A Focus on Old Hwy 61 blog and photos By Gail Gates

“A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water.” – Carl Reiner

A lot of people DO like snow.  And cold winter air.  And the silence that is so loud it causes one to hear in new ways.

Now that we are moving into February, and the calendar still has that “new year” smell, what are some things to do along Old Highway 61?  Well, my friends, strap on your winter boot cleats, and come along.

Depending on your spirit of adventure, there’s a great article on winter kayaking in the Minnesota Conservation Volunteer.  Wait. What?

Winter kayaking? Winter kayaking? Yup, and yup.

The story features the beloved Kettle River in Banning State Park, which is just a smidge north of Sandstone, MN.  It also displays enticing, “who would actually do that?” kayaking photographs by Jim Blake. 

As long as you are in and around the Sandstone stretch of Old Hwy 61, check out the Kettle River Watershed mural by Carole Bersin, located at the Sandstone Train Park. 

The photos of her mural, taken around the time of the grand unveiling in October, are by Paul Raymond and generously shared.  As he writes, It’s an amazing work, taking Sandstone from the Ice Ages through the lives of the Ojibwe/Chippewa/ Anishinaabe people, through logging and fur trade days to the quarry period and to the present day of whitewater kayaking and rafting, ice and cliff climbing, music and arts that make Sandstone such a wonderful town.”

Speaking of the aforementioned ice and cliff climbing, stop by Robinson Park, which is a little east of Sandstone. Even if you’re not into climbing ice, it’s a beautiful thing to see the massive sheets of frozen water hanging like elegant crystal chandeliers from the sandstone cliffs.  Note: Bring. A. Camera.  You can thank me later.

Not that you asked, but since you might be getting hungry…one of my favorite lunch spots in Sandstone is “Sprouts on Fifth.”  Delicious homemade food, locally sourced when possible.  421 Commercial Ave N, Sandstone, Minnesota 55072. I think they close around 2 p.m., so be aware!

Just 30 minutes south of Sandstone you’ll find the Pine City community and the two lakes where ice fishing enthusiasts like to spend their winter weekends. Pine City hosts its annual Lions Ice Fishing Tournament on Saturday, February 9th.

First place is an enticing, “I can now buy gold-plated minnows,” $2500!!!  In winter that is known as cold, hard, cash baby.

If pulling fish out of the icy depths doesn’t bait your hook, there are ski trails at Jay Cooke State Park, by Carlton, MN…

And if none of that sounds enticing because, well, baby it’s cold outside, consider a weekend stay at a small town B&B along Old Highway 61, and then shop, eat, drink, and enjoy.  Those trips are the memory makers!

Spring is a few months off (the ground hog is notoriously unreliable), and life is short.   Seek out what brings you happiness every day.  I suspect you’ll find some adventures along Old Highway 61 to warm your heart and invigorate your soul.

And then tell us about them!

For more winter fun ideas check out the regional events calendar on our website or follow our page on Facebook for links to other community information!