Treasures of Oz

Celebrating the Natural Gems of Ozaukee County

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Recreation

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The holidays begin and the calorie count gets higher.
The days are short and and we sit by the fire.
Roly poly

Time to set a plan for winter playtime, winter workouts and best of all, winter adventures in Oz.  Ozaukee County is a great place to play outdoors in winter, stay in shape and discover winter treasures.

Cross-country skiing.  If you can walk, you can do this.  Of course, as you learn and practice, cross-country/ Nordic skiing can move from a slow walk in the woods to an art form that lets you glide effortlessly over hill and dale.  Groomed trails are nice, especially if you prefer skate-skiing, but cutting trails on your own is great exercise and fairly easy if the snow is not too deep.  At more popular skiing spots, trails are usually cut by someone who gets out even earlier than you do.

Snowshoeing is simply walking with snow shoes on - no special training is needed.  It lets you stay on top of the snow and allows you to walk into the woods in ways that skiers cannot - efficiently going between trees with tight turns.

Hok skis made an appearance in Ozaukee last winter.  They are short skis that offer the climbing and tight turning capability of snow shoes but glide nicely down hills and on flat terrain.  We expect to be seeing more of these in the parks this year.  Hok skiers say they are the perfect blend of skis and snowshoes.  They don’t provide the same long glide on the frozen rivers that cross-country skis do, nor are they as fast going downhill as long skis for those who crave great speed, but they get you up the hills and down at whatever speed you are comfortable at.  Many skiers use a long stick as a rudder to control their speed, rather than traditional ski poles.

Nearly any trail in a park or preserve can be a good ski or snow shoe hike. Going around the edges of the golf courses (staying clear of the greens in light snow) provides a nice variety of terrain and both MeeKwon and Hawthorne Hills golf courses have both flat and rolling areas to pick from.

Good trail manners dictate that snow shoe trails should be laid and followed next to ski trails, not through them.  Having clean ski tracks makes skiing much more efficient.

Two favorite county treasure trails are Shady Lane and Tendick Nature Park-West (125 acres).  Shady Lane Natural Area at the north end of Hawthorne Hills County Park (which has even more trails on its 57 acres)  provides beautiful scenery along the river.  It just opened in 2013 and is one of the loveliest trails in Ozaukee.  Tendick Park offers long stretches of fairly flat terrain and some nice trails through the woods.  Tendick offers lots of parking.  For Shady Lane, you need to park along the park’s road.

Harrington Beach State Park (715 acres) is the only Ozaukee ski area that has groomed trails.  The Quarry Lake Loop is a favorite, just for the beauty of the trail alone.  Terrain is flat to gently rolling.  A state park pass is needed for Harrington.

Riveredge Nature Preserve offers extensive trails for skiing and snowshoeing.  There is a five dollar fee for non-members and snowshoes are available for rent for five dollars for non-members as well. 

Blue Heron Wildlife Preserve is another site worthy of at least one winter trip to ski or snowshoe.  It runs along the Milwaukee River just north of Tendick Nature Park.  There are no fees and there is parking.

Forest Beach Migratory Preserve (116 acres)  and Mequon Nature Preserve (438 acres) offer extensive snow shoe and ski trails.  Both have parking.

Hiking is great in winter and best on paths that get some traffic to tramp the snow down.  One of the perks of winter hiking is that the lay of the land is not hidden behind trees and bushes.  Take advantage of this to explore the parks and preserves with the most interesting terrain:  Lion’s Den Gorge Nature Preserve has spectacular views of the ravines from the trails, features you just can’t see in summer.  Kurtz Woods State Natural Area and Donges Bay Gorge are two Ozaukee Washington Land Trust preserves that are known for their unique and beautiful terrain.

Walks along Lake Michigan in winter open a whole new world of ice crystals and formations.  South Beach in Port Washington and Harrington Beach State park are two of the best access points to the shore.  Lion’s Den Gorge also offers access but includes a twenty minute walk through the park and down the staircase to get there.

With over 40 parks and preserves open for hiking in Ozaukee, you can visit a different one every weekend in winter - actually a lot more than that.  Take your camera.

Sledding - Don’t forget the kids.  Mule Hill in Mee Kwon County Park is perhaps the favorite sledding spot in Ozaukee.  Some other hills of note are found at Quade Park in Saukville, Meadowbrooke and Lime Kiln Parks in Grafton, and four parks in Cedarburg:  Centennial, Cedar Creek, Fischer and Legion Memorial.