About a week before Christmas, we strapped on snowshoes to hike the trail.
We have not needed snowshoes much the past couple of years. In fact, we didn’t really need them that day. We only used them to help pack the trail ahead of the next freeze, so that we’d have a fairly good track, relatively free of obstructions and deep boot prints—post holes—that a hiker can slip into, possibly twisting an ankle, or worse (see Going “Posthole”).
Many people assume we use snowshoes throughout the season each winter. Actually, it had been so long since we’d used snowshoes, that I just then got a chance to try out my main pair for the first time since I’d repaired one of the shoes more than a year before (see Snowshoe Repairs). Ironically, I broke the lacing on the other snowshoe on this outing, and had to repair it when we returned home.
Since that day, we’ve used snowshoes almost constantly. Apparently, our area received 91 inches of snow in December, breaking the old record of 77 inches. We’ve been making up for all the times we wanted to snowshoe, but didn’t have the snow for it. Even as those snows melt away under rain, we stay on the snowshoes rather than fight our way through the deepening slush and icy chunks.
Snowshoeing is a little inconvenient, and more of a workout than hiking in snow boots, provided we don’t break through the crust of snow. Let that happen once or twice, and snowshoes seem well worth the extra effort. The steel grippers in the more modern design snowshoes come in handy in frozen snow, and each trip further packs the trail.
As we returned home that first time, I wondered it we weren’t creating problems for ourselves in other ways. A well-defined trail to the “homestead” might invite unwanted visitors. Sure enough, within a week, a moose came down out of the forest and mowed down most of the woody plants in our yard. Worst, it browsed our cherry tree, which is still recovering from the previous year’s moose visits.
This most likely would have happened anyway. Deep snow seems to be only a minor annoyance to our huge, long-legged neighbors. They do use our trail when it’s clear, dotting it with postholes far deeper than any we could ever punch with our puny human weights, but there’s little sense in avoiding trail improvements altogether in an attempt to deter them from coming down to the compound.