Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Winter walk along the Cannon in Faribault February 10, 2022

Randy follows the trail along the Cannon River in North Alexander Park, Faribault. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

BEFORE TUESDAY TEMPS ROSE to around 40 here in southern Minnesota, there was the cold. Brutal cold. Mornings of minus below zero. Strong winds making the outdoors feel even colder.

Late Sunday morning, when the temperature hovered in the 20s with a brisk wind, Randy and I followed the paved trail bordering the Cannon River in North Alexander Park. It’s a favorite Faribault walking path.

River (left), tree and trail. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

The river draws me here. I find waterways soothing, calming, quieting to the spirit, even when frozen.

I also appreciate how this particular path wends around trees and along the river. The curving trail invites a leisurely, poetic pace, a time for reflection, a time to slow down and delight in the natural world without distractions.

Little distracted us, except the trumpeting of two Trumpeter Swans gracefully flying high overhead as we exited the van to begin our walk. Absent were the usual crowds of waterfowl frequenting the river in Minnesota’s other seasons.

Biking the riverside trail on a fat tire bike. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

We encountered only one other person—a biker zooming on a fat tire bike.

A spot of color at the basketball court. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

It was the winter landscape which focused my attention. The whiteness of it all. The absence of color in a mostly grey and black-and-white world. Only the bold orange outlines on basketball rims and backboards jolted color into the scene. In the summer, young people cram these courts, dribbling and jumping and dunking and scoring points. Raucous play among youth, wonderful to witness.

A riverside picnic table remains, even in winter. In the background is the Faribault Woolen Mill, across the Cannon River. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

On this February morning, summer lingers in memories of those pick-up basketball games, riverside picnics and following this trail in flip flops under leafy canopies of green.

I find bared branches particularly beautiful. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

Today the branches bare themselves to winter. Naked, exposed, vulnerable.

Details in boot print, tire track and oak leaf. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

I notice in the snow, next to the imprint of a boot and a bike tire track, a lone oak leaf. In any other season, I might miss this. But not now. Not in the depth of winter.

Finger drifts creep onto trail’s edge. In the distance to the right sits the Faribault Woolen Mill. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

I notice, too, finger drifts along trail’s edge. Creeping. Stretching. Wind-blown fingers of snow that may be perceived as threatening. Or artsy. I choose artsy.

Randy heads back toward the van, along the riverside trail, the woolen mill in distant view across the Cannon River. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

Across the river, I see the Faribault Woolen Mill, weaver of wool (and wool blend) blankets, throws, scarves and much more since 1865. The mill is widely-admired, respected for its quality products. Craftsmanship at its finest. As Randy and I retrace our steps, this time leaning into a strong wind, I would welcome a locally-woven wool scarf wrapped around my neck for warmth.

Soon we reach the van, climb inside the wind-sheltered space and head toward the park exit. It is then Randy spots a large bird overhead, following the river. An eagle, we determine, based on wing span, flight and river route. It’s too high for our aging eyes to fully verify identity. But we’ve seen eagles here before and that is enough. Enough to end our Sunday morning winter walk with the wonderment we always feel in watching this majestic bird tracing the Cannon River.


TELL ME: If you live in a cold climate state, do you bundle up and head outdoors for recreational activities? Where do you go? What do you do?

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


15 Responses to “Winter walk along the Cannon in Faribault”

  1. beth Says:

    i love the winter landscape. i do head out in it as well. i walk downtown or in the opposite direction, to the woods and the river. i never fail to be amazed

  2. I lived right on the Soo Line trail when I was in MN and could jump right on the trail with my cross country skis. Depending on my direction of travel I could enjoy river and woods or farmland covered in snow.

  3. Ruth Says:

    I don’t go out much and our cold is rarely brutal.
    There’s no excuse. I love how a color photo can look black and white. I love love love your tree. That is the beauty of this season. There’s a promise that what’s dormant will be reborn.

  4. Valerie Says:

    I love to walk, all year round! We like to cross-country ski and snowshoe, too. Snowshoeing is fun because you can take off in any direction. We have the Carleton Arb here in NF and we like Riverbend in Faribault, for places to go near by. I’ve resumed walking with my “walking boot”, but I don’t think I’ll be skiing or snowshoeing again this winter. 😉

    • You and Gary are two of the most outdoorsy couples I know who embrace every season. I’m sorry you can’t ski or snowshoe this winter due to your broken foot. But I’m thankful you are managing with that boot. Take care, my friend.

  5. I love a good walk on crunchy snow and the crisp fresh air. I think I love the smell of winter the best of all of the seasons. Unfortunately, walking the dog is a dangerous task in the winter. I told the hubby that I needed a sled and harness so I can sit while she pulls me.

  6. Jackie Hemmer Says:

    I always like to hear about your winter ventures, I think I remember the days when you barely went out and really didnt like or appreciate winter, I know this has changed as you detail and NOTICE the things of winter around you. We like to get out more than we have this winter, perhaps it’s the bitter cold this year Brrrr. I prefer the “above 0” winters. 🙂

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