The Perfect Hiking Opportunity Awaits
Okay it’s a little cold. But as I woke up this morning to fresh powder and snow drifts, I was anxious to get out on the trails. On the wooded bluffs bordering the northwestern edge of the Peninsula Neighborhood are trails that are commonly visited during warmer months. Now that the cold has settled, they’re mostly abandoned. Yet I find the winter exploration the most awarding season. The trouble is ensuring you’re appropriately prepared and have the right gear.
The terrain is steep. Rolling hills expand from the southern tip of the peninsula, starting at the Iowa River Power Dam bridge passing along the Peninsula Neighborhood, Oakmount Estates, Elk Run condominiums, and Mackinaw Village before abutting Interstate 80 and the paved walking trail and tunnel that passes underneath the interstate. Some areas have hills that descend 50 to 70 feet to the river valley and when covered with snow, can be difficult to keep your footing. This is wear having the appropriate gear can make all the difference.
Inspirited by a CostCo impulse purchase, I bought a pair of snow shoes. They came with a pair of hiking poles. I strap these large metal frames to my boots and stare at my feet which look like Big Foot and have a constricting movement similar to the feeling of having skis attached to your feet. On the bottom of the snow shoes are two metal crampons—a traction device to prevent sliding while hiking in the snow.
I hit the trails and drift off thinking of actor Scatman Crothers running through the woods in The Shining, chased by Jack Nicholson’s character whose extreme winter solitude has deteriorated his sanity. Yet the trails do not lack solitude, nature is abundant and easier to track in the winter. Where the warmer months make it harder to find the wildlife, the snow exposes tracks leading to its busy community.
Deer can be found the easiest having pushed away areas of snow in search of anything green. Their tracks lead to them staring at me from every side of the wooded ravine—a cold stare asking me to please replant my hostas salad bar I plant each spring. At the ravine in-between the Elk Run condominiums and Mackinaw Village I have tracked the red fox family who had moved their den from the Oakmount ravine last season. I saw the fox dodge low in the snow back to the ravine side. I continue down the hillside to the river valley. My snow shoes surprisingly grip the steep descent with the security of the crampons attached to my snow shoes.
The lower river valley is a flat-land that is almost impossible to explore in the warmer months as its low elevation keeps it a marsh area. But now the area is sheet of ice, it is easily accessible with an abundant assortment of animal tracks. At the foot of the hill is a creek that adjoins the Iowa River. The trees are noticeably deforested in this area where at the creek junction is an eight-by-eight foot stack of tree branches—a muskrat home on the river.
As I reach the paved trails that continue to the Iowa City Water Treatment Plant trail areas, I turn back and stare back up the hillside at the river bluffs. Large boulders jut out from their hillside including Lovers’ Leap across the Coralville Marriott. Eagles have made large nests up and down the river hillside where the fast current prevents the river from freezing. The meandering river has created low and high contours with rolling hillsides and bluffs along the peninsula highlands. As I admire the geography, I decide to take a different path back, excited to discover what else I can find in the winter parkland.
In addition to the snow shoes I recommend ski goggles to prevent blowing snow from getting in your face. Also, Gators are a great accessory for your boots to keep snow from getting inside as well as water and ice from say, a break in the ice as you cross the creek. I attached links to these accessories which you can also find at our local outdoor recreation store such as Active Endeavors or Fin & Feather as well as the big box stores such as Scheels or some items temporarily at CostCo.
Adam Pretorius is a Peninsula resident and serves on the Peninsula Neighborhood Association Board. He had previously served on the Event Committee which plans neighborhood events and writes news stories in the neighborhood
A trail access can be found at the corner of Walker Circle inbetween postal addresses 670 and 710 Walker Circle
Gators are boot covers that cover the boot to prevent snow, water and ice from getting inside the boot
Adam Pretorius, left, Corey Wilson, center, and Amy Pretorius, right
View from the River Valley towards the peninsula bluff
View from the River Valley towards the peninsula bluff, Lover's Leap, a rock face over the river, is located at the top right
Article: January 19, 2019