My iPhone beeped a message from the Weather Channel: “Winter weather alert for the Kennebunks, 2 AM to 7 PM. Snow accumulation: 6-7 inches. Temperatures, mid-20s.”
“Where’d I put my snowshoes?” I hollered to Mr. Wonderful right after breakfast. (“No, you don’t have to go with me.” “Thank the lord!”)
Here’s what’s nifty about snowshoeing. It requires zippo skill. You can walk? You can snowshoe. You own a down jacket, waterproof mittens and wool hat? You’re dressed. You need to nuke calories you’ve been fussing over since New Year’s? Snowshoeing burns 420 to 1000 calories per hour, depending on terrain, weight and speed.
I first snowshoed in Aspen years ago while on a travel writing assignment for WALKING magazine. Rather than ski Ajax Mountain, my editor suggested I try snowshoeing. Since I possessed significantly fewer downhill techniques than Lindsey Vonn, and it was snowing buckets in the Roaring Fork Valley, snowshoeing sounded like a better bet.
What an adventure! I saw deer, rabbit and fox tracks meandering through fresh snow. I spotted rosy finches and chickadees flitting around snow-laden pine trees. The only sound other than the wind coming off Ajax was the staccato rat-a-tat of a lone woodpecker. It was a spectacular and memorable winter wonderland.
Hooked? You bet. So a year ago, I asked Santa for a pair of snowshoes. Mr. Claus delivered. But a bad back stymied any snowshoe treks last winter. That’s now history.
Today I left the house and headed straight for Webhannet Golf Club adjacent to our property. Neither our driveway or street had been plowed but that didn’t stop me from stepping over and through the deep drifting snow.
I even popped in to visit good pals Bob and Susan Gunter, and their dog Maddie, a few streets over.
Snowshoeing is hardly a “new sport.” Thousands of years ago people used rawhide laces to strap on contraptions (some an unwieldy seven feet long!) made of ash timber frames. These paw-shaped original snowshoes were considered “essential tools” by trappers and fur traders, as well as Native Americans foraging for food during the cruel winter months.
Today’s snowshoes are usually less-than-two-feet long and feature aluminum frames with crampons. They are light and sleek, and allow you to hike through the woods, on trail or off, in a variety of snowy conditions. Ryan Alford, publisher of Snowshoe Magazine, said, “A lot of people think of the wood frame snowshoes from hundreds of years ago, but the modern day snowshoes look and feel almost cool.”
One confessional tip: the first time I used my snowshoes, I adjusted the poles to my height. (FYI, poles stabilize the upper body and help establish a walking rhythm.) The bottom of the pole features a round doohickey that allows the pole to “float” on the snow.
My doohickeys kept falling off. So I drove up to Freeport, marched into the LLBean Return Desk and showed the salesperson my faulty poles.
“Well,” he said, “let’s try this.” He pulled the round doohickeys off, turned them upside down, and slid them back onto the poles. They clicked into place. They didn't fall off.
Problem solved. Doohickeys now stay on the poles. I can forge new trails. It’s all good.