My intro to snowshoeing

My beloved and I once received a pair of snowshoes each as a Christmas gift. They were something I'd always wanted but would never buy for myself: the perfect gift. I was secretly pregnant at the time, and that winter to get healthy exercise I'd don my snowshoes in the early morning and pad around the country farm where we lived. I especially loved to find some snowbound drama of predator and prey, where perhaps one steady set of tracks would meet another leaping set of tracks, with signs of scuffle and blood, and nobody to know or witness except one puzzled woman on snowshoes. They seemed like secret stories left in plain sight for me to unravel, and accessible only because of my particular footwear.

When we moved into town I put the snowshoes away for a while, until another perfect Christmas gift, cash, allowed me to purchase a bright headlamp. I pictured myself using the headlamp to snowshoe on a local woodland trail in the gloaming, trudging along, perhaps alone or perhaps with my young daughter, and soaking up the quiet muffled tranquility of the coming dark and the deep powdery snow. This actually happened soon afterward, when I spent one magical late afternoon with my child in that very gloaming in those very woods. Then the snowshoes got put away again.

Until this year. This year when the snow came, I kind of freaked out because I couldn't run in it. I am now so addicted to running and regular exercise that the problem of SNOW threw me for a loop. How do I run in this stuff? What can I do instead? How am I going to survive until spring? After a few days of worrying and some helpful Facebook support, I realized that winter was here and I should probably roll with it. And if I want to get out and exercise in the snow, I should use my snowshoes!

This past Sunday was a perfect opportunity. We'd just had our first significant snowfall when about a foot fell overnight and then cleared up by dawn leaving a winter wonderland. At the time of my traditional Sunday long run, I geared up with snowshoes and headed into the woods.


One person has been here before me...

It was so fun to be active in a new way, and the woods were lovely. I even practiced some run-walking on my rather wide snowshoes. Snowshoing is hard work though. I could run about 7 miles in the time it took me to snowshoe 2.

That brings me to yesterday morning, when the group that I run with during the warm season turned out to be a group of snowshoeing beasts. Through our email forum I was invited to join their annual Ascent to the Star, which is an early morning snowshoe up a nearby mountain to the top where a Yuletide star is lit up (in bulbs) year after year.

Above: Using my trusty notebook to plan everything I would bring; At the last minute I added a thermos of hot tea.

We met at 5am and headed up the mountain in fresh snow under a full moon. 22 people and about 6 energetic dogs were there. It was an amazing experience, with great camaraderie among the trekkers, some jokes about our slow single-file ascent resembling the Hillary Step (I was thrilled to be in a crowd that makes casual Everest references), and immense and rewarding physical effort to make it to the top by snowshoe.

Here's my reward, a photo of the star from beneath. It's at least 20 feet tall.

When we got there we toasted to health, wealth, and happiness and made remarks about which of the 3 was most important. I had a welcome slug of Bailey's Irish Cream. Coming back down the mountain was a blast, since we were all motivated to get home and warmed up as quickly as possible. We took a lot of shortcuts and slid down very steep slopes on snowshoes and backsides, which I learned has the elegant name of glissading. At the bottom, my new friends even helped push my car out of the snowbank where I'd managed to lodge it when I first arrived.

The experience was one of those incredible group activities that is so satisfying, even though so simple. I felt proud and accomplished afterward just for getting up really early and putting one foot in front of other for 2 miles up and back a mountain. What an amazingly achievable pleasure, to set a physical goal and then reach it and feel proud! What's next!?

1 comment:

Wendy said...

Beautiful posting ... love both the doing and the writing, the "soaking up the quiet muffled tranquility of the coming dark." Love, too, the transition from running to snowshoeing. Hurray.