Thursday, February 18, 2010


Yep, I did it. I bought myself a pair of snowshoes. I'd heard over the years from various folk how much fun they were, but never felt any great drive to buy a set here in the mid-Atlantic, where heavy snows are pretty rare. Then back in December we had a big storm... dropped around 20" here, which is a lot for us. And the first day I walked in to work after the storm, I saw a pair of women zooming along on their snowshoes as I slogged through the snow in my regular boots. It looked really fun... but geez, "there's no way we'll get another snow like this this winter" I thought.

Well, um... we did! As you know if you live here, or if you've followed my blog. In fact in February we've gotten something around a total of 30" of snow, all in the space of a week. So as that series of storms was descending upon us, I decided to give it a shot and ordered a pair of snowshoes online. There were a few snags along the way... but yesterday around noon, there they were, thanks to UPS! So I decided to waste no time and headed out to try them out on... you guessed it, my beloved C&O Canal!

What a blast! It's an amazing sensation to be out in deep snow and to be able to walk ON it, instead of sinking deep and having to slog through it. It's all about surface area, I suppose, and these suckers have plenty of that. Sizing of snowshoes is based on weight, so for me a 30" x 9" snowshoe is the best choice. They look huge but once they're on, they're really not ungainly. Maybe it's because I read and heard many warnings, but I really didn't ever feel like I was having to work hard to avoid tripping on my own feet. I'd heard that was one of the adjustments you have to make, essentially adopting a wider than normal stance, but I didn't really have to think about it. Perhaps my mind and body compensated unconsciously, or perhaps I naturally walk a little bowlegged (I'm suddenly reminded of a recent Prairie Home Companion "Lives of the Cowboys" sketch... but I digress!). Either way, I found it easy and natural to walk in them.

And what a gorgeous day! A little chilly, but not windy, and while it was mostly overcast, it was still lovely to be out in the snow in solitude. I think the whole two plus hours I was out I saw exactly two people, both on skis. The towpath was covered in snow, as were some parts of the canal, and the woods to either side wore it like a soft white blanket. View of the river were as always spectacular, and the water itself was an amazing shade of green. There were a lot of ducks out and about, and a couple of kingfishers (skittish birds!), and a fair number of deer. I managed to get a few good pictures of the deer, and even some nice shots of the ducks. Even the trees were remarkable, with their branches and trunks standing out in dark contrast to the snow.

Take a look at the flickr album Feb 17, 2010 Snowshoeing on C&O Canal to see more shots, including a series of closeups I took of the severed end of a large, fallen tree branch. A surprisingly beautiful thing.

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