tracks and the snow was roughed up.
“I figure they were out hunting and started to wrestle around in the snow when they met each other again,” said Fylpaa.
This is just one of many winter wonders Fylpaa finds during the four Thursday snowshoe treks he leads.
Winter is a good time to get outdoors to discover things you don’t see the rest of the year.
Fylpaa leads his group past an Eagle’s nest when a pair of eagles return in January. They go through a mating ritual of flying together. By February they work on the nest. By the end of March they are sitting on eggs and in April they are caring for their young.
Small six-inch wide holes in the snow show where squirrels have returned to eat their acorns. Fisher scat on a rock or log indicates where a territory has been marked.
A group of state park naturalist spent a weekend snowshoeing at Tettegouche State Park last winter where they followed the Baptism River from Illgen Falls down the Tettegouche Trail past Nipisiquit Lake where they encountered five-foot snow.
“We were able to walk right up to the frozen falls. We could hear the trickling of open water running beneath the icicles,” said Park Naturalist Kacie Carlson.
The state parks along the North Shore can get as much as 60 inches of snow in a night. Snowshoes can help more as crude snow shovels than transportation.
Carlson’s group ran into one of those five foot piles of snow along the Baptism River.
“We laughed our way through most of the deep snow using our GPSs to get our bearings,” said Carlson.
The supreme silence impressed her most of all.
“It was so peaceful – a type of peaceful you don’t get in the buzzing, chirping and biting days of summer,” said Carlson.
Their salvation was an animal trail that led to a warn area of snow about 50 feet in diameter. Then they realized these tracks that led under low hanging branches were wolf tracks.
They were both nervous and excited to follow a wolf trail. They found the hoof of a deer sticking out of the deep snow. This was all the motivation they needed to get back to camp, fast.
Naturalist Jim Cummings of Mille Lacs Kathio State Park reports they have two color-coded backcountry trails not available in the summer.
Both the one and a half mile Tamarack Trail and the four and a half Ogechie Trail start and end at the interpretive center.
The Ogechie provides a unique approach to the ancient copper mining site that has been used as an archaeological site with signs to tell its story.
You can snowshoe through swamps, bogs and pine forests and upon the ancient village now called the Kathio National Historic Landmark District.
Mille Lacs Kathio, like other state parks, has a beginner’s program with instructional trips and free snowshoe rentals.
Former Whitewater State Park Naturalist Dave Palmquist says a small spring offers 46-degree water for ducks, birds and wildlife to gather in winter.
Palmquist encourages snowshoers to take in the many moonlight snowshoe and ski events in Minnesota’s state parks.
“The Root River State Recreational Trails is another good place to explore in winter with many wintering eagles. I’ve come up on fox squirrels, mourning doves and voles digging their way through the snow,” said Palmquist.
Whether you want a pleasant trek through snow covered pine trees or a deep woods adventure, snowshoes will provide the transportation you need to see things you’ll never see in the summer.