Wild Northerner Magazine 2015/16 Winter Issue - Page 25

I’m not much of a hockey player. I don’t dislike hockey, but my seven-year-old daughter can skate better than me. Put me on a pair of downhill skis however, and I’m likely to turn some heads. I’m no Olympian, but I have a need for speed, and I’ve been known to get it wearing nothing more than my Hawaiian shorts. And yes, I have the scars to prove it.

Speed and adrenalin have always been my drugs of choice. I guess that would explain my varying career choices over the years as a soldier, pilot, volunteer firefighter and emergency medical responder. In my spare time the majority of my hobbies typically involve some sort of wild element, whether it’s long hikes in the deep wilderness, breaking trails on my ATV, or charging down a mountain trying to beat my own speed record. But not everything I do however needs to be extreme for it to be enjoyable. This past year, my girlfriend introduced me to snowshoeing. I’ll admit, in the beginning, I only did it for her. Slow moving, bulky and boring. Those are the words I used to associate with snowshoeing, that is, until I gave it a shot. Within a half kilometre into our first trek I realized how wrong I was. I found it surprisingly challenging. It took a few face-plants into the snow before I got the technique. Who knew there was a technique to snowshoes? Since that first trek I have certainly changed my opinion on the sport. I find the slow, leisurely pace of snowshoeing to be perfect for taking in all the sights and sounds that one would often miss on a faster paced hike. Don’t be fooled though, be ready for a workout. Our first trek kicked my butt and burning muscles awaited me that night.

If you’ve never tried snowshoeing, it’s kind of like hiking, only you use muscles you didn’t know existed. My best explanation would be to picture a toddler with a full stinky diaper trying to walk without squishing the mess. This is exactly what I looked like as I tried to waddle along my first time. I probably don’t look any cooler now either, but I’m doing less face-plants and still having fun. There is of course more than just the sights and sounds that come as benefits to snowshoeing. Once you learn how to walk in your shoes, you’ll quickly appreciate how they work. Maybe not in December, but come mid-winter, you’ll be moving along much more efficiently as you skim along the crust of the otherwise waist-deep snow.

What I really like about snowshoeing, is that you don’t need a lot of gear, or a membership to enjoy it. There is, as far as I know, no such thing as a groomed snowshoe trail. Fresh powder is what you really want. If you’re lucky, you can find a used pair of snowshoes for about $25. New ones start around $50, but if you intend to enjoy yourself, splurge for a higher quality set, or look into renting from a local club or university sports department. If you’re a die-hard trekker, you could spend upwards of $400 for a really nice pair.

If you are looking for a professionally guided snowshoe adventure, take a look at a local company called Lure of the North. According to their website www.lureofthenorth.com, owners Kielyn and Dave started their Sudbury-based business after completing a 40-day snowshoe journey across northern Ontario. They aren’t just about snowshoeing however. They specialize in all aspects of traditional winter camping, wilderness travel and northern culture. Aside from guided treks, they also host clinics on traditional snowshoe weaving and moccasin making workshops. In case this is starting to sound like an advertisement, you should know that I have never attended any of their adventures or courses. I’ve never even met them, and no they didn’t mail me a check either. But what I have received is many, many good reviews from their customers. The adventurers circle is fairly small, so when word gets out about a good experience, it spreads quickly. I do, however, intend to register my spouse and me into one of their treks this year. Snowshoeing can be a perfect activity for couples looking to combine adventure, romance and the great outdoors into one cozy package.

If you’re ever in the neighbourhood of Halfway Lake Provincial Park, the Osprey Heights trail is worth a pit-stop. The six-km trail is rated as moderate difficulty, but unleashes views one would expect from an expert level hike. The trail is enjoyable all year long, but the winter landscape overlooking Antrim Lake is exquisite.

If you do give snowshoeing a try remember it’s not hard, it’s challenging and every challenge has its reward.

Falling in love with snowshoeing

BY SHAWN WHALEN

For Wild Northerner