Exploring the Parks and Nature Areas Around Sioux Falls

Sioux Falls has 76 named parks throughout the city that range from small sites suitable for neighborhood gatherings and playgrounds to large well developed nature centers such as Great Bear Recreational Park, Arrowhead Park, the Wegner Arboretum and East Sioux Falls Historical Site, and the linked park system along the Big Sioux River. The state provides outdoor recreation areas and state parks including the Big Sioux Recreation Area, Beaver Creek Nature Area, Lake Alvin Recreation Area, Newton Hills State Park, and the Outdoor Campus in Sioux Falls that is a joint city/state operation.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Snowshoeing at the Perry Nature Area

We have had a relatively early start to winter here in the Sioux Falls area.  It has been quite cold and snowy here the past two or three weeks, and it seems likely that the snow cover over my favorite hiking areas will only increase over the next three months. 
Today seemed like a good day to get my snowshoes out and take a hike at the Perry Nature Area/Mary Jo Wegner Arboretum.  This has been one of our favorite hiking areas over the years; it is also where I have tended use my snowshoes whenever I felt the urge to walk about the landscape and observe winter conditions.
Many years ago, when I got my bent-wood, rawhide, Sergeant Preston-type snowshoes, I felt like an outdoorsman, an adventurer walking along snow-covered terrain in my isolation.  Today, these snowshoes seem quaint to younger people.  The aluminum, modern snowshoes with easy to attach straps are so much handier to use and have popularized snowshoeing.
Much more effort is required in snowshoeing than just strolling along on paths through the woods.  At this time of year, such a workout helps reduce the “winter weight” that seems to stretch out our waistline.  It also offers a good alternative to “going to the gym” and working out on machines.  Going to the gym is, to me, always the last option, one that I have avoided the past few years in favor of hiking, kayaking, biking, and now snowshoeing.
On my stroll this morning, I ran across a couple of guys on cross-country skies and another couple of guys with four big dogs romping in the snow.  For the most part, however, snowshoeing can be a solitary activity that offers an opportunity to look at the tracks of wildlife, observe the way snow covers the landscape, and check out the trees, bushes, and tall grass as they settle in for the winter months.
Perry Nature Area and the Arboretum are just on the east edge of Sioux Falls and provide a great location for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.  I walked along in the path of others who had recently taken the same route along the margin between the grasslands and the wooded area on the edge of the Big Sioux River.
I will continue using my snowshoes over the course of the winter.  The Outdoor Campus in Sioux Falls offers lessons and snowshoes for those interested in trying out this aspect of winter hiking.