Snowshoeing: A great way to beat the bleak mid-winter blues.

January 17, 2014
Dan and Jan Girdwood of Grand Rapids

Dan and Jan Girdwood of Grand Rapids

Snowshoeing walk to take place Saturday at Ludington State Park.

by Carrie Klemm, MCP Correspondent

HAMLIN TWP. — The hustle and bustle of the holiday season has passed and as per usual, it is still cold and snowy in Mason County. If you’re like me, the idea of heading out into the frigid temperatures can seem daunting.  There is, however a great way to enjoy the outdoors and still keep your body heat.  My suggestion: snowshoeing! If you haven’t tried it before, have no fear. The Ludington State Park offers great opportunities for both avid snowshoers and those new to the sport.

Alan Wernette, the park interpreter joyfully leads several guided tours through the park every Saturday. Having worked at the Ludington State Park for over 16 years, he knows the ins and outs of the park like the back of his hand and he is happy to show newcomers around.

On January 4, the park hosted its first Lantern Lit Ski and Snowshoe Walk. At 6 p.m., over 150 people met at the warming station near the entrance to the park to join Wernette as he guided them along the snow-covered foot path between the campgrounds and the river.

“It was a bit overwhelming to see so many people, but it was a great turn out,” Wernette said. “We could not have asked for a better evening, the weather was perfect.”

This was the first of four lantern events, the next three are scheduled for Jan. 18, Feb. 1 and 15, if snow and winds allow. The park has approximately 40 pairs of snowshoes for interested parties to borrow on a first come, first serve basis, at no cost. Participants are welcome to bring their own as well. Cross-country skis are not currently provided and those wishing to ski alongside will need to provide their own.

Following the walk, all guests are invited back to the warming station for free hot cocoa, cider and tea, along with an outdoor bonfire to warm chilly fingertips.

On the opposite Saturdays, being Jan. 25 and Feb. 8 and 22, Wernette will be guiding two separate tours, one at 3 p.m. and a second in the evening at 7 p.m., again, weather permitting. These tours vary, according to Wernette as he likes to switch up the walks a bit. Because of shoe size, he recommends the tours to those ages 10 and up.

At this time, the park is only able to supply snowshoes during guided tours, however, Wernette also leads snowshoe-making courses throughout the winter.

The first of these classes is split into two sessions, the first were held earlier this month and the second section scheduled for Feb. 2. During this time, Wernette will help participants make one pair of snowshoes.

While on my own snowshoeing trek at the park a few weeks ago, I bumped into Dan and Jan Girdwood as they strutted towards me in the snowshoes they each made with their own two hands, under the guidance of Wernette.

“The class was incredible,” Jan Girdwood said. “We had a blast. We made a lot of mistakes during the process, but Alan was very patient. He helped us fix any issues because he really wanted to make sure we left with a quality product.”

Hailing from Grand Rapids, the two agreed that Ludington State Park is one of their favorite places to visit both in summer and winter.

“The evening snowshoe walks are the best,” Girdwood continued. “The moonlight on the snow illuminates everything. It is absolutely beautiful.”

As for Wernette, he enjoys involving others and taking them to different parts of the park.

“It is just fun for me.” he said. “It is great to see so many people come out and enjoy the beautiful Ludington State Park.”

For more information on the tours and classes, contact Alan Wernette at (231) 843-9261.

My advice: don’t fret about the long winter, put on your snowshoes and check out the lovely aspects of West Michigan.

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