Welcome to Big Old Goofy World . . . a place where I can share my thoughts, hopes, and dreams about this rock that we live on and call home.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Adventures in the Snow--Snowshoeing

The youngest son received a set of snowshoes as a Christmas gift this year from his girl friend's mother.  This, to me, is a significant gift in that it tells me that the girl friend's mother knows my son well and really, really likes him a lot.  It is also significant in that it saves me money because I no longer have to rent the snowshoes for him.  I thought it was a wonderful gift though I was surprised that she really liked my youngest son enough to shell out for a set of snowshoes!  To say the least the child was quite excited to receive the gift.

Thirty minutes after opening the snowshoes the youngest son was asking if we could go snowshoeing on the day before New Years Day.  He raring to test out the new shoes!  He wants to drive down the road, about thirty minutes, to the mountains around Red Lodge, go into the national forest, and do a little winter hiking.  A group of us did this last year around this time and we had a blast.  So, the child has laid down the gauntlet--thrown out the challenge!  Because of this we will probably be heading out early on December 31st over to Silver Run to do a little snowshoeing--we might even get lucky and see a moose!

The primary thing that a person needs to go snowshoeing is a pair of snowshoes.  The picture above is a wooden set with rawhide bindings which used to be quite common many years ago--but still quite popular today with those who like to do their snowshoeing old school style.  They are considered antiques today, but I would love to own a pair and always keep my eyes out for them at garage sales.  To buy this way in a store will cost an individual anywhere from five hundred to a thousand dollars depending upon the age of the shoes.  But, as I wrote earlier, these have been pushed to the wayside in favor of the newer technologically advanced snow shoes--shoe made out of light-weight materials like titanium and aluminum.  These newfangled shoes cost anywhere from a hundred to upwards of a thousand dollars.

The youngest son got a pair of snowshoes from the Yukon Company.  The idea is that the webbing of the shoe distributes the individual's weight so that he or she can walk on top of the snow.  Thus snowshoes are designed with a weight limit and the individual has to make sure that he or she has the right size shoe--if too much weigh is on the shoe they sink into the snow.  The pair above is similar to the pair that the youngest son got for Christmas.  Under the front ball of the feet is the claw or teeth of the snowshoe which allows the individual to get a grip in the snow.  This grip flexes with the foot and is a natural rhythm while walking.  On the top is the binding and this can add to the cost--the faster the binding the more expensive the snowshoes.

My snowshoes come from the MSR Company and are a little different than the youngest son's.  The youngest son's snowshoes are oval shaped, whereas mine are a rectangular shape.  Also, on his the frame is made of tubular metal whereas mine is a flat metal with teeth along the edges.  The teeth along the edges allows for better gripping in the snow, stepping on logs without slipping, walking on ice, and climbing up snowy inclines.  Mine also has the quick binding system and several extra rows of teeth on the bottom to add safety to the equation.

  One of the objectives of snowshoeing is to keep dry and to keep warm.  Now one of the easiest ways to do this is to wear ski pants--either with your jeans on or off (it is a personal preference up to each individual)--but they can be cumbersome when walking through the snowy woods.  Besides, they are meant for skiing, not snowshoeing.  I'd rather thrown on some ultra-light thermals, a good pair of jeans, heavy wool socks, and a pair of gaiters.  Not gators, but gaiters!  Gaiters basically cover the top of the boots and up to a person's knees.  They work wonderfully at keeping one dry and warm--plus they are a lot easier to walk in than a pair of ski pants.  Throw in the usual warm jacket, a good pair of gloves, some thermal boots (boots that stay warm below zero since the feet are in the snow the most) and a person is ready to go.

Oh, yeah!  I almost forgot!  Though I do not use them, lots of folks like to use a pair of poles while they snowshoe.  And, I will admit, that the poles are an excellent tool to have while snowshoeing--especially if you have a tendency to step on the back of your snowshoes while walking.  Stepping on the back of your snowshoes while walking usually results in falling flat on one's rear end.  Without the poles it is always a scramble to get up--the poles make it easier.  Plus they make a good weapon in case you run into some backwoods hillbillies or a rabid moose!  I will probably get myself a pair this year--I'm getting too old for the scrambling around.

I enjoy snowshoeing because it gives me a different perspective on the areas that I often hike in the summer. Though it is the same terrain, it is a whole new world.  The world looks softer covered in snow--gentler and more peaceful.  It is also quieter.  It is a wonderful time to take pictures--enjoy the silence--and get in some exercise.  Snowshoeing is definitely exercise and your body will let you know once you are done.  But it is well worth it.

Here are a few of the scenes from my snowshoeing adventures last winter--first, from Silver Run:

And then from near Bozeman:

Yes, the challenge has been given, the gauntlet has been laid, and I am ready for the adventure.  I am looking forward to the first snowshoe expedition of the winter with my youngest son.  It is the great escape from the busyness and noise of life.  I look forward to the silence as Guy de la Valdene writes in his book, The Fragrance of the Grass: "Of all the sounds that touch my soul these days, the most beautiful one of all is silence."  I like that about snowshoeing and the fact that we have a tradition that finishes the hike--a beer at the local brewery.  Nothing beats a wintry hike with family and friends!

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