Itasca offers snowshoeing, logging, fishing
Getting a little stir crazy all cooped up indoors? Folks at the Itasca State Park are hosting several outdoor events that are free and open to the public.
I Can Ice Fish!
I Can Ice Fish! is a program that Itasca officials have been putting on for a couple of months now.
"It's introducing beginners to ice fishing," explained Connie Cox, lead interpretive naturalist for Itasca. "A lot of times people don't want to invest the money it takes to do something like ice fishing if they're not even sure they're going to like it, and so we'll take them out with our equipment and teach them a little bit about it and give them a chance to catch some fish."
Itasca provides the equipment, the bait, the fish houses and the guides that will help provide some one-on-one basic instruction on how to ice fish.
The Jan. 5 event was filled up, but the park will be hosting another I Can Ice Fish event Saturday, March 2, from 1-2:30 p.m.
"We'll meet in the lobby of the Jacob Brower Visitor's Center, and then we're not quite sure what lake we'll take them out onto...whichever is seeing the hot bite," laughed Cox, who says new fishermen ages 6 years old and older are welcome.
"We'll try to have a few underwater cameras, too, so they can see how fish are reacting to the jigs and what's going on under the ice."
Cox says because the event is within a state park, no fishing licenses are necessary for Minnesota residents, but a state park vehicle pass is required. Day passes are $5 and can be purchased at the visitor's center.
Circle Time Under the Pines
Another monthly program being offered at Itasca is one for parents and their small children called "Circle Time Under the Pines."
"It's for children between the ages of 2 to 5, and each month we focus on a different letter and a subject for that letter," Cox explained, adding that the Jan. 16 event is called 'S' is for Stars. February's is 'W' is for Woodpeckers and March's is 'O' is for Owls.
"It's a perfect opportunity for parents and kids to come out and meet other families while the kids get a chance to learn something special with nature through songs, crafts and outdoor discovery," said Cox.
All of the Circle Time Under the Pines events start at 10:30 a.m. and go until 11:15 at the visitor's center. They are free and open to the public. No registration is necessary for the event; walk-ins are welcome.
"This is such a beautiful opportunity," said Cox. "It's one that many people make an annual event for groups of friends or family."
On Jan. 19, kerosene lanterns will join the full moon to illuminate the wooded trails of Itasca as nature-lovers strap on their snowshoes for an evening stroll.
"We have had participants who bring little toboggans for their small children, and everybody just follows the lantern-lit path," said Cox, who says they try to time it so that the sun is just setting.
That means the first event in January will be from 5 p.m. to 7:30, while the event in February will be from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
There are snowshoe rentals available at the park, provided there is enough snow.
"Right now we only have three inches, and you can get shin splints if you snowshoe in that, so if we don't get enough by Jan. 19, we'll have to snow-boot it," laughed Cox.
The trails vary in length, so participants can decide how far they want to walk. Following the trek through the woods will be a campfire where walkers can roast marshmallows (or hot dogs if they bring them) and warm up with some hot apple cider.
Old time logging
History buffs might want to circle Feb. 9 because local club the Itasca Region Pioneer Farmers will be doing some old-school-style logging.
From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., the group will demonstrate how early settlers in the region managed to turn this uninhabited area into a booming economic community, thanks to logging.
"They'll show us how they logged in the late 1800s to early 1900s by using the two-man cross cut saws, and how they got them on the sled," said Cox, who says they're trying to get horses for the demonstration as well.
Like all of the outdoor events at Itasca, participants are encouraged to dress for the elements.
For more information on any of the winter activities at the park log on to www.mndnr.gov/itasca or call 218-699-7251.