Yes. weather does figure prominently in many of our blog posts. Why? Because, once we heave ourselves off the couch and head for the Great Outdoors, whether we’re likely to freeze 🥶 or sweat 😓 or burn 😎 or wrinkle 🌧 is of some interest. As you would expect from Minnesota in January, lately we’ve been contending with not freezing. That, however, is apparently soon to change.

The daytime temperature here is forecast to approach 40℉ (4.4℃) over the coming weekend, with nighttime temps staying above 32℉ (0℃)! With maybe some rain instead of snow. Wow! California is underwater and we’re trading puffies for shorts! Sure glad climate change isn’t real (not). 🤨

Anyway, we have the last (we hope) of our DIY home fix-it projects teed up for this weekend. So, today, we decided to get in one more walk on snow before it turns to slush. Casting about for somewhere new (to us), we came upon Salem Hills Park and adjacent Harmon Park Reserve in Inver Grove Heights.

Together, these form an elongated rectangle in the heart on the Heights. Through the use of a staggering number of twists and turns, clever park planners have managed to squeeze 4.3 miles (6.9 km) of dirt trails into this rectangle, in three interconnected loops.

In summer, these loops are favored by trail runners and mountain bikers. Today they were a sinuous path of snowshoe- and boot-packed snow, with the occasional posthole opportunity. We’d brought our snowshoes along but didn’t need them. The LovedOne did wear her microspikes, mainly to safely negotiate the ice slick parking lot. 😲

We started on the “A” (Sawmill) Loop, went south on the “B” (Foul Pond) Loop, around the “C” (Prairie Fire) Loop, and took the “B” back north to the parking lot. There may be warm days ahead, but today was a cloudy one in the depths of Winter, with a color palette tending toward austerity.

Across the icy parking lot
On the Sawmill Loop
Polypore fungus provides a tiny spot of color
On the “B” Loop toward Foul Pond
Winter at Foul Pond
Ghost trees at Foul Pond
Past the restored prairie on the Prairie Fire Loop
Into the forest at the south end of “C” Loop
Leaves from summer past
Heading back on the Prairie Fire Loop
Checking the map

On the way back, the twists and interior loops in the Prairie Fire Loop started to get a touch monotonous. This twisting is certainly appealing to mountain bikers and will likely be to us come Spring when there are distracting wildflowers available. Today, not so much.

So we cut out two of the shorter interior loops, which wasn’t hard since they pass within sight of one another. Then we were distracted by ice donut decorations. 🙄

An ice donut
Continuing on back
Dead leaves rendered as a pencil sketch
Continuing on…
A leaf under snow
Near the end of the “B” Loop

This series of loops came to 3.8 miles (6.1 km) with 150 feet (46 m) of gain across this rolling terrain. This is definitely a trail system that deserves another visit once the snow leaves and the wildflowers arrive. Then its convolutions will simply give us more time to look for flowers and enjoy the sunshine. 😁

Even without snowshoes, today’s hike was good balance exercise since the snow surface was uneven and prone to a posthole (or two). We assumed the sun would come out as we reached the car, but it didn’t, sparing us the irony of having hiked through the gloom unnecessarily.

We noticed a camera crew setting-up in the parking lot as we were leaving. Later we’d see the big, yellowish Inver Grove Heights water tower (which rises directly above the Salem Hills parking lot) serving as background for the nightly WCCO weather segment – which went on about how it had been cloudy all day. Yes, we got that. 😒