The other morning it was 4℉ (-15.5℃). The local weather people called this “very cold.” Then the outside warmed to 13℉ (-10.5℃). This was termed “cold.” Today dawned bright and clear and started “cold” but eventually reached 35℉ (-1.6℃). We didn’t check but the local forecasters would probably call this “sweltering” (or not). 🙄 But it was brilliantly sunny, with no wind, and our winter kit was squared away, so there were no impediments to going out and getting some exercise.

Lebanon Hills Regional Park in Dakota County was one of the first places where we hiked after moving to the Twin Cities. On our first visit, in May, the leaves hadn’t quite made it out yet. Our second visit coincided with the height of Fall colors – which were spectacular. Today’s visit was without leaves or much color (excepting the brown leaves still clinging to the oaks), yet there was beauty in the contrasts between the bare trees and the white snow.

We started from the Jensen Lake Trailhead, followed the South Voyageur Trail along the south side of Jensen Lake, crossed between Portage and Cattail Lakes, then followed the North Voyageur Trail back to the trailhead past O’Brien Lake and along the north side of Jensen.

Leaving the Jensen Lake Trailhead
Along the boardwalk on the south side of Jensen Lake
Jensen Lake (with critter tracks) from its west end
Sunlight enters the forest
Jensen Lake at Lebanon Hills Regional Preserve, Dakota County, Minnesota
Jensen Lake from its south shore
The bright sunlight was uplifting
Shadows
On past the east end of Jensen Lake
The only color in the forest came from dead oak leaves
Husks of last summer’s wildflowers
Continuing east
The bridge at Bridge Pond
Bridge Pond at Lebanon Hills Regional Preserve, Dakota County, Minnesota
Shadows of ourselves at Bridge Pond
Bridge Pond at Lebanon Hills Regional Preserve, Dakota County, Minnesota
Sunlight and tracks on Bridge Pond
Aspens in the light
Fall versus Winter along the trail
Portage Lake at Lebanon Hills Regional Preserve, Dakota County, Minnesota
Portage Lake
Passing the birch trees
Swept
Yet more sunshine 😎
Cattail Lake at Lebanon Hills Regional Preserve, Dakota County, Minnesota
Cattail Lake
Oak leaves in winter
Along the boardwalk on Jensen Lake’s north shore
Cattails in winter
Almost back to the trailhead

Our loop came to 5.1 miles (8.1 km) with minimal gain in this slightly rolling terrain. At first we were – except for several runners – alone on the trail. This changed to many people and their dogs as we made our way back to the trailhead. Most were running or walking. We passed one snowshoer and one XC skier but there probably isn’t enough snow yet to make either of those activities much fun. Nonetheless, cold or not, all this sunshine was just too hard for people to resist. 😎😊

Jensen Lake at Lebanon Hills Regional Preserve, Dakota County, Minnesota
Our loop (thick black line) at Lebanon Hills
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