Snowshoeing - Part 2
The boys were all getting ready, shouldering their packs carrying extra clothes, sleeping bags, candy, whatever, and getting their snowshoes on. The roads were not plowed in the winter- only the highway. A place to park had been plowed out. Soon we were all ready to go, the leaders were right with us, doing the same, altogether there were about 20 boys and six adults. A lot of food was loaded on a couple of toboggan sleds and all strapped down and we were off for our adventure at the cabin.
Some of the boys preferred walking in the same tracks made by the snowshoers and toboggans, while others wanted to make fresh tracks in the clean smooth snow. I was one of the latter, and it was such a joy to me. The snowshoes took a little getting used to, but it wasn’t long till I was walking pretty strong, I was sinking down about 10 inches I think, maybe a little less, I wasn’t very big.
I would stop occasionally and look behind me at my tracks, it was magic. The shape of the tracks was artistic, long, straight, impressions in the snow, with the sides of the tracks cut pretty cleanly straight up and down and crumbly piles of snow on either sides of the tracks where the loads of snow had been thrown out to the sides by the webs every time you lifted them out of the track. You could see the long tail marks made by the back of the snowshoe where the two sides came together in the middle at the back, everything seemed so artistic to me. The call of the geese, and swans was such a wild sweet sound- and you could hear the whistling of their wings as the golden eyes flew by going down or up river. This was heaven on earth to a 12-year-old boy. The air was cold, but it smelled so fresh and alive somehow. You could smell the river and you could even smell the snow. Snow has an odor, to me it’s pleasing.
I looked ahead and could see the men pulling the toboggans and the clean track left behind them, the sun casting a blue shadow from the south side of the track and bright white on the side of the track on the north, facing back toward the sun. Some people hate winter, and there are times when I don’t like it that much myself, but on a bright sunny day, when the snow sparkles and the sky is that amazing blue color and the forest is dark green, and the river flows along so quiet, and the sun gleams off its surface, and the waterfowl call in their joy—well winter then is one of the most beautiful times of the whole year, it’s spell binding.
Eventually we came to Bishop Brunt’s log cabin. We all took our webs off, standing them up in the snow, sitting on the tails. We went inside the big garage—upstairs was a sleeping loft with room for almost all of us. The leaders started a big fire in the fire place in the cabin and soon there was hot chili and hot chocolate for all hands. Now this was living. We sat around the fire, feasting and talking, and just enjoying being alive in such a great place.
For the next two nights and two days we just had a ball. Eat eat eat, play play play, sleep sleep sleep. The weather cooperated, sunny all the time, at night it got way below zero, maybe 30 below. During the day as warm as maybe 20 above zero. We snowshoed way up the river. We saw moose out in the river eating the luxuriant moss. No elk or deer—they all had migrated out. We saw beaver and mink, muskrat, fox and snowshoe rabbits. The smoke bellowing out of the chimney of the cabin was so picturesque. Snowshoes are often called “webs” out here in Wyoming and most other places in the west. I have spent a lot of time on snowshoes over the years since that first time and have enjoyed almost all of it. (There have been a few not so good times.) But the magic of that first time has always sparkled in my memory picture post card perfect.
I did learn about snowshoe sickness on that first trip. That’s where the muscles and tendons in your groin get over worked lifting the snowshoes out of the tracks with the snow that has fallen in on the top of the shoes when they are laying in the bottom of the track as you step along. Over a period of time the first or second day, if you walk enough—those muscles and tendons cramp and knot up, and a Charlie horse in the groin is quite the deal. Pain wise, 1 to 10 it’s pretty close to a 10. But after that you’re broke in and it doesn’t bother you. Snowshoe enough and you can become a web master and that is high tech. I can tell my kids I know a lot about the web. “Sure Dad, sure you do.” “What does he mean?” “He can’t even log on.” “Sure I can,” and if it’s really cold I’ll put two or three more logs on” (the fire). My kids put up with me. Somehow!