MASON CITY — Winter weather sometimes leaves much to be desired. Whether it's blizzards, extreme cold or the piercing wind, there are days that can make even the most outdoorsy person want to curl up under a blanket.
Luckily, they are normally offset by nicer days – the perfect chance to enjoy some of these great winter activities in county parks.
• Cross-country skiing
The Lime Creek Conservation Area offers approximately eight miles of trails groomed for diagonal stride and skate-style skiing. After your skiing adventure, stop into the nature center to warm up by the fireplace and watch the birds at the feeders.
Strap on some snowshoes and you’ll be exploring in no time. Head out on the trails at Lime Creek to see how they’ve changed since your summer hike, or find a new area to discover.
If you don’t have snowshoes, winter hiking can be enjoyable as well. Wear tall boots or invest in some gaiters to help keep your pants and socks dry.
For an easier hike, try the Easy Access Trail (cleared of snow when conditions permit) or the Quarry Lake Loop (hard-packed snow) at Lime Creek. All trail users are asked to remain outside of the groomed areas set for skiers.
• Wildlife viewing
Birds: If you have bird feeders in your backyard, you’ve probably noticed that some species only seem to be around during the winter. Many of the birds that breed in Canada migrate to Iowa to winter, like dark-eyed juncos, pine siskins, American tree sparrows, snow buntings and sometimes even snowy owls. Watch for these and other species as you snowshoe, ski or visit the nature center.
Mammals: Fresh snow makes a great medium for wildlife tracking. If tracks begin and end at a tree base, there is almost certainly a squirrel nearby. Wandering five-toed tracks indicate a raccoon. Four-toed tracks in a straight line likely belong to a Canid; are they big enough to be a coyote or was it a fox? Pick up a field guide for animal tracks and start exploring. You might even spot the animal that left them.
The beauty of freshly fallen snow is often intertwined with children wanting to go sledding. If that’s the case in your house, head out to Linn Grove Park in Rockwell. The park has a hill ideal for sledding and tires are provided for easy ascent.
• Ice fishing
Bundle up, get outside and try your hand at ice fishing at Bluebill Wildlife Area, Mike Zack Wildlife Area or Fin and Feather Lake. With a rod and reel in hand and a jig tied on the line, you’re sure to see the lakes in a whole new way.
If snowmobiling is more your style, head to the Shellrock River Greenbelt and Preserve, where the North Iowa Snow Seekers maintain a 7.5-mile groomed snowmobile trail. Snowmobiles must remain on the trail and are not allowed on any other Cerro Gordo County Conservation Board Area.
It may be cold, but there is plenty of nature to enjoy. Bundle up, bring a warm drink and beat the winter blahs outside.
Visit http://www.co.cerro-gordo.ia.us or like us on Facebook to stay up to date on trail conditions.