I ended 2021 with a hike at Wood Lake Nature Center. The 150-acre nature preserve is in a suburb just outside of Minneapolis. An outdoor gem nestled in an otherwise populated area. The center hosted a New Year’s Eve hike, illuminated by lanterns that lined a path through the trees and across Wood Lake.
I drove there in holiday traffic on icy roads. I imagined some folks were headed out for a festive meal or to a party. My mind was on a potential owl sighting and an invigorating walk. When I got into my car, the outside temperature was 14 degrees, but by the time I arrived it had dropped to nine. I wasn’t concerned; I was in the mood for some cold, fresh air.
I stepped onto a well-lit path and began my hike. There were a lot of people – families and couples – taking advantage of the unique event. I heard someone who had just finished the loop mention they had heard an owl.
The trail began in the trees, tall hardwoods that creaked in a breeze. When the woods opened, I crossed a bridge and the wind picked up. I found myself on a boardwalk that was hugged on both sides by tall grasses and a snow-covered lake. Creak, creak, creak. The trees gave voice to the cold winter night. I peered through the dark at the wetland areas and wondered what life made a home in the area. I made a mental note to return in spring to check it out.
Such a gift, this piece of city-nature. It’s like somebody punched a hole in the buildings and left a void where water pooled and trees grew. I love that about my Minnesota cities: so many green spaces.
About halfway through the hike, there was a bonfire. Merciful heat. My fingers had gotten cold from a brief removal of mittens. I’ve learned that once my hands or feet get cold outside, it is hard to regain heat. I stood by the fire until I was sufficiently warm again.
The second half of the hike was much like the first. Trees. Snow. Wind. In all, I spent half an hour on the trail. There was an additional trail that led across the lake. Lanterns lighting a path across the ice. I decided not to cross the lake; The wind was cold. While I love winter, a brisk breeze is a game-changer for me. I hung out with the trees instead.
Another bonfire was situated at the end of the trail. That and a table offering hot chocolate. The fire did good work of warming me on the outside, the hot drink took care of the inside. While the hike was rather short, I didn’t mind. It was just long enough to feel invigorated but short enough to avoid getting too cold. I enjoyed it immensely.
I didn’t hear an owl, let alone see one. But I did enjoy the crunch of snow beneath boots, the switch of snow pants, creaking trees, and the friendly chatter of people enjoying the illuminated path on the eve of a new year. While I don’t know what 2022 will bring, I hope it is full of opportunity. Critter sightings. Woodland adventures. More nature hikes. I’m looking forward to more green spaces in the city (or, white, depending upon the season). I’m hoping to go north a lot, as well. Dense woods. Lakes. Wetlands. Life.
Welcome to another year of enjoying nature!