A new year is upon us and by now you’ve quite likely broken a resolution or two. You’re not alone, as several studies have found about half of all resolutions are broken within the first two weeks of the new year, and in particular, the second Friday of January has come to be called Quitters’ Day as a result.
So, rather than a resolution, I offer a suggestion — several new ways you can enjoy the outdoors this year.
As a Flatlander still working on finding his footing in this topographically-diverse terrain, nearly every way to enjoy the outdoors around Sheridan County this season is new to me; although, those ways may not be new to you. Fortunately, I have access to a few friendly experts, to whom I posed the question: What are some new ways folks can enjoy the outdoors this new year?
Tami Sorenson, Sheridan Community Land Trust’s trail manager, was quick to suggest sledding on Red Grade Trails — though not down the road or ditch like quite a few already do.
“There’s a fantastic sledding slope to the left of The Hub, when looking uphill,” she said, describing the spot where the Prairie Loop and Tip of the Woods Loop crisscross.
Don’t know that spot? Don’t worry, there’s a big map at the trailhead.
Tami suggests making a day of it.
“People can bring their sleds or skis, lunch, hot drinks, whatever, and enjoy the day, the view, and the snow,” she said.
Since Red Grade Trails are public land, feel free to get off the trail — just don’t build a fire as that’s prohibited; you can stay warmer by building a snow fort or snow cave.
The Hub is also a fantastic beginner’s ski slope, which makes it a perfect place to practice up on your pizza and french fries so you’re not a bomber in the shadow of Bomber Mountain at Antelope Butte.
However, if you’re like me and know that even the most baby of bunnies is still a black diamond, you can always strap on the long skis (or snowshoes) and venture up U.S. 14 where our friends in the Black Mountain Nordic Club groom trails at Sibley Lake and Cutler Hill. They’ll also be hosting a learn-to-ski event at South Park in Sheridan on Saturday, Jan. 12, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. That’ll get you ready for their Saturday night Moonlight Skis at Sibley Lake on Jan. 19 and Feb. 16 from 6-9 p.m.
If a bit of derring-do is more to your liking, you can head to the Tongue River Water Trail where you can ski, skate, hike or even bike along the stream to see some seasonal views few folks actually ever experience. Of course, I stress that you use great caution if you choose to do so. The Minnesota DNR — folks from The Land of Always Winter — advises that ice never freezes uniformly, especially over flowing waters, and that ice is usually weaker on outside bends because of the faster current.
Still, SCLT board member Don Crecelius said biking the Tongue River Water Trail in winter is a splendid way to spend a day. He explained that snow on the ice lets you read some very interesting wildlife stories through the tracks left behind.
“It’s a great way to beat the cabin fever, and it’s close to home,” he said.
He recommends studded tires for traction. Remember, stream banks in Wyoming are private, so you’ll need to stay on the frozen river proper, but there are 14 access points along Tongue River and Goose Creek. A map can be found at rivertrip.sheridanclt.org/map/. Oh, and I cannot stress this enough: no ice is 100 percent safe.
Of course, if you’re more of a landlubber, fat biking continues to grow in popularity.
“It’s fun as heck!” exclaimed Jordan LeDuc, who, as president of Bomber Mountain Cycling Club and an owner of Sheridan Bicycle Company, is one the area’s most knowledgeable two-wheel advocates. He explained that fat biking lets riders ride year-round — whether it’s on the trails or on your way to work. Best yet, as Jordan explained, “It doesn’t push you inside and on a boring trainer,” which could help you keep your New Year’s resolution.
You’ll have to invest in equipment, but Jordan said folks can rent fat bikes from him and take them out for a spin. Soldier Ridge Trail provides an easy opportunity right on the edge of Sheridan, while Red Grade Trails is a perfectly fine place to grind the white gravel, too. You can also ride the Nordic trails at Sibley Lake and Cutler, and at Antelope Butte.
If you made it this far, you’re “snow” quitter. And no matter what you like to do, resolve to get outdoors this new year and enjoy what makes our community so special. See you outside!
Chris Vrba is the director of marketing and development for Sheridan Community Land Trust.