“Snowshoes don’t allow you to magically skim across the surface like a water strider on a summer pond,” advised an article I read recently. Well, that is just too bad, because I really wish they did precisely that. When I set out from Redding’s Brinckerhoff Preserve yesterday afternoon, I thought I might hike over to the ledges on the far side of the Devil’s Den, a round-trip of 6 or 7 miles. I had brought microspikes and snowshoes, but it was soon obvious that it was the snowshoes I’d be wearing; and equally obvious, as I crossed the big meadow near the Preserve entrance, that big feet would not stop me sinking plenty into the powder.
It was a beautiful afternoon to be out, cold but cloudless. The bright, white woods were a joy to see – but a pain to walk through. I still sank 6 inches into the snow with every step, and my big clown feet increased the physical and mental effort expended. I moved forward too slowly for my liking, but sweated to do so. Winter hikers should avoid sweat, as wet layers will chill soon enough; but I baulked at the bother of stripping off and stowing my jacket. Not far over the line into the Devil’s Den – a line that is also the Redding-Weston boundary – I knew the ledges would be beyond me.
After covering perhaps a mile and a half in an hour, helped here and there where deer had trampled down the snow, I stopped where the trail called Ensor’s Trace meets the Donahue Trail and a brook. Although this spot is less than half a mile from people’s homes, it felt that it could have been deep in big woods. No one had come this way since the last snowfall. Apart from a solitary trail marker sticking out of the snow, there were no human sights or sounds. I had hoped to look out from high ledges, but this patch of woods would do just fine.
I have owned snowshoes for a while, but have not used them frequently. I might need to improve my technique, or at least manage my expectations. By the time I was back at the big meadow, I felt like I’d had a good workout. This morning I got an e-mail from a hiking buddy talking about his new snowshoes. “They are a remarkable improvement over boots alone in deeper snow,” he says. I guess that is the point. You don’t magically skim over the surface, but at least you are out in the snow.