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Snow shoeing in the back country

So You Like to Go Snow Shoeing!
1 Feb 2015

There is nothing like getting out there in the wilderness any time.  I have found that the best time is in the afternoon with a nice sunny day and about minus 15 degrees C. Just because Snow Shoeing is a very active sport. It burns calories and at times feels like hard work.

I started on the unspoiled Campbell Coastal trail in Dipper Harbour after a fresh snowfall of 30 cm. Of course the first few steps were all up hill good to get the breathing going. The snow was deep at certain places up to my hips and the trail breaking was demanding at times. The amount of clothing I had put on was just perfect for the condition as long as I did not stand still for a long time. I did however take frequent stops for about half a minute or so, just to cool down a bit and keep my hearth rate under control.

As I was snow shoeing in the fresh snow, observing plants that were still green, grass that made circular patterns in the snow, trees that were blown over, Moose and Deer trails that crossed my path, and the vistas of the Bay of Fundy and fields of snow of the open bogs, my mind started to write a book on snow shoeing. It was about technique, safety, endurance and comradery.

It took two hours of snow shoeing on the trail and I covered about eight km. There was bush wacking, going through birch groves, clear cuts, and logging road. Most of the time I travelled along the survey lines and deer trails. There was no real issue about my position/location but more about what to do in case of an emergency. The wind had picked up and going into the chilling wind I should have taken my Balaclava. My face was getting wind burned and I thought about possible frost bite on my cheeks. When I finished the trail and removed the snow shoes, I walked with my back towards the wind when I finished. My face felt better and soon to warm up next to the wood stove.

Second day
8 Feb 2015

More snow had fallen throughout the week.  It was time to hit the trail again. Minus ten degrees C and windy. The trail was covered with fresh snow and within the trees it was visible but on the open areas it was like making a new trail. The very grey overcast made the snow look flat. This time the snow was crunchy and hard. Snow shoeing was a lot more noisy but covered the trail in one hour and a half. This time I ran into a Cyote Den and lots of trails. At the end of the trail it finished off with a mature Bald Eagle flying overhead.


Too get ready

To take on some exersice one should physically be ready for that.  There is a lot of determination and stamina required.Once you are committed you have to finish. I say that because it is winter and you are in frigid conditions. Know your limit.

How to dress
It is important not to get cold. Dress in layers. Use thermal underwear, polartek top and bottom, outer layer a breathable light weight top and bottom. Your top should be a hooded garment.Use flexible boots and gaters. Goggles or sun glasses, sunscreen, wool hat/balaclava, wool socks, gloves-mitts or gloves that are wind proof.


What to take
Exercise requires energy. So take some snacks and water. Water may freeze so keep that close to your body in you day pack or fanny pack. Do not forget your camera, Spot tracking device, cell phone, compass, GPS,  watch, Topo map of area, matches, and some first aid items like bandage, rope, aspirin, basic first aid kit. To maintain balance on your journey adjustable hiking poles with snow baskets or just some ski poles that are as high as your stomach will do, and of course your snow shoes. Snow shoes should have enough floatation for the condition and personal weight. Some snowshoes have the capability of adding extra flotation on the tail end.

 Trip planning

You are ready to go? Make sure that you leave your trip ideas and plan with someone near by. Let the someone know where you are going and what time you should be back. In case of an emergency you may activate from your Spot or if not back within reasonable time have someone contact the EMO / Police/ Rescue group/ anyone. Make sure someone has first aid and CPR qualifications. Here sometimes knowledge of wilderness first aid will be an asset.

Snow Shoe Techniques
To be proficient in snow shoeing takes time and practice. There are some basic techniques one should know. When snow shoeing you must step higher than walking on flat terrain. You cannot walk backwards unless you turn around. When snow shoeing keep your weight forward of center and use your poles in front of you. Snow shoeing is step at a time, sometimes making sure that you have enough  hard ground. No matter who it is, you will loose your balance on some occasion. Be prepared for snow getting into your garment. Your hooded jacket will keep fresh snow from falling down your neck when moving tree branches.