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Using the New Shoes for the First Time, sort of

February 25, 2011

I got down to the farm early to try out my new snowshoes.

New snowshoes with boots attached

The temps were in the 20’s, but we’d had higher temp’s the week before. The driveways were clear. This posed a problem as I would have to drag my sled over the gravel and decide whether to walk in my new snowshoes the hundred yards or so to the snow. I decided to carry my shoes and drag the sled down the drive to an open field. I did so and there I put on the snowshoes, harnessed myself to my sled, and off I went.

Shoes with boots, pack, and sled

Because the snow had had the chance to melt and refreeze the previous week, the surface was crusted over. In the open fields, where the sun had hit the snow the crust was thick enough that it was not clear whether I needed snowshoes at all. I know that my new shoes have a smaller surface area than the old ones I’d been using. Therefore, I was really curious to see whether I’d sink into the snow or not. But this initial test showed me nothing. I doubt I’d have sunk even in boots alone. As I pressed on, I hiked up a trail behind the saw mill. This path is steep, and on that day, quite icy, but I got up it well enough. Then the path opens into another field and I experienced the same crusted conditions. I began to wonder whether there was any point in having the snowshoes at all. While walking in them is not unpleasant, harvesting lumber in them can be challenging. All things being equal it is much easier without them. At this moment I realized my camera was missing. I decided to loop around to where I’d started as it seemed most likely I’d dropped it whilst putting on the snowshoes. Getting back meant walking down the driveway which was bare gravel or glare ice (neither being ideal for snowshoes.) I slipped and slid down the hill with my sled in hot pursuit. When I got to the bottom of the drive I found no camera so I returned to the oxbarn and my truck to see if I’d left it there. While there I took off the snowshoes, figuring the snow was too crusted to bother with them. I then retraced my steps, and fortunately did find my camera about fifty yards from where I’d started. I then headed into the woods, sans snowshoes, and there my troubles began.
I quickly learned the answer to one question. I had been wondering whether the snow was so crusty every where or just in the open where the sun had melted it. It turns out it was only in the fields. In the woods where it had never melted it was still deep and uncertain. With each step I broke through between an inch and six, but never knew which it would be. And the more twigs I was hauling the more the surface gave way, especially as the twigs and the sled got caught in the underbrush. I spent the next hour slogging through the woods and wondering why I hadn’t brought the snowshoes just in case I’d needed them. At last I was back in the barnyard with a small but hard earned load of twigs and some very sore knees. I spent the next few hours in the oxbarn skinning the bark off some twigs for walking sticks. I’d been doing this at home, but I’d moved my shave horse to the farm in the fall and it was a pleasure to use it instead of the bench vise I’d been using at home. Beside, I’d had enough of the woods for this day. So, four walking sticks later, I was done for the day and ready to head home, without ever learning for sure how well the new snowshoes work.

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