Last Tuesday, we got our first “big” snowfall. ❄ The flakes came on hard and fast enough to close the airport for a couple of hours and produce 400+ more traffic accidents (on top of the 1,300+ from the first snow storm of the season). We’re thinking of buying shares in collision repair businesses – the old reliables of death, taxes, and fenders. 😏

Anyway, we stayed home (again) to avoid any repairs and by this morning – the first day of meteorological Winter – the storm had passed and all was sunshine 😎 and cold 🥶 (10℉ / -12.2℃). So we opted for a short hike to stave off hibernation and make final adjustments to our winter hiking gear.

The Richard T. Anderson Conservation Area is a small parcel on the north side of the Minnesota River, overlooking Rice Lake and part of the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. It’s managed by the City of Eden Prairie and offers about 3 miles (4.8 km) of mostly unpaved trails. It’s topography of ridges and ravines allows for some aerobic exercise in a compact area. Plus it has two viewpoints offering expansive views out over the Minnesota River Valley.

We parked at the lot off Flying Cloud Drive and from there went counter-clockwise around the outer perimeter of trails. The snow was light and fluffy and not deep (6 in/15 cm), with no ice beneath. There was no need for the microspikes we carried. Ours weren’t the first tracks in the snow but it was obvious that not that many had done the loop before us.

Heading east from the lower parking lot
Empty branches on a cold, clear day
Ascending to the eastern viewpoint
Frozen Rice Lake and Shakopee from the eastern viewpoint
Across one of the several bridges along our loop
Retaining wall with snow (near the upper parking lot)
Along the top edge of the bluff
Rice Lake and Shakopee from the bluff
Descending toward the main ravine
The bridge over upper part of the ravine
Sunlight with a hint of clouds ahead of tomorrow’s storm
Looking upstream in the ravine
Looking downstream in the ravine

Part of our loop is the Elizabeth Fries Ellet Interpretive Trail. She was an American writer, historian, and poet one of whose books (Summer Rambles in the West) was inspired by a boating trip along the Minnesota River in 1852. Eden Prairie got its name from Ellet and dedicated this nature trail in her honor.

We start the climb out of the ravine
Approaching the western viewpoint
On open ground to the viewpoint
The LovedOne commands the heights
Looking southwest over Rice Lake to buildings in Shakopee
Going down to the parking lot
The natural spring at the parking lot

A ridiculously short (2.2 mi/3.5 km, 360 ft/110 m gain) but sweet little hike through the new snow. Some ups and downs, a flowing creek, and a high point with views to the south were bonus features. What we thought was a water fountain back at the parking lot turns out to be a natural spring that Edin Prairie pipes to the surface for those who want to enjoy such waters. Our winter gear worked well, so now we’re good to go on future winter outings. 😁

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