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.

Friday, January 3, 2014

New Snowshoes: Perry Nature Center/Arboretum

Santa brought me a contemporary set of snowshoes, so I set aside my wooden and rawhide pair and headed out today to give the new ones a try.  Contemporary aluminum tubing and some kind of durable material that seems something similar to leather snowshoes have their advantages, but they lack the Sgt. Preston look of my traditional ones.   
The harness is much easier to step into with only a strap that quickly cinches the shoe tight.  The bottom of each snowshoe has two claws that provide traction and make climbing up hills and grades very much easier.   Moving into the woods is not an issue with these snowshoes; with my wooden and rawhide snowshoes, I was concerned about snapping a strip or the frame of the shoe itself.
I don’t know that the modern “high tech” snowshoes are as good on deep snow.  They don’t have quite the surface area of my old traditional snowshoes, but I did not experience any difficulty today.
Today, I took a slightly different path at the Perry Nature Center/Arboretum.  I parked in front of the Jasper Educational Center and then walked down the hill to the large meadow that spreads north of the building and continued out to the tree line that borders the Big Sioux River.
There have been several light snowfalls recently, and most tracks from others venturing out into the cold have been covered.  Today was the single “warm” day forecast for the week, and the temperature was about 20 degrees under sunny skies with a stiff wind out of the south.  I felt compelled to get out this afternoon.
There were few traces of others walking in this area.  I walked along the tree line looking into the woods for any sign of wildlife, but I didn’t see anything, not even a single bird.  There were a few tracks of rabbits and deer, and some faint traces of a cross-country skier, but generally mine were the only evidence of passage through the snow.
I trudged along in the snow, congratulating myself on getting out of the recliner to experience an hour and a half outside in the sun.  Snowshoeing is strenuous; it is not a stroll in the sunshine.  Sometimes I tend to walk further than I might have planned, only to realize that I have to walk back as well.
Snowshoeing along the tree line of the river offers something different each time.  The winter landscape is constantly changing with new snow and winds.  As the snow gets deeper and stays longer, drifts are sculpted on the meadows and the woodland takes varying looks.  The winter sun and the white snow create interesting shadowing, and all this changes daily.  So, I think that a person can visit the same few places and get enough variety over these next three months to sustain interest.

The complete set of photos can be found at the following Flickr page:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/jayheath/sets/72157639362307556/