See Winter With Snowshoes

January 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

18F in Boston this morning? Think of it as 265 Kelvin. Ahhhhh … balmy.

Dedrich's first snowshoe experience

Dedrich's first snowshoe experience

A lot of folks stock up on cheesy snacks, big bowls of chili and DVDs when the weather report points to a frigid weekend. Or they take advantage of a JetBlue special and find relief in warmer climes. Not Jennifer and I. We dress in triple layers of silk undies, wrap the scarves ’round our heads like little Randy, and head out into the snow.

Last weekend, for instance, while at the Vermont ski house, we strapped on some snowshoes and went for a little adventure in the Jamaica State Park. A camping destination with hiking trails by summer, this spot is just as entertaining covered with 2 ft. of snow. The main trail – a former railroad bed – is wide enough for two unofficial “lanes” – one for cross-country skiers and one for walkers/snowshoers. This trail hugs the West River, and it’s really amazing what a flowing body of water can turn into when winter sets in. It really is gorgeous. Plus, with many springs darting out from the hilly sidelines to find their way to the river, the trail is lined with some spectacular icy graffitti.

River in winter

The West River in winter

An ice cave!

Jennifer takes a chilly risk

If you’ve never snowshoed – it’s not hard. It’s WALKING with these lightweight things on your feet. Their design makes you a bit more buoyant on snow – you don’t sink in as much. The forefoot is firmly attached to the forward part of the snowshoe, and heel is not. Like a cross-country ski. So when you are walking and push off with the ball of the foot, your heel is free to rise without bringing the snowshoe with it. Much easier than when Trapper Francois was chasing lynx in the Canadian wilderness.

Snowshoeing = walking on snow

The one difference between snowshoeing and actual walking is this: Because the snowshoes extend the width of your foot but maybe two inches on each side, when you are standing still, your legs are just a big further apart than normal. When you walk, your legs remain just a tad further apart to prevent the shoes from clanking against each other. It’s a bit of a Frankensteinish gait. Snowshoes can clank together, it’s not going to hurt anything, except it’s just annoying.

Snowshoes are equipped with crampons on the undersides. It’s like having a metal bear claw attached to your foot. Is there ice under that snow? Afraid it’ll make you slip? Two words: metal claw. No worries, you’ll remain safely upright. The bear claws also make it possible to walk UP a snowy include that is sure to have icy stuff just under the surface. A set of walking poles is a big help when snowshoeing up a slope by providing leverage and balance.

Walking UPhill, thanks to the snowshoes' metal bear claws.

A couple weeks ago, Channel 5’s news magazine Chronicle had a segment about a guy from New Hampshire (I think) who is big into snowshoe running. What? Running? Apparently snowshoes are available that are specially designed for running in the snow. They are narrower than regular snowshoes, so that when you bring you leg/foot alongside the other, it’s at a more natural position. This guy was bookin’ it, too.

Considering I needed to get a weekend workout in, I decided to step up my snowshoeing pace on the 1.5 mile return to the car. Actually, I ran back all the way. It was more of a quick shuffling back and forth, but my heart was pumping and my blood and lungs were getting a good workout. And when you work out like that in the cold, you might as well be on a Miami beach.

Strap on some snowshoes and go see something other than a movie this weekend.



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