Friday, February 19, 2010

A winter excursion by snowshoe, boot and paw

Midmorning yesterday we went snowshoeing: my aunt Pat, who is visiting from Colorado; my seven-year-old daughter Holly, our dog Belle, and me.

Well, the dog wasn’t showshoeing, just trotting surefootedly through the snow as she always does. And Holly snowshoed only for the first fifty feet or so and then declared that she was sinking farther into the snow with snowshoes on than in just boots, and hadn’t I told her the point of snowshoes was to stay on top of the snow? She said she’d go without the showshoes. Given that she’s the second of my two children to declare snowshoes redundant, I think the kiddie snowshoes are destined for the swap shed.

So Belle trotted, Holly tromped, and Pat and I showshoed, although by the time we’d reached our destination, the center of town one mile away, Pat was having trouble keeping one of her snowshoes on so she decided she’d just carry them.

No matter. I was still enjoying my snowshoes and happy that the rest of the coterie was sticking with the plan to walk to town, snowshoes or none. With our footpath under several inches of snow, I thought it was more fun to march along in my snowshoes than slog through the drifts even if, as Holly pointed out, there was no significant difference in ease of travel. I spend plenty of time throughout the winter slogging through snow in my boots; tromping in snowshoes was just something different and therefore fun.

Mostly I was just glad to be out. It was only the second time I’d put on my snowshoes all winter, and I’m sorry to admit that’s not for lack of snow; it’s that I’m too easily distracted from one of my favorite wintertime activities. I love snowshoeing in the winter, just as I love walking the rest of the year, but with snowshoeing as with walking, sometimes it’s just not quite enough of a priority. And that’s definitely a downside of being committed to a daily run. Knowing that my fifteen or more minutes of running is a higher priority often keeps me from the walking, biking and snowshoeing I love. But there are only so many minutes in a day, and priorities do need to be set. I’ve chosen to be a parent, wife, community member, writer, homemaker: that means I can’t put all the minutes into outdoor activity that I might wish to. I’ve opted for other responsibilities as well, so like just about everyone else in the world, unlimited recreation time is not a viable option for me.

All of which is why it felt so particularly rewarding to get out for an hour today. By foot, by snowshoe, by paw, by leash, with cameras in hand, we made our way to the general store in the center of town. Holly bought gummy worms and took a picture of them before she ate any; Pat and I rested for a few moments and took pictures of each other with Holly.

The conflation of circumstances just worked out today. The kids are on vacation from school. Several inches of snow fell on Tuesday. Pat is here for a brief visit. I had no urgent deadlines today. The sun was bright, the air milder than it has been in weeks. Everything was in favor for us to go snowshoeing, and I’m so glad we did.

By the end of the day, I was surprised and pleased to note how much snow had melted. As a runner, much as I appreciate the beauty of fresh snow, I also consider it an imposition; it covers the footpaths and forces me to run in the roadway or else confine my workouts to our long driveway, which gets dull. With the sun shining all day, gravel had emerged along most of the footpath and the driveway, meaning it will be easy to run there by tomorrow.

I also noticed that the biggest patches of snow-free gravel were in the tracks from our snowshoes. So there was an added advantage to our excursion; we’d facilitated the snowmelt that will make for easier running later in the week. All of this reminded me there’s really nothing frivolous about taking time for snowshoeing at all. The three of us spent time visiting together and had a good stretch of fresh air and exercise, the dog had a good workout that kept her content for the rest of the day, Holly’s gummy worm purchase supported a worthy local business, and we paved the way for melting. A good outing all around.

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