Snow Stories

November 15, 2014

One of the views exclusive to winter mornings

Another view of the prairie and woods in the distance. Notice the sparking snow 🙂

Spending time outside is an essential part to most people’s well-being. I am lucky in the fact that my job consists of daily outside time but I wanted more so I started walking to work. My 25 minute walk is not only a great way to start the day but it also provides me with the opportunity to see nature at its most incredible moments. I have been contemplating starting a blog to share my experiences with the community for several months but for me facing the elements on a daily basis is much less intimidating than committing myself to sitting at a computer indoors once a week.

This week’s walk contained several new experiences.  With an average weekly low of 10⁰ the biggest change from last week is the snow and single digits temperatures.  IT WAS GREAT!! Snow is something we really take advantage of and tend to complain about but for the handful of us that have grown to appreciate and accept Minnesota for its longest season we know that winter is something to be treasured. Besides the breathtaking beauty (and cold) that comes with winter, there is also what I like to call snow stories.

Animals aren’t able to communicate in the way humans can but their tracks easily tell stories.  Snow stories tell you a little bit about what the animals are up to when we are spending our time drinking hot cocoa and sitting under blankets. This week I saw one of my favorite snow stories: The bird and the mouse.

A little rodent highway right into their hole

Another well traveled mouse path into a hole. Mice and other small rodents will spend a lot of their time digging tunnels under the snow. This protects them and also helps keep them warm.

Tunnels under the snow can’t always protect the mice. Many predatory birds (such as owls) have an excellent sense of hearing and can detect their next meal from under the snow! That is exactly what happened here. You can see the marks from the bird’s wings and the area that the mouse was grabbed from. My favorite type of snow story 🙂

Please take some time to admire this underappreciated season! Bundle up, bring a warm drink and take a little time to discover (or make) your own snow stories! And remember, there is no such thing as bad weather only bad clothing and bad attitudes! 🙂

Amber Brossard is the Education Program Specialist for River Bend Nature Center, a member supported non-profit dedicated to helping people discover, enjoy, understand and preserve the incredible natural world that surrounds us. Contact us at rbncinfo@rbnc.org or 507-332-7151.

Running at River Bend

By Zach Hudson, Intern Naturalist

While there are a multitude of ways to enjoy all that River Bend Nature Center has to offer, one of my personal favorites is to take in the sights and sounds while running.  There are numerous ways to link up the ten miles of trails at RBNC; here are four of my favorite runs under five miles complete with maps from mapmyride.com. (Unfortunately mapmyride.com doesn’t include the overlook trail, but any run on walnut should include a trip up overlook.)

1. The Southside Loop (http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/118241389)

This run takes you to explore the trails on the south side of the Straight River.  These are some of my favorite trails to run at River Bend.  From the Interpretive Center run along Oak or Turtle until you come to Arrowhead.  Follow Arrowhead along the river to the railroad underpass and take Rabbit to the Dairy Lane bridge, this is one of my favorite trails at RBNC. Once you cross the bridge explore the hilly trails of the south side, I mapped a loop around the outer edge, but all of these trails are fantastically fun.  When you’ve had your fill of the hills head back along Dairy Lane to Teepee Tonka and then Wood Duck to complete your 4.5 mile loop to the Interpretive Center.

2. Short Cherry Loop (http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/118253593)

This loop is a quick run of just over two miles that highlights one of my absolute favorite trails at River Bend: Cherry.  Head out from the Interpretative Center down to Turtle Pond and take a moment to look for frogs and turtles before continuing down Oak to Deer.  Run through the woods on Deer to Raspberry until you reach Cherry.  Cherry will take you up rolling hills to the east cemetery of the old Regional Center, for the history enthusiast this can be fascinating place to stop and catch your breath.  From here cross Rustad Road at the Upper parking lot and follow Raccoon back to the Interpretive Center.

3. Long Cherry Loop (http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/118260401)

For those runners wanting a longer loop that still takes in Cherry follow the route described above until you reach the upper parking lot.  From there follow Raccoon towards the nature center entrance to Walnut. Turn on to Walnut and follow it to where it intersects with Overlook,  from here take Overlook for a good climb and a fun stretch of single-track or continue on Walnut for an easier run.  Follow Walnut back to Raccoon and then pick up Maple around to Owl.  Be careful on the fast descents on these trails!  Follow the big hill on Owl past our Kids in the Wild play area back to the Interpretive Center for a 3.5 mile loop.

4. Hills and River Loop (http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/118268775)

This is my favorite run to do at River Bend I include parts of it almost every time I run at RBNC.  Head out from the Interpretive Center down to Honor Point and the big hill on Trout Lily.  Take it easy on the flats along the river because once we hit Owl this run starts to get tough. Follow Owl up the steep hill to Maple and continue climbing up the big hill and around the corner to Walnut.  Walnut brings you to Overlook where you can run up the stairs to the RBNC’s high point. From here drop down to the Prairie Loop and cross Rustad Road.  Drop down to Arrowhead and enjoy a cruise along the river before one last climb to finish this 3.5 mile loop.

This is merely a sample of the opportunities for running at River Bend, get out and explore all of the trails and find your own favorites.  Combine these loops into longer runs, or link them to the paved city trails.  The most important thing is to get out and enjoy getting fit in the woods and prairies of River Bend Nature Center!

Zach Hudson is an intern naturalist for the River Bend Nature Center, a member supported non-profit dedicated to helping people discover, enjoy, understand and preserve the incredible natural world that surrounds us. Contact us at rbncinfo@rbnc.org or 507-332-7151.