A group of Minneopa braves the cold for a New Years hike


January 2 – A group of hikers in Minneopa State Park didn’t let freezing temperatures stop them from spending New Years morning in the wilderness on Saturday.

Led by Minneopa naturalist Scott Kudelka, they bundled up and took a trail. This was Minneopa’s 10th “day one hike”, a chance for people to get out and rejuvenate for the year to come.

Kudelka has experienced lower temperatures on hikes in recent years, but believed Saturday was probably having the coldest wind chill yet.

The temperature when starting the hike around 10 a.m. was -10 degrees in Mankato, according to the National Weather Service. Wind chills have made it closer to -30 degrees. The hike stayed on a wooded path away from the windier prairie area.

Considering the solid group of people who love to come to Minneopa for the programs, Kudelka was not surprised that over 30 people showed up to brave the cold.

“It’s a great way to celebrate a New Year,” he said. “For us, it’s about getting people outside, so we start the first of the year by saying, ‘Here we are, let’s do it. “”

When asked why he wanted to spend the first morning of 2022 in the elements, hiker Dan Ploog from North Mankato laughed and replied “Why not? Ploog was there with a group of Cub Scout Pack 98 in North Mankato.

“As Cubs we encourage going outside in nature, so even on the most difficult cold days we are outside,” he said. “We are Minnesotans.”

Minnesota-style, he planned to go home and watch hockey later. The Minnesota Wild played the Winter Classic outdoor game on Saturday night at Target Field in Minneapolis.

Although most of the group is from the Mankato area, Jeremy Kruse was in town in the Chicago area to visit his wife’s family. The actor, writer and filmmaker went from 60 degrees in Arizona on Thursday to about 35 degrees in Chicago on Friday in frigid conditions on Saturday in Mankato.

The progressively colder climates must have helped Kruse acclimatize, his stepfather, Tom Weigt, joked.

Weigt volunteers with Friends of Minneopa, a well-represented group on the hike.

It’s important to stay active outside even in the cold months, Weigt and Kruse agreed. It helps clear your head and relieves stress.

After the approximately 1 mile hike ended, hiker Judy Beahm from Mankato came to greet Weigt. Back on Thanksgiving morning, a much warmer day, they did a group run to Minneopa.

She and Carol Marston were newbies to the day one hike. They said they would have been ready for an even longer hike.

“We love the challenge,” Beahm said. “We are warm Minnesotans.”

Minneopa was one of three state parks in Minnesota to host day one Saturday hikes. Two others were canceled.

Kudelka saw 97 people come to his hike in Minneopa in 2020. As a winter lover he doesn’t mind the cold much, but given the conditions, he said having 34 hikers on Saturday was nice to look at.

For Tim Pulis, another Friend of Minneopa member who volunteers as a bison ambassador in the park, embracing the cold with a hike seemed like a great way to start 2022.

“It’s a cool tradition to go out here,” he said. “It makes you feel like a real Minnesotan on a day like this.”

The park has more recreational opportunities for winter lovers coming this month. A beginners snowshoe hike is scheduled for January 8, followed by a candlelight event on January 15.

Follow Brian Arola @BrianArola


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