Outdoors
My brother bought me a pair of snowshoes for Christmas, but the New Year didn't bring new snow, so I didn't have much of a chance to see what the sport was all about.
If the (snow)shoe fits ... 031214 OUTDOORS 1 Alaska Dispatch My brother bought me a pair of snowshoes for Christmas, but the New Year didn't bring new snow, so I didn't have much of a chance to see what the sport was all about.

Jeff Lund Photo

The One Duck trail officially ends at a muskeg, but with snowshoes, that's where the fun starts.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Story last updated at 3/12/2014 - 2:26 pm

If the (snow)shoe fits ...

My brother bought me a pair of snowshoes for Christmas, but the New Year didn't bring new snow, so I didn't have much of a chance to see what the sport was all about.

When winter decided to show up last week, I threw them in my truck and headed out the road to a Forest Service trail half an hour from my house in Klawock.

I like the hike because it's pretty steep and puts you directly across from some of the tallest peaks on the island. Though it is a favorite of many, I rarely have to share it, which is another bonus.

I strapped on my snowshoes at the trailhead and started hoofing. Though I've hiked the trail dozens of times, the whole experience is different thanks to the amount and freshness of the snow. The branches hang lower, light makes it way through the timber at a different angle and of course you're wearing snowshoes rather then hiking boots or sneakers.

I understood intellectually that snowshoeing would be more strenuous than an ordinary hike, but mental preparation didn't do my calves and quads any good. I was sweating profusely while my legs were confessing they weren't in the shape they lead me to believe they were. So we worked out a compromise - they promised to get me to the top as long as I gave them a break after the steep spots.

Once my legs and I reached the part of the trail where the timber broke up, the arguing stopped. All the plowing had been worth it.

It's strangely satisfying to ruin something so beautiful because rarely do you have such control over the totality of destruction, or permission from Nature seemingly encouraging you over the next untouched crest.

I wondered how I'd ever write this. It's the role of a writer to explore language with enough intimacy to be able to create images that take the reader from black words on white backgrounds to the mountain itself - an image of stunted bull pine and cedar drowning in drifts of white all under a flawless blue sky. Between the scattered trees are natural chutes and runs but at such a benign slope that a real backcountry snowboarder would have difficulty taking them seriously. They're the type that Shaun White could have done as an embryo.

I sat down and concluded my trailblazing. I was finishing off an energy bar just before heading down when it again occurred to me just how alone I was and how great it felt. Naturally, around the corner below me came a pair of snowshoers and dogs.

"Should have been here a few hours ago, helped me break the trail."

I didn't mean it, but I figured it was a friendly greeting. As difficult as it was to plow up a mile of snow-covered trail, you don't always get a chance to enjoy solitude that fresh and crisp.

We chatted for a few minutes, then they continued past me, and I started down.

The going was less demanding physically, but more challenging technically.

My shoes went from a brilliant invention to distribute my weight over a larger area, to clumsy platforms strapped to my boots. There was less resistance, but when the snow turned from step to slide, it took feats of balance to stay upright.

I got back to the truck and stretched a bit before the drive home. I was beat but deeply satisfied.

As a lover of the outdoors, I know snowshoeing will provide plenty of entertainment as long as the snow is around, taking me to places a thesaurus can't figure out. I guess that's why sometimes writers need cameras.


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