First Day Hikes are part of a nationwide initiative led by America’s State Parks to encourage people to get outdoors. On New Year’s Day, hundreds of free, guided hikes are organized at state parks in all 50 states. Minnesota offered First Day Hikes at 11 parks, including Fort Snelling State Park – where we began our Hiking Club park quest last year. 🥾

So what better way to signal continuation of our park quest in 2023 then with a First Day hike at Fort Snelling. Getting the new hiking year off on the right foot, so to speak.🤨 We didn’t go all First Day in that we passed on the guided hike to do our own across Pike Island to the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers.

The winter hiking trail was well marked, well trodden, and well packed, with no need for microspikes or snowshoes. Some skiers were out and a few determined (We brought them along, so we’re going to use them!) folks on snowshoes.

A wide trail under gray skies
There were more than a few whitetails in the forest
Seed pod on snow
Still life with seed pods
On through the forest
Looking upstream on the Mississippi River
A Christmas tree fashioned from snowballs sat on the bank
Looking downstream to the confluence

Winter hikes aren’t known for color – they’re mostly about black and white, shades of gray, trunks and branches, and last year’s dead oak leaves. Maybe a little monotonous? And it’s still several months until Spring.

So, no surprise then that the pastel colors in the ice along the bank of the Mississippi drew me toward them. Focus on some tiny irregularity in the ice, do just a touch of exposure management (no Photoshop here!), and – voilé – abstracts from the ice.

Ice I
Ice II
Ice IV
Leaf on ice

Photographing ice got engrossing to the point where The LovedOne was forced to note that it was cold out here 🥶 and standing around watching me fool with the camera was itself somewhat monotonous. So, time to head back…

Back along the winter hiking trail under the powerlines
The Mendota Bridge and the channel between the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers that creates Pike Island

The winter hiking trail on Pike Island is 3.8 miles (6.1 km) and was good exercise on this cold day. There were maybe a dozen cars in the parking lot when we arrived. When we returned about two hours later, the two lots nearest the visitor center were almost full, with more cars coming in as we were leaving. Seems a lot of folks were getting out on this First Day. 😃

We hiked in the morning under gray, fog-laden skies. We were, of course, hoping for sunny skies but no luck with that. But then we’d had beautifully sunny skies during our hike last Friday, so no complaints. Still, the irony was palatable when the clouds dissipated and sunlight streamed forth JUST as we were leaving the trailhead for home. Sigh. 🙄