It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of winter or winter sports. All of my favorite activities are warm weather related (or at least snow-excluded): Running, horseback riding, mountain biking, golfing, sunbathing… You may ask why I choose to live in New England and suffer through every winter of my life here. Well, as much as I don’t like snow, I like earthquakes, landslides, tornadoes, rattlesnakes, crocodiles, gumbo, coal mines, and ice fishing even less. A few years ago, I decided that if I was going to mentally survive winter, I would have to embrace it somehow and find something I truly enjoyed doing. Skiing and snowboarding were obvious choices, but those just aren’t the sports for me. I have no desire to, a. ascend a mountain on a precarious ski lift, or b. careen down said mountain on a piece of timber. Ice hockey became our pastime, and my homemade ice rink provided endless hours of fun (pain), exercise (exhaustion), and excitement (bruises and groin pulls). But, kids grow up, ice rinks get sold, and soon I was looking for a new winter weather sport.
Snowshoeing is something I dabbled in off and on for years, but never really put a lot of effort into it. Last year, a particularly snowy winter, I spent hours out in the woods alone trudging through snow, leaving giant-sized footprints in my wake. Once I fell through some ice and was stuck in about 12 inches of frozen mud with no idea how I was going to lift my legs out. Surprisingly, that has been my only real mishap thus far.
When we received word that a blizzard was headed towards us, I reacted with mixed emotions. On one hand, I was disappointed that it might interfere with my running. On the other, I looked forward to dusting off the snowshoes. Coincidentally, for Christmas two days earlier my mother had given me some new snowshoeing poles and a Camelbak backpack, and I was just itching to use the new gear. The day the blizzard was going to hit, I hopped out of bed early to hit the food store and run a few errands before the snow started. My goal was to finish my errands within a couple hours, and still have time for my 6 mile run. Unfortunately, the storm came in earlier than predicted and there was a thick film of snow on the roads as I headed home. As much as I like running and really wanted that one last run on the bare roads, I wasn’t going to risk a car sliding into me. Sadly, despite my best planning, the run wasn’t going to happen. I was further irritated when, as the snow fell heavily, a runner came trotting down the street and into the woods behind me. I know it sounds irrational, but I was actually jealous of that fool for running during the blizzard.
The blizzard hit mid-morning on Sunday, lasting all day and night, and by Monday the snowfall started to taper off. The wind lingered though, a constant reminder of the blizzard’s power, and created high snow drifts in seemingly random locations. By midday I was punchy on a lousy night’s sleep, along with way too much shoveling and plowing, and needed to relieve my cabin fever. Times like this I would normally slip on the sneakers (and Garmin, iPod, fuel belt, High-Vis jacket, energy gel, leave a detailed note as to my anticipated route and return time) and hit the road for an impromptu run. But… even I’m not crazy enough to run in a blizzard. Heck no. Not me. I’d rather go snowshoeing during the blizzard, by myself, in the woods, and not tell anyone where I was headed. Yes, much safer.
I got myself all geared up in the Camelbak, poles, snow shoes, and grabbed my camera. Figured this might be an adventure worth digitizing. I realized quickly that despite all the fancy gear, it might not have been the best idea to head out solo during this crazy windstorm. Trees swayed severely overhead, and the 40 mph gusts of wind spit icy snow at my face. Undeterred I ventured on, determined to work up a sweat and hopefully get some good scenery shots on the Kodak. Stopping to take pictures turned into quite a challenge: Stop, unhook ski poles, remove gloves, unzip pocket, find camera, (blow nose), take picture, repeat everything in reverse order. Needless to say, most of the pictures were taken in the first couple miles of the adventure. At one point, as I started to make my way over the notoriously windy dam, gusts of wind were so powerful that I would have been knocked down if I didn’t quickly crouch to the ground, with my back facing the wind. At that moment I realized how incredibly insignificant humans are up against Mother Nature, and the feeling was invigorating. It was also a little embarrassing, when I noticed a photographer watching me from a safe distance. No doubt he was thinking, look at this fool, on top of the dam in a blizzard. Maybe I should stick around in case this goes south, I could make headlines in the paper tomorrow.
Reenergized from my brush with death (or at least, my brush with a strong gust of wind), I picked up the pace and charged on, alternating between shallow snow and sudden deep drifts. As I marched along, I remembered seeing a headline somewhere in a magazine about the new hot winter sport: Snowshoe Running. I made a mental note to go back and check that out. That could be my next addiction. My mother later asked me, “Are you allowed to write about snowshoeing in your blog?” Excellent question, I thought, since I’ve only ever written, or cared to write, about running. While I don’t want to make a habit of writing about all sorts of silly adventures, I also reasoned that “Thought per Mile” doesn’t need to exclusively pertain to miles covered in sneakers. And the bottom line, I finally determined, is that it’s my blog. That means… my rules!
*Anyone who knows me well enough knows I am mentally preparing my formal list of rules, forthcoming in a future blog post. J