‘Little Miss’ will go far—on snowshoes

I fell in love with snowshoeing in 1972 when I was 12 years old. I loved the activity most because it was something we always did together as a family.
The wooden “Beavertail” snowshoes with leather belted bindings were too big, and my winter boots often got stuck in the toe hole because I didn’t push my foot far enough to the bar.
My snowshoes were too long for my height and I couldn’t do the 180-degree turn like my dad could. When I tried, I invariably ended up in a contorted heap in the snow like a long-legged newborn giraffe—unable to untangle myself and get up.
I still loved the whole experience.
Those long winter walks over the frozen creek bed, across the field, and into the thick forest behind my childhood home remain crystal clear recalls for me, as if they happened yesterday.
We had the same destination every time in that forest. My parents, my brother, and I negotiated up and over the snow-covered rocks and the barbed wire fence before arriving in the big pines, where we’d build a little fire from sticks and pieces of wood lying around.
The canvas pack sack my dad carried on his back would come off and be opened to the eagerness of my brother and I, as the hotdogs went on roasting sticks and the buns, ketchup, and a thermos of hot chocolate made the picnic around the warm fire.
The family dog always came along, and I imagine the hotdog or two it would be passed from the outstretched hand of a child was more than enough reward for the work it took to get there with us through the deep snow.
In all the years since those good old days, my love for snowshoeing has never wavered.
Today I fit the Beavertail snowshoes. I fondly have nicknamed them my “Salcherts” and I dream about the Snowshoe Olympics.
I think I could be a contender for a medal. I’m not suggesting I’d strike gold, but I sure feel like a winner when I’m out there piling through all that white stuff that Mother Nature left behind.
I love it so much I just want to start snowshoe jogging and never stop.
I tried that Sunday at 8 a.m. when on a field mission to the “Ranch” for buckwheat pancakes and scrambled eggs. The snow was untouched and as deep as the Grand Canyon and I was off on my solo quest—chest puffed out, my Olympic-sized ego in tow, headed for the gathering table and stories about cowboy poets.
Suddenly, I had a strong urge to veer right and head for the bush line far across the creek, but then realized I had no pack sack, no food or matches, and no note left behind to tell loved ones where to come looking for me should I go missing.
Back on track, and despite the fact that I thought I was going to have a heart attack and keel over into a snowy hole only to be discovered in May, I lapped up the distance in record time.
However, I did look back over my shoulder a few times hoping my favourite outdoorsman suddenly would appear on a white snowmobile and offer me a ride. Unfortunately that’s not what happened.
It’s times like these, during strenuous hauls of my Greek goddess frame, when I am reminded that my piano legs are a mighty tool.
Many years ago, someone saw a picture of me wearing shorts and bluntly said, “Your legs could hold up a piano.” I wasn’t quite sure if that meant my legs looked enormous or strong.
I’ve never been model-material, but I know for sure that against the odds, my piano legs could beat the pants off the best of them hiking a mountain path or hauling trail on snowshoes.
The only thing that continues to be missed on a snowshoe hike are those canine capers that used to follow close behind me, refusing to blaze their own trail for fear that I would eat the dog treats they could smell in my coat pocket.
In fact, so close did they follow that they often stepped on my snowshoes, hurling me face-first into a snowdrift.
I recall a past snowshoe day when the dogs bolted off down the creek bed with their noses to the ground, fast on the scent of creatures unseen, and disappeared around the bend.
I was standing there listening to the sound of my heart pounding when the dogs came roaring back in my direction, followed closely by what I thought was a wolf—and they were leading it straight to me in the wake of their own terror.
My first thought was to release myself from my snowshoes and use them as shields, but I didn’t think I could get them off fast enough.
My heart was in need of a defibrillator by the time I realized it was not a wolf, but a much larger neighbourhood dog.
All three canines arrived at my feet with tails wagging for those treats I still had in my pocket.
Ah, for one more of those good old snowshoeing dog days.

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