Modern blue snowshoes

Modern blue snowshoes

Today was a big day.  You betcha.  I opened our shed door and dug around inside until discovering….you’re right….the snowshoes!  Although it’s still possible to walk very slowly in the nine to eleven inch snow base, it’s simply not practical to hike far distances.  Yesterday my knees hurt while exploring out in the snow, so today the snowshoes made their Winter ’09 premier appearance.

Let me tell you — walking in snowshoes is not for the out-of-shape.  Anyone who snowshoes regularly knows it’s a real work-out.  Those of us not in optimal physical shape start huffing and puffing before we’ve maneuvered up and down one or two ravines.  You don’t need to go to the gym if you snowshoe daily.  Do give it a try.  (you may want to build up slowly until your stamina increases to match the pace of the snowshoes.)

One of the ABC’s of Snowshoeing is:  tamp down your first trail and then re-use it daily.  If you break through a foot of snow on Monday, Tuesday is bound to be an easier hike.  By Wednesday you’re grinning at the relative ease.  By Thursday it’s snowed again and you start all over breaking a trail.

This area boasts a famous priest from Slovenia who settled in Baraga County from 1843-1853.  His name was Bishop Frederic Baraga.  He came to minister to the local Ojibway (Annishnabe) people.  Some people think he was a saint; others hold opposite opinions…..yet I admire the fellow for one reason alone.  They called him “The Snowshoe Priest”.  He supposedly walked across the Upper Peninsula on snowshoes many times.  It’s reputed he walked 700 miles across this countryside in the wintertime serving his parishes.  His regular circuit covered distances of more than sixty miles.

Any of you snowshoers believe that?  I can barely walk a mile without panting and this fellow regularly walked 60 miles!  He’s a Snowshoe Hero.  At least he’s my snowshoe hero.  I’m not sure he needed to “save” the Natives, but that’s another subject.  His crowning glory (in these eyes) was his ability to put one foot in front of the other, snowshoe after snowshoe, for long distances.

One thing snowshoeing teaches is the necessity of paying attention.  If one loses concentration it’s likely the two shoes become crossed and….the next thing you know, you’re buried backwards in a snowdrift.  Another lesson:  do not approach a ravine and travel straight down.  Instead, snowshoe sideways.  One usually does not wish to flop head-over-heels down a hill.  Although it’s sometimes possible to slide down the hill as if the snowshoes were skis.

Finally, are you in the market for a pair of snowshoes?  If so, you have your choice of several options.  The pair at the top of the page might be referred to as “modern” aluminum snowshoes.  However, for your consideration, please view the two alternative wooden varieties.  I wore these wooden varieties for many years before begging a modern light pair for Christmas several years ago. 

The snowshoe on the right is called a “bearpaw”.  Doesn’t it look like a bear’s paw?  It’s best for navigating through cedar swamps, in brush, in challenging areas.  The snowshoe on the left is called (according to my husband) a “Michigan” snowshoe.  I couldn’t find this verified on-line, but apparently many locals refer to it by our state’s name.  In the past, long-distance snowshoers would utilize this longer fellow for lengthy cross-country hikes of….say….700 miles across the Upper Peninsula.

The "Michigan" and "bear paw" snowshoe varieties (and me)

The "Michigan" and "bear paw" snowshoe varieties (and me)

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