I do not know if it was receiving snowshoes for Christmas, or the slow start to our snow year, or the often icy snow which may cross country skiing less than 'fun'. I think a primary reason might have been the opportunity to get some trails packed in before the snow began falling in earnest. Whatever the reason I spent much more time in snowshoes this year - and really enjoyed it. However, there are some 'tricks' to snowshoeing in powder snow. Here are a few I've learned:
Choose your hiking companions carefully. A couple of furry friends are always happy to go. It is never too snowy or too cold or too windy or too . . .In fact, it is never anything but perfectly good day for an adventure.
Even more important - especially when rebreaking your trail after a new fall of fresh, deep powder (or - even more so - when creating a new trail), take along the rest of the family and all the friends you can find. While I LOVE my solitary treks (just the dogs and I), when there is new trail to be broken or an old trail to be reopened, the more feet the easier!
After just one good storm, even the best tramped in trail will nearly disappear. In fact, in spots which receive any wind to speak of, even a light snow can remove all traces of your prior passage. And, as I have found - the biggest KEY to keeping a snowshoe trail open in powder snow is to traverse it regularly. If you do not, it will just disappear. And, even if you do, as you can see in the picture on the right, it can still vanish (those are moose tracks - mine trail should be to the left middle).
Another obviously KEY is DO NOT FALL DOWN! While this is obvious - typically only 9-year-olds boys like to roll around in the snow - I have learned it is also very important. For, once the snow gets deep, it can be nearly impossible to get up. After all, there is nothing solid anywhere near the surface. Thus I have found myself wallowing around like a beached whale trying to find a surface to press on and get myself up. However, the only such surface is my snowshoe!
While my next 'key' will not make any noticeable difference to your snowshoeing excursion, since it is the KEY reason why people (at least the key reason why I) snowshoe, I think it ought to be in the list. My point: Look. While I have only seen a few moose, a few ducks, and a few birds, I have seen many tracks. It is always fun to see what has passed this way before my arrival - and the snow doesn't let them do it without leaving behind proof. On the left are the tracks of a running coyote. On the right the tracks of a weasel. In spite of all the weasel tracks I saw this year, I never saw the critters during my excursions.
The rest of the photos in this post are just to share the various tracks I have seen. In addition to weasel tracks (by far the most prominent tracks in the areas I have had tramped in trails), coyotes and fox have left behind their signs.
I have seen where a grouse landed in the snow (very cool - I didn't have my camera), the distinct claws of a weasel (I wouldn't want to meet him, small thoough he is, in a tight corner. Those are wicked looking toenails! Again no camera), the tracks of a lone wolf (yeah, you guessed, no camera), some small bird tracks (yeah. . .), tracks of a couple of elk (shown previously) and these tracks. The one on the left is from a squirrel. The one on the right . . .? I do not know.Some little critter. . .
Of course there are my tracks (seen above). But, more importantly, there are the tracks of my two always-ready furry hiking buddys. While these photos do not give perspective, Bo's track is quite impressive. In the snow his track can be nearly the size of my handprint (and, remember, a wolf's tracks begin at his size and go up!)
The photo of Rosie's track (on the right) was taken under a ridgline tree where the wind had scoured the ground nearly bare. Because her toes do not spread like Bo's, it is quite difficult to get a distinct photo of her track in soft snow.
And so - you now know the keys to enjoying snowshoeing in powder snow. Perhaps, like me, you've always thought it too much work for too little pleasure. However, IF you keep the trail open, it can be a TON of fun and a great workout to boot.
Lady of the Lake