LENGTH 5 miles
DIFFICULTY Easy when the trail is not covered in ice.
DATE December 29, 2016
MAIN FEATURES Pike Island, Baptism Beach
After a week at home eating holiday treats and taking the dog for a walk in the neighborhood, we needed to get out! The snow has been scant and a little unpredictable lately, but we thought we might find some out on Pike Island and were up for an adventure. When we got there, we were the only ones in the parking lot and the whole Island was ours! In the summer Pike Island is hopping with families, picnickers and grade school kids on field trips. Its great to have a thriving State Park right in our backyard, but visiting in the winter and especially at night, reveals a quiet isolation that is a stark contrast from the Park’s bustling day job.
My love for snowshoeing at night started a few years ago and I probably go at night more often than I do the day. In the summer, the trails do not appeal to me in the same way. The lack of visibility through the trees, strange sounds, bugs, utter darkness, and greater activity in the forest and rush to get back to camp (probably too many scary movies as a kid). But winter hiking at night, especially under a full moon, sheds a new perspective even on a familiar trail. I love seeing the long blue shadows of the trees on the bright snow. Being able to see through the forest and catching a glimpse of a deer. Being the only ones on the trail….but the best part is the insulated quiet. Hearing nothing but the crunch of snow beneath my feet.
We started at the parking lot by the visitor center and did the Pike Island Loop. We wore snowshoes hoping for a good snow cover, but once we crossed the bridge onto the island, I realized that I would be using them for the crampons more than the snowshoe itself. The island was like a giant glacier, and would have been difficult to keep hiking on without wiping out. We pressed on. Um, maybe that’s why no one else was there? We made it to the Baptism Beach halfway point where the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers converge. The Beach was covered in snow and ice and the lights of the city played a nice backdrop on the frozen river.
The moon was dark on this night so my dark photos don’t do it justice. But this hike gave us the micro adventure we all needed and calmed our busy minds. More snow please!