Holly Windschitl, 32, Minneapolis
(Organizes women’s gravel-riding events)
Day job: Registered nurse, Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital, Family Birth Center
After being cooped up most of the winter, it feels amazing to get out and ride. Whether it is on gravel, road or a paved trail, cycling is something I wait for all winter. Being able to have your first spring ride in shorts and short sleeves is the best. Spring gravel riding lets you experience the season in some of the most beautiful countryside in Minnesota. The difference in the trees and grass from week to week can be dramatic as things begin to bloom and come back to life — just like I feel I come to life with spring and warmer weather
I think the beauty of spring is the unpredictability. You never know what weather we’ll get, so I find it important to take full advantage of any sunny days. In a perfect world, I would ride with partly cloudy skies, 60-70 degrees, with a slight 10 mile-per-hour wind for all races and rides, but that is often not reality on race days. All three of the gravel races I did in 2015 had rain, so spring weather provides an opportunity to train in less than ideal conditions. I have always appreciated spring weather, and now I have a great hobby to get me out even more often.
I have so many things to be excited about. I have the Miesville 56 (May 1, 56 miles, Dakota County), Almanzo 100 (May 14, 100 miles, Spring Valley, Minn.) and Riotgrrravel (May 21, 33 miles, Hastings area). In 2014, Almanzo was my first gravel race and only my second century (100 miles). The sense of accomplishment and biking high I get is what keeps me coming back for more. I had drastic improvements from 2014 to 2015, so I am both excited and nervous to see what I can accomplish this year. I am thankful for the early spring so I can get as much time in the saddle as possible to prepare. My gravel season will come to an end after Westside Dirty Benjamin (June 11, 100 miles) in Carver County, and my focus will turn to mountain biking until fall.
Tom Glines, 60, Coon Rapids
Day job: Senior regional director, National Wild Turkey Federation
The No. 1 reason turkey hunting is my passion is the gobble of the wild turkey. You can actually talk to the birds, and they talk back! From the moment you yelp on a box call and the wild turkey gobbler responds with a booming gobble in reply, you are hooked. There is total interaction between a human and the gallinaceous bird. It’s spring mating season for the wild turkey.
I love turkey hunting in the spring — the entire woods comes alive. The songbirds are singing, geese are honking, ring-necked pheasants are crowing, sandhill cranes are raucous, ruffed grouse are drumming. You even can catch the crazy acrobatic flights of woodcocks as they pursue mates. It’s a magical moment to be out in nature. Occasionally you come across a newborn fawn, and the morel mushrooms are popping up in certain areas.
I like hunting with family and friends, having time to spend afield away from work. Turkey hunting can be done solo or done in pairs. I prefer to hunt with someone. Oftentimes, I find it more rewarding to help a new turkey hunter find success and show him or her the sport, than it is for me to harvest a bird myself. It’s also a great time to mentor someone about the outdoors and the value of the great natural resources we have in Minnesota and our nation.
Krista Jensen, 35, Minneapolis
Day job: Naturalist, Fort Snelling State Park
We Minnesotans like our T-shirt-and-shorts weather, and I love to add my all-terrain sandals to that ensemble. (Think Teva or Chaco.) So as soon as my feet can comfortably be in sandals for most of the day, I call it spring. And on warm spring, or springlike, days I and my feet will explore metro parks and trails.
I also spend a good portion of the spring waiting for ephemeral spring wildflowers to bloom. It’s always just a little bit later than I think it should be. My favorite wildflowers are the ones that bloom before the trees leaf out: hepatica, spring beauties, trilliums and Dutchman’s breeches. Afton and Wild River state parks should have excellent wildflowers to check out this spring.
While I wait for wildflowers to pop, I stay busy collecting and cooking maple sap both at work and at home. It takes up to 60 gallons of silver maple sap to make just one gallon of maple syrup. It isn’t unusual in March and early April to see me with mud on my boots from tromping around the woods collecting sap (I can’t wear my sandals at work!) and to see soot on my clothes from tending the outdoor fire required to cook down all of that sap.
Kate Hoglund, 27, St. Paul
Day job: Sales associate, TC Running Company
Spring is the best time to get out on the trails. It’s the perfect excuse to forget about pace and just enjoy the sport you’re doing. It’s muddy and wet. You never know what to expect when you show up to run a trail. For me, it’s the most joyous time to lace up my shoes and enjoy the changing weather. It brings back memories of childhood, jumping in puddles and playing in mud. Smell fresh air, bask in the spring sun, listen as animals come out of hibernation, and enjoy every part of nature. Spring is truly spectacular.
The best thing about trail running is spending time in the woods, doing what I love most. There are many wonderful trails here in the Twin Cities, but one of my favorite spots is Afton State Park. The trail is beautiful and peaceful. From heavy woods to meadows, the options are endless for types of terrain and scenery. If I want to stay closer to home, another favorite is Richard T. Anderson Conservation Area in Eden Prairie. Full of hills and technical areas, it is a true challenge and fantastic training ground.
Trail races are a highlight of my spring. From their unpredictable terrain to the unpredictable weather. Racing is a real draw. A must-go every year for me is the Zumbro Endurance Runs (zumbroendurancerun.com) with distances of 17, 50, and 100 miles put on by Rock Steady Running. All are welcome to run whether it is their first trail race or their 100th. Having completed all three distances, I find it an incredible atmosphere full of energy and community. It’s truly extraordinary how many volunteers come to support and encourage runners each year.
David Schwab, 56, Vadnais Heights
Day job: Director of safety and training, Vertical Endeavors
Spring is a time of great preparation for rock climbers. Most of us have spent the entire winter climbing indoors and now are gearing up for a season on real rock. The preparation includes sorting, cleaning and “racking” (or organizing) climbing gear, as well as making plans to climb outside from Washington to Maine and everywhere in between. For me, a 29-year veteran of the sport, it’s also time to make adjustments, which include what climbing area to pick and routes to choose. Every season the routes get a little shorter and a little easier, but they always remain an adventure. My climbing abilities wane somewhat as I get older, but I also get better-looking — so, I consider it a wash.
Rock climbing in Minnesota in the spring always feels rejuvenating after the long winter. It’s great to be out in the sun enjoying climbing with established friends, clients and newcomers alike. In climbing there will always be concerns, cautions and safety issues. As a professional, I find it necessary (and compulsory) to inform my climbing partners and clients of the risk. I always suggest they only engage in the sport with someone well-versed in the inherent dangers. Having said that, I feel that everyone should try it at least once. The indoor environment, in which I primarily work, is an excellent place to give it a try, but be forewarned: A percentage of those who try it will be hooked for life.
I attend the Climbing Wall Association national conference every spring in Boulder, Colo., where I am a presenter. I am often asked by rock climbers throughout the nation, “Where do you climb in Minnesota?” My response usually is that Minnesota has one of the most-scenic climbing areas in the country: Tettegouche State Park, near Silver Bay. We generally climb at two areas, Palisade Head and Shovel Point. Both provide epic, scenic vistas. Both are primarily areas where you rappel down to Lake Superior and then climb back up. This can be quite challenging and sometimes frightening — particularly if you’re a beginner. Everyone should also be aware that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has a program entitled “I Can Climb” that allows for people to try outdoor rock climbing at one of three state parks. Check it out online. See you on the rock.
Kristin Hall, 41, Stillwater
Day job: Conservation manager, Audubon Minnesota
I especially love the first-of-the-year sightings. You can have such a sighting any time of year, but spring is chock-full of them with spring migrants passing through and the summer nesters returning. The best spring moment is when you can go outside and sit in the sun on your porch. It is still cool, but the sun is warm and the breeze is light. Just sitting with your eyes closed, soaking up some needed vitamin D and hearing the birds sing — that is spring!
I think all Minnesotans crave spring by the time March rolls around, so we aren’t too fickle about the weather. If the sun comes out and it is more than 40 degrees, I don’t think many folks complain. As for the unpredictability, that is what makes it interesting. Actually, I am growing more keenly aware of changes in our seasons and am curious to see how these changes impact not only birds, but the insects, plants, and entire ecosystems. If we pay attention to the natural systems around us, they are telling us volumes about climate change and the challenges ahead.
One of my favorite places to go birding in spring is Frontenac State Park and Hok-Si-La Park, both part of the Mississippi River – Lake Pepin Important Bird Area. The St. Paul Audubon Society hosts Warbler Weekend during the first week of May focused on this area because the birds and access to them are really excellent. It’s not uncommon to see a variety of warbler species flitting about in the trees just singing away while you take a leisurely stroll through the park trails.