Though many stay in to beat the cold, adventurers of the region took the short drive to Buffalo River State Park for the first session of candlelight skiing.
Candles illuminated the snow-packed path on which young and old alike set out. Families pulling young children on sleds, novice Nordic skiers and small groups of hikers dotted the trails marked clearly by the 115 square blocks of ice, glimmering with candles inside.
The candlelight ski run is a popular winter event in Minnesota state parks. Nature enthusiasts volunteer to make the night special. Terry Sperr, a cabinetmaker from Glyndon, has volunteered through a group “Friends of Buffalo River State Park” for the past five years.
Sperr, along with his family and the other four group members stocked the warming house located at the beginning of the trail with cookies and hot chocolate. Sperr added logs to the stove fire, keeping it burning for chilled trekkers coming in from their hike.
“My favorite part is probably talking to the people that come,” Sperr said. “To see how many times people have come or to talk to first-timers.”
The recreation is inexpensive. Everyone must pay a $5 parking pass fee. If gear needed, the cost is low: skis, boots and poles are available for a total of $10, snowshoes are available for $6 and of course, anyone wanting to simply enjoy the trail by foot goes for free.
The trail curves around the river and across the plains for 1.25 miles towards the science center, where more warmth and snacks await.
Each bend is an adventure for Rebecca Smith, a 65-year-old retiree living in Moorhead. Smith has done the run three times, but still calls it “fabulous.”
“I like to go after dark so my eyes are adjusted,” Smith said. “I would also recommend wearing warm clothes.”
Smith said it is hard to find companions who ski. Matt Davis, a member of Red River Valley Outdoor Group, has found the answer through Meetup.com. Social networks can be a great way to find others who enjoy similar activities. Members of the Red River Valley Outdoor Group were informed of the event through their network.
Anyone interested in trekking the candlelight run can head to Buffalo River State Park on Saturday, Feb. 2. The run is open from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Besides renting gear, the only cost is a $5 parking permit which is purchased on site. For more information, check out Buffalo River State Park’s website here.
BY MEGAN HAVIG