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Winter adventure awaits at Hemlock Crossing

By Rose White/The Holland Sentinel • Jan 7, 2017 at 2:00 PM

WEST OLIVE — Winter has hit, but that doesn't mean staying inside and avoiding the cold.

There are many parks, trails and outdoor activities to take part in, including Hemlock Crossing and Pine Bend county parks in West Olive. Hemlock Crossing is the eastern entrance and Pine Bend is the western entrance.

The parks’ connected 239-acre greenway runs along Pigeon Creek and has miles of trails, riverfront views and small creatures to look out for. This massive green space was developed from 1997 to 2000 and completed in 2010.

Although the park is great to explore during the summer, it offers plenty of outdoor adventures in the winter.

The casual visitor can walk the trails by foot. The park features scenic outlooks and unique bridges. Although the trails are clearly marked with maps along the way, walking through the park feels like the traveler is lost in a Narnia-like winter escape. Pedestrians can take in the white landscape dotted with evergreens.

Those up for more of an adventure can rent snowshoes on site from the Nature Education Center. Rentals are $6 for two hours and can be checked out when there is a base of at least 6 inches of snow.

Guided winter walks occur semi-regularly. These will be done on foot or by snowshoe, depending on how much snow there is.

There are more than 10 miles of cross-country ski trails waiting to be tackled. These groomed paths range in difficulty from advanced to beginner.

For those just starting out, Hemlock Crossing has ski lessons starting this month. Ski rentals are available, but resources are limited. The class is $8 for each hour-and-a-half lesson, and rentals are $8 for a two-hour period.

Finally, visitors who get cold exploring the park can warm up in the Nature Education Center's lodge. This woodsy building has a fireplace where hikers can warm up with a cup of hot cocoa for 50 cents. It also has a bird-watching room with large windows peering out over Pigeon Creek and information about the diverse wildlife that can be seen throughout the park.

Hemlock Crossing and Pine Bend are open daily between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. during the winter season.

To learn more about these county parks and others in the area, visit miottawa.org/parks.

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