Getting Where We Need to Go

By , January 11, 2014

We’ve eased back into standard Southeast Alaskan winter weather lately, which has me hobbling around like a very old man.

Our classic pattern is freeze/thaw. We’ve warmed up, and gotten a lot of rain on our snow. It hasn’t affected the untrodden areas much, but anywhere we’ve worn a path, packing down the loose snow with our footsteps, has become polished ice, covered by standing water in many places. This makes getting where we need to go difficult. Particularly, getting where we need to go, if you catch my drift.

The friendly dooyard, transformed into a barren wasteland (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

The friendly dooryard, transformed into a difficult-to-cross wasteland (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

For all my songs of praise for the outhouse (see Outhouse Love) I might accept a little indoor plumbing, at least for the duration. All of a sudden, a quick trip outside to answer the call of nature can often become an ordeal. That quick trip through the door yard, now frozen over with slick ice, has become far too long and arduous for—well, for comfort, if you will.

Most of the time I do all right. I’ve put my ice grippers on my primary pair of winter rubber boots, which sit by the door. I like them because they’re lined well enough that I can slip into them in socks or barefoot, depending on what I’m wearing around the house. As long as I stay on the mats getting out the door, rather than walking on the cabin’s hardwood floors, I can cleat my way outside and over the ice.

With proper planning and forethought, we will make it through this winter, just as we have all the others. The key is to decide early when it’s time to take a little trip, and prepare accordingly.

The difficulty comes when I’m already wearing outdoor shoes. I can’t take the time to pull the grippers off the boots and put them on my shoes. When I have urgent business outside, I often go bare soled, as it were, and hobble in the short step shuffle most Alaskans know from bitter experience.

I like our grippers, Stabilicer Lites (see Getting a Grip), but lately I’ve been thinking of investing in a pair of Kahtoolas. I bought some for Michelle last Christmas on a really good sale, and have admired her ability to get around on them. They’re more ice cleat than gripper, a heavier-duty tool. They’ll be great for keeping my footing on the trail and working in the yard, but they may not be very good for running in and out of the house when we need to go.

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