MICHIGAN — On a bright winter Saturday in early February, approximately 225 people made their way to the Hiawatha National Forest’s Rapid River National Cross Country Ski Trail for the eighth annual Winter Trails Day Event. The event allows everyone — whether experienced or not — to participate in cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
“And if you don’t have your own skis or snowshoes, this event is especially for you!” said Brenda Madden, Forest Service zone recreation program manager. “Partners were on site to lend equipment and to offer instruction for all.”
Mike Williams of Brampton Bike and Ski provided the ski and snowshoe equipment free of charge to more than 57 pre-registered participants, plus others who signed up at the event.
“We were especially excited that at least a quarter of the participants were youth from nearby towns and cities,” noted Madden.
While one of the key goals of the event was to help introduce youth to the fun of outdoor winter activities, everyone benefits from year-round outdoor time. Given that long, snowy winters are normal in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, outdoor sports and community events are especially important for well-being. For instance, in addition to the benefits of exercise, being outside increases exposure to natural light that can improve mood and support Vitamin D. We may also benefit from the additional fresh air and connection with nature.
For those interested in learning about how animals adapt to endure winter’s harshness, Nick Moreno, Kids in the Woods coordinator and Hiawatha National Forest volunteer, had a discovery table of animal furs and tracks. Those who stopped by the table also learned to identify animal tracks in the snow.
“A real sense of community is palpable when people come together to make an event like this happen,” said Madden, “and we are grateful for everyone who played a role, especially the volunteers.”
That sense of community is evident from the enthusiasm shown by partners, including Brampton Bike and Ski and Rapid River Ski Trail volunteers, who work with Forest Service employees to make the event possible. In addition, a local caterer provided complimentary snacks to warm up participants.
The Hiawatha National Forest manages several winter trails for sports like cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, fat tire biking and snowmobiling.