Monday, January 28, 2008

Playing in the snow at Donald Park

Back when I wrote about my adventures at Indian Lake Park, Brad V. of the blog Letters in Bottles recommended I check out Donald County Park, too. Interestingly enough, I'd passed the trail head a number of times while on the way to visit friends who lived out in the country beyond Mt. Vernon, but never realized what it was.

Thanks to Brad's tip, I remembered to suggest going to check it out when me, The Boy and my sister, who was out visiting for the weekend, decided to go snowshoeing on Saturday.

Donald Park has two trail heads - the main entrance along Hwy. 92 called Pop's Knoll and an equestrian access point along Hwy. G. We headed to the Pop's Knoll entrance, only to find ourselves confronted with a decidedly unplowed driveway with a closed gate. According to the signs, though, the park was open. We grumbled about the lack of plowing, but decided to check the equestrian entrance to see if we could get in that way. It, too, was unplowed, but that entrance is just a stone's throw from "downtown" Mt. Vernon, so we parked along the street and just walked up to the trail head.

It was nearly a perfect day for the trek, with the temperatures finally rising above zero and into the twenties with almost no wind. On top of that, because of last week's snowfall and the park's somewhat off-the-beaten-path status, the landscape was relatively unmarred. We spotted just two other sets of snowshoe tracks. There isn't any cross country skiing in the park, either, so the rest of the snow was flawless and sparkling.

From the equestrian access point, the hiking trail goes down through the woods and alongside some low bluffs before emerging into the middle of a wide open field. We marveled at the quiet beauty of the place, also taking a moment to catch our breath, and then headed out across the expanse. The trail disappears into woods again before veering right and crossing a low wooden bridge that spans a small creek. Covered in snow as it was, the crossing made for quite the picturesque vista. I snapped a few pictures before we went ahead.

By that point, we'd gone just over a mile and a half and were feeling a little worn out. We were further encouraged to turn around and head back when we realized that our trail was about to run alongside a snowmobile trail. A group of them were whizzing noisily up and down the track, breaking the wintry silence we'd previously been enjoying.

So we turned around and made the trek back. By the time we got back to the car, we were all pleasantly exhausted and ready to eat. We drove back into town and stopped at Java Cat, my favorite place for gelato this side of the Atlantic.

Overall, I'm very glad to have been tipped off about Donald Park. I definitely intend to go back in the spring or summer to do some proper hiking and exploring, as the park contains much more than what we saw on our snowshoe outing. It's a lovely space, with rolling hills, woodlands and trout streams, and close by to the very tiny, very cute town of Mt. Vernon. Heartily recommended.

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