Exploring Town & Country via running snowshoes

  • Article by: SARAH BARKER , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 26, 2014 - 8:16 PM

Not one for following groomed trails, our correspondent heads to the picturesque and hilly terrain of St. Paul’s Town & Country Club for some unfettered exploration on snowshoes.

hide

At Town & Country Club, the hilly terrain treats trekkers to views of the Minneapolis skyline and more. The site was once considered for the State Capitol.

I asked for running snowshoes for Christmas to, you know, make winter more fun. Here’s what I’ve discovered so far — golf courses! I’ve even identified my favorite golf course, Town & Country, on the bluffs of the Mississippi at Marshall Avenue in St. Paul.

I don’t golf, nor do I belong to private Town & Country Club, so it’s a special treat (Read: It’s legal and management-condoned) to drink in the 30-mile vistas, to gambol over undulating snow-rounded contours and disappear into the course’s hidden glen with spring-fed stream during the winter. It’s like a nature sanctuary, right here in the neighborhood.

No, really. Town & Country is a Certified Audubon Sanctuary, managed as much for native flora and fauna as for people who enjoy whacking a little white ball. I learned that and all the following interesting facts from Town & Country’s Certified Golf Course Superintendent Bill Larson. The more obvious stuff, not to mention the panting, is all me as I strap on my snowshoes and head out on a multifaceted tour, workout and mind-clearing meditation.

Here’s what I like about snowshoeing: I don’t have to follow the holes from one to 18, nor the groomed cross-country ski trails that loop this 100-acre course. Liberating! I start with a bang, upward from the Otis Street entrance until my pulse is both visible and audible 20 feet away. One of the Twin Cities’ most popular sledding hills is vacant on this weekday. Turning around at the top, it’s apparent why this was once considered a potential site for the State Capitol: Panoramic views of the skyline of downtown Minneapolis, the old Sears tower in south Minneapolis and far-off office buildings in Bloomington are tied together by the line of trees that edge the Mississippi and the various bridges that cross it — Ford, Lake Street, railroad, Franklin.

The inspiring views and scenic riverfront location midway between St. Paul and Minneapolis figured large into Town & Country Club’s purchase of the parcel in 1890. The land had been four farms. Member William Peet and his acquaintance George McCree, a Scot who brought his love of golf, used some practice shots and a lawn mower to lay out five holes, marking them with soup cans and fishing pole flags. That was in 1893. I’m wheezing atop the first golf course in Minnesota, among the first five in the country.

Golf gained popularity at Town & Country over the next four or five years, so $2,000 was budgeted to lay out nine holes with proper tees and greens. The minimal recontouring was accomplished with literal horse power. Since this had been farmland, there were very few trees. The towering cottonwoods along Marshall Avenue may be 160 years old, but most of the carefully inventoried linden, silver maple, oak, Kentucky coffee and spruce were more recently planted by greenskeepers.

Onward, soft-serve snow formations invite me farther into the course. And what’s this? A deep vale, not visible from the perimeter, with a spring-fed pool at the bottom that flows year-round, meandering through a wooded glen until it disappears underground and empties into the Mississippi. It’s quiet here, out of the wind. I follow along the banks looking for the trout Larson says are in residence. Bat and wood duck houses and a mallard nesting basket are built along the stream. Partway up the steep, brushy hillside, I find a fox den with fresh footprints. I can’t tell if they were made by the fox or curious dogs following the scents of this surprisingly rich microcosm.

But enough of this still idyll. Let the lung shredding begin. As I head toward the far side of the course, a skate park of parabolas presents. Momentum gained on the downslope helps me up the other side. Down and up, down aaannnndd up. This is the least trammeled part of T&C, which is nice because I don’t need an audience for my slightly unusual trips through the half-pipe.

Shuffling now, I investigate an impressively constructed igloo on yet another high point. From here, I can see the roof of the tree-hidden maintenance building. What appear to be hay bales are, upon further inspection — hay bales, put there to protect the bee hives. Town & Country works with the University of Minnesota Bee Squad on this, one of many sustainability initiatives.

The raison d’être for Town & Country is hills, so I try to hit every one. Movement catches my eye as I puff through a group of spruce. A dog? I look for the attendant dog owners, see none and realize this dog has the purposeful trot of a coyote. We pause, size each other up — a large coyote and a quickly tiring snowshoer/snack — and go our separate ways, mine with renewed energy. Under a massive spreading oak, its dark branches etched against the bright blue sky, I follow a ridge that, thankfully, leads downward to the main entrance. As I take off the snowshoes, a red-tailed hawk circles silently overhead, a serene send-off to my hourlong run and respite.

Sarah Barker has snowshoed on seven golf courses in the metro area.

  • related content

  • Dion Snowshoes are made in Vermont. ORG XMIT: MIN2013112213374751

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

Toronto 1 Top 5th Inning
NY Yankees 1
Washington 2 Bottom 5th Inning
Miami 0
NY Mets 3 Top 4th Inning
Atlanta 0
Boston 1 Bottom 3rd Inning
Baltimore 0
Milwaukee 0 Top 4th Inning
Pittsburgh 0
Chicago WSox 4 Bottom 3rd Inning
Tampa Bay 0
Cleveland 0 Bottom 1st Inning
Minnesota 0
Detroit 0 Bottom 1st Inning
Kansas City 0
Seattle 0 Bottom 1st Inning
Houston 0
Los Angeles 1 Top 1st Inning
Chicago Cubs 0
Texas - N. Tepesch 2:35 PM
LA Angels - C. Rasmus
Philadelphia - A. Burnett 3:05 PM
Oakland - S. Kazmir
San Francisco - R. Vogelsong 3:10 PM
San Diego - I. Kennedy
Arizona - W. Miley 3:10 PM
Colorado - C. Bergman
Cincinnati - A. Simon 7:05 PM
St. Louis - L. Lynn
San Diego 13 3rd Qtr
Buffalo 3
Dallas 10 3rd Qtr
St. Louis 21
Washington 20 2nd Qtr 0:13
Philadelphia 14
Houston 0 3rd Qtr
NY Giants 14
Minnesota 6 3rd Qtr
New Orleans 13
Tennessee 0 3rd Qtr
Cincinnati 19
Baltimore 10 3rd Qtr
Cleveland 7
Green Bay 7 3rd Qtr
Detroit 12
Indianapolis 30 3rd Qtr
Jacksonville 0
Oakland 3 3rd Qtr
New England 10
San Francisco 3:05 PM
Arizona
Denver 3:25 PM
Seattle
Kansas City 3:25 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 7:30 PM
Carolina
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
Columbus 2 2nd Prd
Carolina 1
Buffalo 4:00 PM
Washington
St. Louis 5:30 PM
Columbus
Calgary 7:00 PM
Edmonton
Edmonton 7:00 PM
Calgary
Old Dominion 45 FINAL
Rice 42
Troy 0 FINAL
(12) Georgia 66
Georgia Tech 27 FINAL
Virginia Tech 24
Eastern Mich 14 FINAL
(9) Michigan State 73
Iowa 24 FINAL
Pittsburgh 20
Bowling Green 17 FINAL
(19) Wisconsin 68
Maryland 34 FINAL
Syracuse 20
Tulane 13 FINAL
Duke 47
Hawaii 12 FINAL
Colorado 21
Marshall 48 FINAL
Akron 17
North Carolina 41 FINAL
(23) East Carolina 70
Army 21 FINAL
Wake Forest 24
Virginia 33 FINAL
(20) BYU 41
(6) Texas A&M 58 FINAL
SMU 6
Rutgers 31 FINAL
Navy 24
Central Mich 10 FINAL
Kansas 24
Utah 26 FINAL
Michigan 10
Florida 21 FINAL
(3) Alabama 42
Louisville 34 FINAL
FIU 3
Fla Atlantic 19 FINAL
Wyoming 20
Indiana 31 FINAL
Missouri 27
San Jose St 7 FINAL
Minnesota 24
Texas State 35 FINAL
Illinois 42
Massachusetts 7 FINAL
Penn State 48
Georgia State 14 FINAL
Washington 45
Appalachian St 20 FINAL
Southern Miss 21
(14) Miss State 34 FINAL
(17) LSU 29
Northern Ill 14 FINAL
Arkansas 52
Middle Tennessee 17 FINAL
Memphis 36
Utah State 14 FINAL
Arkansas State 21
Miami-Ohio 24 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Idaho 24 FINAL
Ohio U 36
Ball State 23 FINAL
Toledo 34
(13) So Carolina 48 FINAL
Vanderbilt 34
(4) Oklahoma 45 FINAL
West Virginia 33
Ga Southern 28 FINAL
South Alabama 6
UNLV 14 FINAL
Houston 47
Miami-Florida 31 FINAL
(21) Nebraska 41
New Mexico 38 FINAL
New Mexico St 35
Clemson 17 FINAL
(1) Florida State 23
California 45 FINAL
Arizona 49
San Diego St 7 FINAL
Oregon State 28
(2) Oregon 38 FINAL
Washington St 31
Louisiana 9 FINAL
Boise State 34
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(24) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(11) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(25) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(12) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Kentucky
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(9) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
NC State
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(22) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(13) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
North Carolina 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Clemson
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(17) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Duke 9/27/14 6:30 PM
Miami-Florida
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(8) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(21) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(18) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Chivas USA 2:00 PM
Toronto FC
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 23 FINAL
Hamilton 25
Calgary 8
Montreal 15
Ottawa 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close