Last Thursday we went out snowshoeing for the first time this winter. We went to a local mountain that is only a ten minute drive from our house. The snow was deep, and the trees were covered as well, their branches bent low over the trail. It snowed lightly the entire time we were there, which seemed fitting. Because the day was generally dark and dull, it was difficult to take good photos, and the first photo below is actually from our second snowshoe walk three days later, when we went to a local nature reserve. The trail on the mountain looked quite similar, though: trees, snow, and not much else, creating a landscape that was a study in black, white, and grey.
We just started snowshoeing last March, so we’re not too experienced yet, but one thing that I love about it is how much easier it makes walking in the snow. Normally, when I walk in the snow, I find my feet sliding either backwards or to the side with every step I take, which means that I have to put a lot more energy into walking, and I’m focusing much more on simply maintaining my balance rather than enjoying my walk or appreciating my surroundings – even if I’m walking on the packed snow of a trail. Snowshoes, however, both grip onto the surface and provide a wider surface area for walking, so that your feet don’t sink into the snow as deeply and you are more stable. Wearing snowshoes, I feel like I can just walk normally and relax. Modern snowshoes are relatively light, narrow, and small, so – at least for me – they don’t get in the way or require you to drastically change the way you walk in order to wear them. Here’s what my feet look like in my snowshoes:
As we walked, we saw several Snowshoe Hare tracks heading off at right angles to the trail, but we didn’t see any wildlife. The snowshoes make so much noise crunching into the snow with every step that it makes it difficult to even hear people talking to you, let alone approach any wild animals without them hearing you. Western Redcedar was the most common tree on the north side of the mountain, where – in summer – it remains a bit cooler and moister than on the south side.
We spent an hour walking through the snowy woods, but we didn’t make it to the top of the mountain that day. It was our first trip of the winter, so we wanted to take things slowly. Walking in the forest in winter is a very different in experience than walking through it in summer. It amazes me that animals – especially herbivores, such as hares and deer – can survive the winter when so many of the plants are buried under the snow. We humans can only survive if we are bundled up in cumbersome clothes, and even then it is a relief to be able to come back inside afterwards to the warmth and a bowl of homemade cookies.