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Jan 07, 2013, 9:49 am
Get out, get active: Things to do outside this winter
By Heather Thorstensen


Check out the trails groomed by the Rochester Active Sports Club at parks such as Quarry Hill and Essex park. Here, club member Henry Walker gives son Ari a hand. (Post-Bulletin file photo by Jerry Olson)



Beat cabin fever by embracing outdoor activities. Not sure where to start? We’ve got you covered:


Spot an eagle

See eagles in their natural habitat with a tour from the The National Eagle Center in Wabasha. Bald eagle viewing field trips will be held Jan. 12 and Feb. 23 while golden eagle viewing field trips will be held Jan. 26 and Feb. 9. Tours run from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. They begin with a brief classroom presentation at the National Eagle Center, then participants travel by coach bus to eagle viewing locations. After returning to the center, participants enjoy light refreshments and share pictures and stories from the day.

Cost: $25 for National Eagle Center members and $35 for non-members.


Traverse by snowshoe

Whitewater State Park in Altura will host a Moonlight Snowshoe Walk Jan. 26 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. for high school-aged participants and older. “We do some quiet reflection and listening and read a few excerpts about winter written by a variety of authors,” says Sara Grover, an interpretive naturalist at the park. All ages are welcome to join in the park’s Moonlit Owl Prowl by Snowshoe program on Feb. 24 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. It involves an introduction to types of local owls and a walk to call to, and listen for, the owls. The park will also have Friday Frolics on Snowshoes throughout February from 10:30 a.m. to noon. All ages are welcome.

“These programs are great for snowshoers of all levels,” says Grover. If trail conditions aren’t right for snowshoeing, the programs will be held as walks.

Cost: All programs are free and snowshoe rental (first come, first served) during them is free. Minnesota State Park vehicle permit is required. Purchase a day pass for $5 or an annual pass for $25 at the park office.


Tip: Other places that rent snowshoes include Oxbow Park in Byron, Quarry Hill Nature Center in Rochester, Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park in Preston and Cedar Valley Resort in Lanesboro.

Chase away the grumps

Outdoor activities at the 20th Anniversary of the Grumpy Old Men Festival on Feb. 23 in Wabasha include the 5th annual Grumpy Plunge. Proceeds benefit Great River Homes, which serves people with developmental disabilities, and the Rotary Club of Wabasha. The plunge takes place right off of the dock at Slippery’s, which was in the Grumpier Old Men movie. The festival also includes a marathon, hockey games, a chili cook-off, frisbee baseball and glow golf. Some activities are dependent on the weather.

Cost: Varies for different activities. The minimum cost to participate in the Grumpy Plunge is $75.


Enjoy the trails

The Rochester Active Sports Club maintains certain trails in Rochester, including grooming paths for cross country skiing at Quarry Hill Nature Center and Essex Park. “It’s the secret of Rochester that we do all this,” says club member Henry Walker. The club also runs the Rochester Nordic Ski Team, open to students in grades 7-12. “The whole purpose is to get them out skiing to get them in the outdoors and appreciate the outdoors and keep nordic skiing active as a sport,” says Walker, one of the team’s coaches. Kids can rent skis from the club and compete in races if they choose.

Cost: Free admission to Quarry Hill Nature Center and Essex Park.


Experience Rochester WinterFestXI:

This festival, held Jan. 31 to Feb. 10,  promotes winter activities while raising awareness and money for local non-profit organizations. It will have sleigh rides, the Frozen Goose run/walk, a silent movie, the Polar Bear Plunge, Festival of Birds, a chili cook-off, Bacon Fest, the Ice Bar in the Peace Plaza, a SnoBall softball tournament, youth ice fishing contest and more.

Cost: Varies for different activities.


Visit a winter farmers market

Winona, Red Wing, Rochester and La Crescent all have winter farmers markets. And while Northfield doesn’t have an official winter market, some regular-season vendors gather every third Friday to sell what they have. “For us in Winona, our farmers market is more than just a place to buy food. It’s a community hub,” says Winona Farmers Market president Bryan Crigler. “...It’s an opportunity to support local food producers and eat locally and stay in contact with their farmers all year round.”

Cost: Free admission.

For more information on all of these events, check out our Calendar of Events

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