Winter exercise: snowshoeing

For the last eight years we have talked about snowshoeing during the winter.  While I was in school it was a non-issue: no time for me to spare for exercise.  But now, what was my excuse?  I had none?  We didn’t have the equipment and there wasn’t a place we knew of to rent it locally.  Have you ever snowshoed? What did you think?

Hubby works with a snowshoe guru, a retired military man with survival skills and outdoor know-how, that shared his copious knowledge with Hubby to ensure our experience was great from the first time out.  That is a resource we didn’t count on when we dreamed of renting a couple pair of shoes and testing the theory.

His advice:

  • buy high quality shoes the correct size for our respective weights
  • buy poles, they are a necessity
  • gaiters (covers for your shoes and lower legs) are also a necessity
  • don’t over dress; you are exercising
  • don’t get lost

An internet article on snowshoeing Hubby read told us to wear comfortable shoes, like sneakers, because they are lighter than hiking boots and more flexible.  Armed with such knowledge, how could we go wrong?

Snowshoes, poles, and gaiters ready for some snow.
Our Christmas gift to each other was snowshoes; we need to get up and move even when it is cold.

For Christmas Hubby got me snow shoes and poles; I was delighted!  We went to buy his shoes and poles two days later (couldn’t think about going in to the stores the day after Christmas) and he found us gaiters on line.  We anticipated their arrival with butterflies as they were the last of the gear we needed to get out and do it!

Last weekend, despite the heavy cloud cover and rain in the valley we drove toward Bluewood, our local ski area.  We hadn’t even driven that direction on the motorcycle before, so it was all new territory.  Using their bathrooms and chatting with the gal behind the counter we realized we had passed the snowshoeing area.  The sun made an appearance that morning so it was a busy day for them.  Our drive back out was farther than we noticed as we drove in.  The clouds were still pretty close to the tree tops, but we were determined to get out and try our new toys.

Hubby's snowshoes are on correctly, mine were wrong.
Hubby’s snowshoes are on correctly, mine were wrong.

Leave it to me, I put my snowshoes on the wrong feet to begin with.  Hubby didn’t give me the details about how the ‘cage’ around my foot should cover the outside of my foot, rounding out about my middle toe.  After our selfie he told me that tidbit and I sat down on the truck tailgate to change them.  Ladies snowshoes have a slightly wider outside than inside.  Since we tend to naturally stand with our feet closer together the inside width accommodates that where mens snowshoes are more balanced across the widest section.  It was much better once I made the change.

Wow, all of that information was crucial to us having a fantastic first experience despite our choice of snowshoeing trail.  Ideally we would have found a place that was fairly open, with minor inclines and no impediments along the tail.  Reality was we were in steep terrain, with trees across the trail and some areas where the rocks and tree branches posed a raised bridge over the trail where our poles were useless.  To get onto the trail we had to descend a six-foot nearly vertical slope of mostly ice.  I backed down the slope, using my poles to balance as I placed my feet as close to the snowy edge as I could manage.  Hubby tried to avoid the ice entirely by going down a side slope (no trail).  He faced forward and tumbled all the way down.  In all of my hiking I learned to step sideways when on a steep slope and walk backward down a steep slope; apparently that holds true for snowshoeing too.  Yes, I laughed, but he did too; no damage and we were on our way.

Hiking in the snow never felt so good!  No birds or wildlife to see, but we had to concentrate on getting used to the shoes and figuring out how to navigate obstacles without standing on our larger ‘feet’ or tripping over our poles.  I managed to get snow down the back of my gaiters as the tops were open about an inch letting lots of snow get in there.  The gaiters themselves were warming and I was very happy to have my sneakers on for flexibility.  Getting stuck on arbitrary branches as we climbed over tree trunks, navigating the raised sections and detours off the trail where necessary taught us a lot our first time out.  It was just under an hour but our daylight was limited by the clouds and the rain that started as we set out and got heavier as we walked.

Removing chains from this tire was a group effort.
Removing chains from this tire was a group effort; good people helped make sure nobody was stranded.

As we were getting in to the truck to leave another pick-up entered the parking lot from Bluewood.  They were removing their chains before going on; one of the chains wasn’t on quite right and it was bent in the drive down making it difficult to remove.  With headlamps, phone flashlights  (it was getting dark quickly) and vice grips (provided by another truck that stopped for a moment with four wheelers on a trailer) it took a bit of effort, but the chain came off.  Joining the caravan of vehicles leaving the ski and snow mobile areas we all left the parking lot to return to Walla Walla, feeling the glow of a day well spent outdoors. We turned the heater up all the way home since we got pretty wet and cold getting that chain off.

This weekend we hope to head up to Emigrant Springs State Park (in Oregon) in the Blue Mountains for our second snowshoeing experience.  I am probably just as excited to go this second time snowshoeing as I was last weekend for our first.  If you have snowshoed, please share your wisdom with this neophyte!

When we got home we had a hot bowl of vegetable soup and a lovely glass of Locati Pinot Grigio.


3 thoughts on “Winter exercise: snowshoeing

  1. I’m looking forward to this weekend’s venture. With 40 degree temps & a deep snow pack on the Blue Mtns it should be fantastic. The scenery & exercise should make for a great experience.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Since I don’t ski, and have definitely snowshoed! The poles are very important, especially where I go snowshoeing, up Tiger Canyon in the Umatilla National Forest and up the North Fork of the Walla Walla River. Most of my experience is hiking in a half mile or so, then ascending the sides of the mountains until I reach the top and then come back down. You have flat land shoes, which are longer, and mine are shorter and have the “televators” on the back side which can be flipped up to make it easier to climb the mountains. We will have to go together!

    Liked by 1 person

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