Snowshoeing – get outside (and what a workout)

My first effort on snowshoes was a couple of years ago, and effort was the right word. It looked simple, and friends who were practised in the art said things like “oh, if you can walk, you can snowshoe” and this was perfectly true. Yet what they should really have said, especially to the unwitting first timer, was “oh, if you can walk comfortably wearing very large overshoes that spread your normal gait wider than is comfortable, while taking exaggerated strides, then you can snowshoe”. That would have been more true.

The physics of the shoes do work. Your weight is spread evenly, and you don’t sink far, particularly on firm snow packs. Not that I believed it – and me being a teacher too – silly boy. That first time was such an effort, getting all sweaty, legs burning and my heart pounding, overheating even in -15 temperatures. I remember thinking “are these snowshoes really necessary?” So I took them off and tried walking without. Sinking almost immediately into midthigh snow and trying to walk even a few metres was a lung buster – that unnatural snowshoe gait suddenly seemed very attractive. Old PlaidCamper never felt as old as he did than in those few steps without the snowshoes. My respect for the wit, wisdom and ingenuity of the original snowshoers increased exponentially with each floundering snowshoeless step. Snowshoes! A marvellous invention and a great way to travel! I put them back on, learned very quickly to adopt a good gait, and imagined I was Huron or Algonquin (go here for a brief history of snowshoes: snowshoes.com).

As much as I love them, skiing and snowboarding are sometimes too fast for taking in the natural beauty of wintry mountain valleys. There are times and days when a slower mode is what I’m after. Snowshoes fit the bill. We’ve gone from borrowing pairs, just to “give it a go”, to acquiring our own, such has been our enthusiasm. Real peace, quiet and solitude can be found on a pair of snowshoes. Especially since, after a few outings, my original laboured breathing, hammering heart, and ponderous lurching has diminished to the point where snowshoeing is perfectly simple. Now it’s all about pine scented air and breathtaking scenery:

Bow Valley, AB, Feb 2015

Honestly, take it from me – an old PlaidCamper – if you can walk, you can snowshoe!

Thanks for reading, and keep your guy ropes secure.

Why Plaid Camper?

Why Plaid Camper? I’m a new blogger so let’s start with an introductory post – and by doing that I’ll answer the question. There are many answers, but I’ll give it a try: I am (possibly) obsessed with canoes, cabins and camping. Oh, and checked shirts. I have too many plaid shirts in my wardrobe – there, I’ve said it. Unless I’m buying beer and outdoor or camping gear, I’m generally not very fond of shopping. Yet I find it hard to resist the allure of plaid. All my adult life, before grunge, through grunge and post grunge, I’ve worn checked shirts. When it was cool, and when it wasn’t, I’ve worn them. I’ve heard it’s cool again because bearded hipsters and lumbersexuals are wearing them. I do know I’m not cool because I overuse the word cool. PlaidCamper Jr told me that. I’ll write in later posts about where my outdoor enthusiasms began – I wasn’t born to it – but I like to think my (lack of) fashion choices played a part. So if I’m walking past a store and the display features even a hint of outdoorsy plaid, I’m in. I don’t always buy one, but when I do, it’s usually plaid. Although every now and then I like to surprise Mrs PlaidCamper – I go all daring and get a denim work shirt or similar. You know, out on a limb. The “old” in OldPlaidCamper? Why, some of the shirts are quite well worn… 

I wish I could write that I have a cabin and a canoe, and I spend many happy hours paddling about, fishing, and wearing my plaid shirts before heading back to fry up the fish I caught. I wish, but sadly that isn’t true, so this blog is called PlaidCamper. Not PlaidCabin owner or even PlaidPaddler, but maybe one day…However, I do have a tent, so it’s PlaidCamper. Not my real name, you may have guessed, but PlaidCamper is who I’ll be on here. I’m not sure I’ve really done much in the way of an introduction, but this first post is for you (and me) to dip a toe in the water. Preferably a lake or a river. We’ll get better acquainted further along as our stories unfold, and that’ll be fun. 

Keep reading if you have a love for the outdoors, you don’t take everything too seriously, and you don’t want to learn survival tips from a grizzled mountain man. I’m getting grizzled, but not so much in a rugged way, more in the aging way. Mountain man? Again, I wish, but it wouldn’t be true. I’ll write about my (sometimes) outdoor life, all the mistakes, confusion (have you read the bear advice?) and misadventures. It might include camping trips, visits to different cabins, how I can start a fire without matches (matches are quicker), or stories I’ve picked up from other happy hikers. I like to cook, so I’ll share favourite outdoor and cabin recipes, and I love movies with outdoor settings (but not you, Without A Paddle), so we can talk about that as well, and just see where this all leads.

I like to write, but I’m not very disciplined, so trying a blog might help me stick to the writing. I start stories but rarely finish them. Friends say “oh, you should write” – I suspect they really mean “please stop talking” but are too polite to say so. More later – thanks for reading, feel free to comment, and keep your guy ropes secure.  Little Bear Cabin, Near Bozeman, Montana