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We’re still running wild and having fun in the snow! Before we both buckle down and try to be productive, we had one more day of frolicking in winter’s white beauty. On the streets the snow has long ago turned to blackened mush, but outside the city it remains pristine and welcoming. How can one resist?

Nationaal Park Zuid-Kennemeerland is a swath of sandy dunes and beach scrub between Haarlem and the North Sea, a mere 20 minutes away from the city. It was scheduled to be not only the last sunny day for awhile but also the last day cold enough to keep the ice frozen, so we passed hundreds out skating on the canals.

Our goal was a nice hike, though, so we found the entrance to the park and headed out on an exploration. Of course, right away, we came across a frozen lake. A little ice-skating track had been set up, with families taking full advantage. We left the path and walked right across the lake instead of all the way around. So daring!

The path wandered through patches of trees, sandy dunes, scrub, and snow, taking us far away from the crowded streets of Amsterdam. Who knew this was so close to us? And who knew cows were ever this hairy?

We finally reached the beach, and I experienced my favorite moment of cresting a hill to be welcomed by the blue sea. We made it! Frozen sand encrusted the beach even though the waves kept rolling. The sun shone bright as it lowered in the sky. Life was good.

After a good 8km hike, we rewarded ourselves with local Haarlem beer at Jopenkerk brewery, toasting our sore feet and cold bodies. Hooray for winter fun!

{If you’re interested in going, we took the train from Amst Centraal to Overveen, the stop past Haarlem. The entrance to the park is a short walk away from station, but check a map–there aren’t many signs. The park has maps and routes posted, and we chose to walk to Cafe Parnassia, about 5km. Then we walked down the beach to Bloemendaal an Zee, and took bus 81 back to Haarlem! About 8km in all. Not bad.}