I haven’t taken the snowshoes for a spin yet this year. Over the last couple weeks much of my time spent outdoors has been shoveling snow or working, not wandering around as I like to do. But this morning my trail through the back yard and wandering down towards the fields was coated with five fluffy inches of new snow, and my snowshoes were calling my name.
I opted against taking my four-legged companion with me this morning. She likes it best when the trails are already laid out and she can trot along with ease; she’s nearer to eleven than ten years old, so I let her have her Saturday morning snooze.
It was still early, and the morning light drifted soft golden beams through the trees as I started out on my little trail. The deer use my trail, and they were out during the night, fresh tracks highlighting the path I wanted to take.
This morning was cold, but not unpleasant; the snow, soft and fluffy compared to recent storms, made little puffs with each step.
When I was a child I had a pair of bright yellow snowshoes, but I didn’t fully appreciate them at the time. My siblings and I enjoyed sledding more than snowshoeing and spent most of our winters careening down the hills, building jumps to launch the sleek torpedo sleds into the air, or taking the runner sleds down the back driveway, steering around a right angle and seeing who could go the farthest.
I didn’t really get into snowshoeing until my late teens when my best friend and I, along with the plethora of brothers, spent a couple weeks blissfully engaged in the hard work of tapping. The sugar wood where we were occupied was accessible by snowmobile, but the pails themselves were deep in a February snow and we had to snowshoe into the woods to collect five gallon buckets and bring them back down to the snowmobile and dog sled, to be hauled out to the waiting truck and trailer.
That first time on snowshoes, I borrowed a pair – three feet long, curved wooden frames, leather lacing. I spent the better part of an afternoon stepping on the back of my own snowshoe and falling down, but I didn’t spill a bucket of sap. By the time the sun set, dropping cold air like a blanket over the woods, I had the hang of it. I even managed a stream crossing without incident.
I’ve always loved being outside and in the woods. Snowshoes give me the freedom to wander through the winter months until I can get back to my mountain slopes. With my snowshoes – not the borrowed wooden ones, but my own pink aluminum frames – I feel limitless, the whole winter world open to me.
This morning I followed the deer tracks to the end of my trail and turned around again. My snowshoe tracks were staggered and I set back towards home, staggering the tracks in the opposite pattern to pack one smooth trail, two snowshoes wide. I forgot how much I love this.
It’s still early as I work back towards home, and the songbirds are chattering in the trees overhead. A squirrel rustles the trees overhead, shaking down snow like powdered sugar from a sifter. There are soft cat paw prints in the dooryard when I get home, from a neighborhood visitor I’ve never met. The sun is creeping up over the treetops now, and it’s time to start the day.
Inspired by the author’s love of Mount Abraham, or Mount Abram for locals, Thoughts from the Summit is a column celebrating and exploring the great outdoors in and around Maine’s High Peaks region.