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Brief Snowshoe Review

>> Monday, January 4, 2010

It had been another packed holiday weekend, with my father-in-law visiting from South Carolina, a family wedding to attend, and all sorts of other attendant chaos.  It was actually a wonderful four-day weekend, but too packed to find time outdoors.  Thus, by the time I woke up on Sunday morning I was positively itching to steal a few minutes for snowshoe testing before the rest of the day's plans began in earnest.

I got up at the crack of dawn and in -7 wind chill, with my bleary-eyed husband groggily asking what on earth I was doing up at that hour.  I donned layer upon layer and bravely ventured forth.  Here's what my high tech snow measure read:

It was 17" of the fluffiest snow conceivable.  The streets hadn't really been plowed,

so I just wore the snowshoes as I goose stepped, wobbled, shuffled and occasionally flailed my way to the trailhead for the Erie Canal path.

Getting used to walking in snowshoes can't be particularly pretty, although had there been anyone else out I am certain I would have provided him or her with a few moments of high comedy.

When I got to the trailhead, I was pleased to find no snowmobiles had beaten me out.  I generally figure the first hours of weak, pale, winter morning light are my best bet for avoiding the motorized vehicles that seem to be always driven by night owls.  Only trouble was, I hadn't reckoned on how the trailhead might look without a trail having been broken by some of those motorized vehicles:

Yoikes.  That horizontal beam that can just be seen over the snow is about 6 1/2 feet high, and is a gate intended to prevent cars from driving down the path.  I stood still and gawked for a beat, and then clumped right on up and over that massive mound.  My descent down the back side of the pile was a graceless slither, a split, and a bump.  But the reward was quite lovely and Narnia-esque:

I trekked about for perhaps an hour snapping pictures, some of which I'll share in another post.  I got good and frozen, and took a general measure of my gear thusly:
  • It cannot be best to evaluate one's snowshoes in this kind of absurdly fluffy snow.  They don't do a whole lot of good, aside from beating down the snow around where you're about to step, and preventing you from sinking in to the hip in that big old mound of snow at the trailhead.  This jury is still out on the effectiveness of my MSR's in keeping me from disappearing up to my neck at an inopportune moment.  I believe tails are going to be very necessary.  Further updates shall undoubtedly follow once I find some varied conditions.
  • Likewise, this jury is still out on the bindings.  Once I get the infernal things on they are perfect in every way - completely secure and comfortable.  But getting the little metal tooth into the little hole in the plastic in the first place is a talent that thus far eludes me.  I will be an exceedingly happy camper if I can learn to master the art of fastening the bindings without removing my mittens.  Brrr.  
  • I need insulated boots.  At least I do when it's only 9 degrees out with wicked, whipping winds.  So much for trying to save money on them - wool socks and hiking boots can only do so much.
  • Thank goodness for the person who first thought of snowshoeing with poles.  Once I develop the knack of walking in snowshoes so I no longer repeatedly step on the left shoe with the right one I will undoubtedly need them less, but Miss Grace here is going to be eternally reliant on poles to some degree in order to remain continuously upright.
  • Equally thank goodness for the person who invented gaiters.  Love them, love them, love them.
  • My new Auclair mittens rock.  I picked them up at Wear On Earth in Potsdam, NY last time I was up there.  (Great store, by the way).  I grabbed them because I've never been satisfied with the Scott skiing mittens I had for extremely cold weather like Sunday's.  The Scotts had glove fingers inside the mittens.  Query: what is the purpose?  If one cannot separate one's fingers because they are all stuffed inside a mitten, what's the point of having them separated inside the mitten by glove fingers?  All those things did for me was allow any individual finger to get icy, and prevent me from warming it back up by sharing heat with the other fingers.  Not sure why I bought them.  Maybe it's just me and my Raynaud's that makes them impractical.  Regardless, the Auclair mittens are honkin' warm, waterproof, fuzzy inside, and windproof.  They're also blindingly reflective.  They're probably too warm to be good for weather above about 19 degrees, but perfect for the wicked days like Sunday.
  • Contact lenses rock.  That may seem like an odd observation in a commentary on outdoors gear, but if I had been wearing my glasses I would have been in serious need of windshield wipers.  Now if only I can find some kind of snow and rain repelling spell for the camera lens...


New York Land Man January 4, 2010 at 12:12 PM  

I love the Narnia-esque photo.

Woodswoman Extraordinaire: January 4, 2010 at 12:37 PM  

Thank you NYLM - that particular spot produces wonderful photos in every season. The trees arching over the Erie Canal trail just seem to call "come see what's down here".

swamp4me January 4, 2010 at 2:19 PM  

How about adding a pair of neoprene socks over the wool socks until you can afford insulated boots? I've done that with my hiking boots to get a little extra umph out of them.

reneĆ© January 5, 2010 at 7:31 PM  

love this post!
reminds me of my first pair of snowshoes...i couldn't wait to use them and ran around my neighborhood with them on.
many folks probably thought i had a screw loose!

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