Winter Sport?


It's been too cold this winter to really enjoy the great outdoors, here in Chesterville -- for me, anyway. Not that I'm a warm-blooded southerner, used to swaying palm trees and soft ocean breezes (by the way, doesn't that sound great right now?) 

No, there weren't many palm trees in the Adirondacks where I grew up. Just lots of snow and bitter cold days, like here. But, when the weather cooperated I still liked to go sledding, building snow forts and, later as a teenager, ice skating with my brother on a frozen pond.


When I caught the photography bug later in life, hiking in the woods in eastern Massachusetts became a part of my winter activity. With a higher density of people there, trails in winter were often walkable in a good pair of hiking boots, if the trails weren't actually plowed in spots. Nice for the leisure hiker.


Maine's a little different in that respect.  Taking a hike in winter here takes on a whole new experience.  Snowshoes are a must. Now, I like old things, and having a degree in Anthropology, I like to experience first-hand how people lived in the past. So, my snow shoes were bought at an antique store and are of wood and sinew construction. I'd used them on unbroken trails in past years in deep snow and they worked quite well.  Not so, this year.


There's a wide trail near the house that goes to the top of a hill, with a nice view of the surrounding country. The cold this year had kept me too long in the house, and a couple of weeks ago, when the temperature was finally able to get into the 20s, I decided to strap on the snowshoes, sling my camera bag over my shoulder, and climb to the top of that hill.


Getting to the bottom of the trail was pretty easy, as it was plowed road all the way. Starting the ascent, however, I started to notice something odd. The snow this year was like a fine powder, the kind you find covering that doughnut you know you shouldn't eat but always do.  The snowshoes were sinking in quite deep, and moving through the snow was difficult.  Each step was a challenge, lifting one wooden snowshoe from behind to the front, shaking all the powdery snow through the gaps in the lacings. Climbing the hill became a focus of step-shift-lift-shake-step -- repeat as needed. 


A quarter of the way up, I stopped and rested.  The quiet of the woods was broken only by my panting (ok, it'd been a while since I'd done this kind of exercise...) I just kept telling myself: I can do this.


Half-way up, after a few (ok, many) stops along the way, I came to a large ridge of snow across the trail.  Shouldn't be a problem, I thought, I'll just go over it and keep going.  Wrong!  Little did I know I'd found the equivalent of snow quicksand.


Starting over that ridge, I realized the cold weather had produced small flakes all winter and no thaw and high winds had created some hazards you don't normally see. My snowshoes hit that drift and sank out of sight, and I was in up to my knees. As I struggled to go forward and pull the snowshoe behind to the front, I sank deeper, feeling the shoe I was standing on go sideways and sink to the bottom. I was now almost up to my waist and, balance gone, I toppled over backwards.


Snowshoes are great for walking on top of snow, but sideways, two feet into a snowdrift, they were lead weights anchoring me in.  Not good.  I had snow in places I never want snow again.  I was literally swimming in snow, trying to get out.  No luck, every move just pulled my snowshoes deeper.  I was wet and cold and getting colder. At one point, I stopped the struggle and thought I heard a dog bark. Was that the Saint Bernard with the brandy barrel strapped to it's collar, ready to pull me out? Unfortunately no.


It was a slow process, but I finally twisted my body forward, and along with a few twisted knee tendons, got to a place where I could grab a small tree at the side of the trail and pull myself upright again. Then it was only a matter of pulling those snowshoes to the top of the snow and slowly make my way back to the path I created coming up the hill. Cold, wet, half-frozen, I made my way back to the house.  Not a single photograph taken that day.  The wood stove heat felt great though.


Now that we've had a few thaws and there's a bit more of a crust on the snow, I may try that climb again soon.  Then again, my next trip up that hill may be after the first robins of spring are spotted. 


acTually, iM not that good at sports but as you have said about winter sports...sounds so intersting after all...i cant imgaine myself being there at winter playing sports...kindah hard but i think it will be great..

Sounds to me like the wood stove is the best part of winter!

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This page contains a single entry by JeffAdminist published on July 8, 2009 6:30 PM.

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