Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Years Weekend Recap

I hope everyone had an enjoyable holiday season.  The break was nice but there was not much sitting around for me.  Visiting with family, starting some projects around the house and of course snow shoeing; my new favorite winter time fitness activity.
Sunday I took my son Wyatt out for his first time snowshoe hike.  We got out just as the sun was setting and watched the stars come out. 
We visited a city park just 5 minutes from home proving one of the big benefits of snowshoes; Anywhere there is a bunch of snow is a good place to go.
  Wyatt is slightly tall and lanky for his eleven years and this build makes him perfect for snow shoes.  He took right off with it and said he thought the experience was pretty cool.  He liked seeing all the animal tracks in the snow and we had fun trying to identify the critters who left the various trails.
I love playing by myself in the great outdoors but taking my son out and introducing him to new experiences is most rewarding.  It's probably my favorite part of being a parent.
Monday was New Year's Eve and by this time I had been out snowshoeing three days in a row and I was beginning to feel it in my legs so I spent the day inside.  I did head down to my basement gym and got in a solid shoulder workout.
New Year's day I was ready for more so I drove out to hike the Stoller Road Trail. Stretching along two miles of the north shore of Clear Fork Reservoir this trail system is about ten miles from my house so even though it is a short trail it's close to home and a fun place for a hike or bike.

The entire north shore is wooded so only in the winter when the leaves are down is the shoreline visible for any distance.
Whitetail Deer are plentiful in the area.  While I was hoping to see some on my hike the elusive big game stayed out of sight.  Their sign was everywhere though. I call this picture the whitetail highway.  All of these tracks were made from hoofs.

My goal on this outing was to spend less time on established trails and more time breaking trail.  On my previous hikes I noticed that while moving the back of the shoe kicks up some snow and I found that after a while the back of my pants above my boots was getting wet.  I wore my gaiters and that solved that problem.
It is super easy to walk on trails that are already beat in by booted feet but I think that's kind of missing the point with snowshoes.  They truly excel where there is no trail and that I think is what makes them so much fun.  I spent much of the day honing my off trail bushwhacking skills.  The picture below shows where I descended a ten foot bank crossing a ravine.  The angle was so steep I had to go sideways and "stair step" down the hill.  Basically it's the same technique I use while on skis
Log hopping is a breeze with snow shoes on.  I've gone over logs and tree branches on my cross country skis but its a much trickier affair usually accompanied by much falling down.  On this trek I crossed numerous gullies, ravines and downed logs and only lost my balance once and had to brush off the white stuff.
The only thing I have to remember is to make a good strong jump off the top of the log so that the tails of the snowshoes clear.  The landing is always nice and soft because of the large footprint of the snowshoe absorbs the momentum as I land in the deep snow.  It's actually a lot of fun!
Another curious thing I noticed that took some getting used to was coming across smaller logs laying on the forest floor.  As the ten inches of snow continued to fall it piled up on top of the log as well as the surrounding ground marking the position of the wood beneath in a long ridge.  As I approached I stepped down squarely on the ridge always expecting to feel the teeter-toter effect as my foot came in contact with the log.  Instead what happens is the snowshoe squashes down the snow ridge and then  the large surface area of the shoe comes to rest on the snow on each side of the log and in most cases I couldn't even feel the wood underneath.  If the log's diameter was bigger than the amount of snowfall then I would bottom out and rock on top of the log.  It's a cool effect of the snowshoe that I had no idea of and another example of how they work so well for off trail maneuvering.

In a few short days I've managed to cover about 12 miles with these funny looking things strapped to my feet.  And honestly I can't remember ever having so much fun getting around under my own steam without a bicycle between my legs.  Now I have walked in a variety of snow conditions from fresh powder to three day old crust.  At Mohican early in the day the snow was wet and I experienced it packing up under my heel like a big hockey puck stuck in the lattice of the shoe.  Later in the afternoon the temperature dropped and snow quit packing up.  For $40 dollars I've had a huge amount of fun trying out a traditional shaped snowshoe and now I have some practical experience to guide me in a potential search for a pair of modern shoes.  I'm smitten with the winter sport of snowshoeing and definitely see more of it in my future.

The winter landscape is beautiful. 

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