Category Archives: Outdoorsy Tips

5 Tips for Surviving Monsoon Season in Southern Utah

I write about monsoon season periodically. It happens every year where I live, and it can cause dramatic scenery shifts, not to mention significantly alter plans to enjoy the wilderness. Early July through mid-September, surprising amounts of rain slick the landscape and add challenges to outdoor exploring. Here are 5 things to consider about this most fascinating, unexpected season in the deserts and canyonlands of southern Utah.

desert monsoons are gorgeous to watch

desert monsoons are gorgeous to watch

1) Be weather aware. Know the weather prediction for the day in your area. Even if it is crystal clear and dry in the morning, monsoon storms can build quickly and arrive in the afternoon with a drenching downpour that turns the landscape into an almost underwater scene. Bring the correct gear, or reschedule your trip if the weather seems like it will be too extreme for your comfort. Find out about safer alternate or completely different routes so you can still get out and enjoy. Or, head to any local shops if possible and stay dry during the worst parts of the storm.

do not enter a place like this if a storm threatens

do not enter a place like this if a storm threatens

2) Know where you’re going. If you are at all uncertain, are unfamiliar with the local topography, or just can’t or won’t believe in the ferocious power of sudden enormous amounts of water in the desert, be extremely cautious about your route of travel for the day. Whether on foot or by car, understand what lies ahead—are there canyon narrows, does the road dip through washes?—and make sure you can either get out safely or have high ground to retreat to in the event of a storm.

watch the roads during monsoons

watch the roads during monsoons

3) Be cautious about where you take shelter. Underneath a big slab of sandstone might seem like a logical place to hide out from booming thunder, lightning strikes, and avalanches of rain. However, try to take a good look at how the rock is balanced, what’s above it, and where the water is running around it. Sandstone (the most common type of rock you’ll see in southern Utah) is porous and relatively weak in the world of geology. Water is a big factor in rock collapses. A more solid alcove might be a better choice, if possible, than individual sandstone slabs that perhaps have been weakened by millennia of natural processes.

taking shelter from a storm can sometimes require good sense

taking shelter from a storm can sometimes require good sense

4) Hire a local guide. If you really are unsure of the area’s weather patterns, hire a reputable local guide who will understand far more about monsoon season than you and is more likely to keep you safe. I’ve been guiding in southern Utah since 1999 and have plenty of experience with the monsoon season here. What I’ve learned over the years is that rain happens, floods happen, we can still get out and enjoy an adventure, but I’m very cautious about where, when, and how during monsoon season. Being flexible about routes is essential, up to and including cancellation if there’s just no safe way to enjoy the day. My motto is, let’s all get back in one piece so we can have another fun adventure again someday.

local guides to help you route find and weather watch are a good option to consider. Photo by Lori.

5) Enjoy the show from somewhere safe. Monsoonal storms can be amazing to behold! The crazy rush of water, the sepia-chocolate-henna-rust colors of flash floods, and the powerful music in the sky all synthesize to create a natural symphony of shock and awe. Don’t be so afraid of monsoons you don’t get out to experience the dramatic changes during them. Just do it safely, snap some jaw-dropping photos or video, and go home with incredible stories to share.

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monsoon season is here again; and with it, potential dangers

Monsoon season loves the Southwest. Summertime sees plenty of days and weeks on end of the sudden, severe storms that drench the high desert areas with an abundance of rainfall that truly must be experienced to be fully believed and understood.

It’s been rainy here in the Capitol Reef area for several weeks now, with a brief reprieve of about, oh, two days. Rain means good water table levels, full water tanks, wildflowers off the hook, and life in the desert. We like rain here, love it. It’s vital to this ecosystem, and the wild life it brings forth is spectacular.

Flowering Prickly Pear

The rain during monsoon season can also mean waterfalls where moments before none existed, sweet little creeks turned suddenly turbulent and muddy to a degree that truly frightens, and an awesome show of the strength of water.

a pour over created by a monsoon storm

When you contrast that natural power display with the relative frailty of the human body, it’s the sort of awesome that sends shivers racing down the spine. As I often say, don’t mess with mama nature, because it’ll mess right back with you.

Today was one of those days. Early in the day the sky loomed ominous, dark, and hugely full of clouds full of sturm und drang.

'twas a dark & stormy day...

Great day to check out the Fremont Falls in Capitol Reef National Park. The falls have been popular with locals for decades, as well as visitors. I’ve swum in them, under them, and jumped off the rocks into them. (Yes, I know, bad. But I always made someone else go first so that if they didn’t come back up, I knew not to jump! Heh.) They can be a lot of fun. But when it rains…ooh, yeah. Those falls get crazy.

the Fremont Falls in full flash flood mode

The Fremont Falls, using words from a press release today from Capitol Reef:

The waterfall located near mile marker 86 on State Highway 24 in Capitol Reef National Park was created in 1962 when the river was rerouted to accommodate the construction of Highway 24. This water feature has historically been an attractive site to swimmers and recreationists. The dynamics of the waterfall have changed over the years, and the river has cut a narrow channel in the soft sandstone. This has increased the velocity of the river and created a hazardous water filled slot above, and a dangerous plunge pool beneath, the falls.

Very recently, Capitol Reef closed the waterfall to the public. Why? Because three people nearly drowned there in the past three weeks. All of them were held under the water for at least a few minutes and were pulled out not breathing and with no pulse. All three were life-flighted to hospitals up north. All three, by some insane miracle, survived with no lasting physical damage.

So I reiterate again my plea to southern Utah visitors during monsoon season: Be careful. Play, and play carefully. Don’t underestimate the power of the land and water. Enjoy, and use your common sense.

And for your viewing pleasure, check out the photos of the power of monsoon season in southern Utah canyon country.

temporary highway closure in Capitol Reef

 

bringing out the big guns

 

just another day in paradise...monsoon style

 

sudden seasonal waterfall

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My Top 10 Winter Hiking Tips

Winter is still here. (Go figure.) Lots of people seem to shun hiking during the cold season. Sure, you have good reasons to be skeptical. Bad road conditions, slogging through wet mucky trails, skidding on ice and falling on your rump. And oh yeah–it’s cold! Winter hiking, though, is crazy awesome for a bunch of reasons I’ll need to detail in another post.

So if you want to hit the trail but have winter hiking concerns, I once again rounded up 10 of my favorite basic yet essential cold weather hiking tips to hopefully get you out the door and into the winter wonderland, wherever that may be.

1) Layer, Layer, Layer. Yes, dress in layers. This does not necessarily mean you have to resemble the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. In fact, you shouldn’t. You will warm up considerably as you begin to move. When you warm up, you will remove layers. When you stop to check out the view or eat lunch and get chilly again, re-layer. It’s a simple, effective system. I also recommend the layers fit well; the layer next to your skin can be snug. Everything else needs to be looser. Too tight = no room for the circulation that keeps you warm. Suggested layers:

  • warm hat, preferably fleece. If it’s sunny enough that I want to shade my eyes but still cold enough that my ears need covering, I wear a ball cap and pull a fleece earband over it. Ear muffs would work with this scenario too. Now, I was taught that we lose up to 40% of our body heat through the top of our head. Seems that’s not necessarily true, according to various scientific research. But I am here to tell you: if your head is uncovered while you’re outside, you will eventually feel cold all over! Wear a warm hat.
  • a fleece neck gaiter to keep the chill off your exposed lil’ neck. These are easier to deal with than a scarf while hiking.
  • base layer, top and bottom. This is usually synthetic, such as polypropylene, although some people swear by silk. Silk doesn’t do much for me personally. If it’s très cold, I wear fleece bottoms, although those require roomier pants over them.
  • warmth layer, such as fleece. This layer shouldn’t be too thick.
  • wind layer. I wear a wind-stopper shell made by Mountain Hardwear that really does keep the chill off if it’s blustery. This is of course unnecessary if there’s no wind.
  • heavier warmth layer. Could be a down jacket if you’re not hiking all that far or it’s so cold you probably won’t even break a sweat. Could be a heavier fleece jacket if the temperatures aren’t that ridiculously cold, or if you plan to really get a workout. Could be a down vest over your warm (fleece) layer if the temps are more middle of the road.
  • dry layer. A rain or snow jacket works well. Again, which one depends on the specific temperatures and weather. I sometimes wear an insulated (not down) ski jacket and skip the previous warmth layer. Waterproof (rain) pants are a great idea too if it’s wet out or if you’re going to break trail through deeper snow. Rain pants are also really light and pack small, so if you need to shuck them they won’t take up too much room in your pack.
  • warm gloves. Fleece is great. Waterproof ones such as you might use for skiing are appropriate if you think you might be tempted to throw snowballs at your hiking companions.
  • polypropylene (or some sort of synthetic wicking sock) socks next to your skin to wick away moisture (sweat), then warmer socks, such as wool. Beware socks that are too thick; if your feet are so squished into your boots by your socks that you can’t wiggle your toes, you will actually have colder feet.
  • appropriate boots. Ones treated with a moisture repellent are great. Plenty of people buy boots with Gore-Tex, which is one of the best bets for keeping your feet dry. However, your boots will still absorb water and eventually freeze, which is chilly. Tread is important too; snow and ice make traction more uncertain. Add-ons like YakTrax can help, although I’ve had two pairs and the rubber has snapped on both after not all that much use. (Maybe they didn’t like being scraped over rocks hiding under the snow.) Also note fit. Too tight is again no good for circulation (cold feet). Too loose is no good because that can lead to blisters.
  • dry layer over the boots. This might be necessary if you’re breaking trail through snow or plan to be out all day. I’m a huge fan of NEOS and just keep them in my truck all winter, so I can pull them on over my boots whenever I’m heading out into something slushy. That way, my boots also stay nicer (in better condition) longer.

2) Bad, Bad Cotton. There’s an old outdoor saying: “Cotton kills.” Sorry, cotton industry, but it can be true. Do not wear any natural fibers next to your skin, except wool of the non-itchy variety. Cotton holds water, which in the winter will be cold, and if that’s next to your skin, you’re miserable and quite possibly in trouble. None of your winter clothing should be cotton.

3) Water, Water Everywhere. Keep slugging back that water, whether plain or electrolyte-enhanced. I use a Camelbak hydration daypack that sports an insulated tube so my water doesn’t freeze up before it can reach my mouth. Regular hydration packs or simple water bottles will work too, as long as it’s not actually freezing outside. If you use one with a screw top, remember that if it’s cold enough and there’s water on the threads, your lid will freeze shut. (Carry it upside down to circumvent that little problem.) Start off with some hot water in your bottle/hydration pack, and it’ll stay unfrozen quite a bit longer. Bonus: consider bringing along a hot beverage in a well-insulated container, or even a hiking stove to get some hot water going along the trail. There’s nothing like hot cocoa, hot tea, coffee, or hot soup to pick up your spirits if the day is really chilly.

4) Eat Hearty, Mateys. Take plenty of snacks. Snow hiking takes more out of you because you’re working harder to get through it—yes, even on a packed trail, because you’re probably stepping more carefully to make sure you won’t slip. Take more snacks than you usually might, and be sure they’re of the quick-fuel variety. Simple, homemade trail mix still works well for this, although you can also stock up on pricey energy gels and shots and goo and whatnot. I often use Clif Bar Shot Bloks. Something basic like a banana or banana chips (mm, potassium—an excellent post-sweating snack) work great too. Of course, full on lunch works too if you’re hiking midday.

5) Plastic Bags. Resealable and grocery type. Resealable can be used for a number of things, such as stashing wet gear like socks, stinky trash like banana peels, and keeping your camera dry. Grocery bags can also be your friend. If your boots aren’t waterproof and get wet, you can pull the bags over your socks and feet (preferably before they get wet) to prevent utter freezing disaster before you get back to your car.

6) Extra, Extra. Bring extras of almost everything, because you or someone you’re with will probably need it. I’m talking clothing (warm hats, gloves, socks), food, water, batteries (camera, headlamp). Especially the clothing and water, though.

7) Heal Thyself. Bring a first aid kit. This really shouldn’t need to be said, and it goes for all hiking trips, but let’s just be redundant. You just never know when it’ll come in handy, whether you’re out for an hour or for weeks.

8 ) Know Thy Limits. Never winter hiked before? Choose a short, easy trail that won’t challenge you like you’re on some sort of reality tv survival show. This is real reality, and your probable goal is to have fun, not end up needing a rescue. Also, start as early in the day as you can to ensure you’re not stuck out after nightfall during winter’s brief days. Note: for a really short hike, early afternoon might be best, as that will likely be the warmest part of the day. Just really be sure you’re going to be back before dark.

9) Sneaky Bag o’ Tricks. Look, you’re probably not heading out to summit Everest on your winter hike. But as they say, stuff happens, and it’s usually totally unexpected. And although it can happen to the most prepared, experienced people, your chances of a happy ending are greatly upped if you consider packing some key items with you. My own short list:

-a multi-tool. I love, love, love my Leatherman Super Tool. Sure, it’s heavy. I don’t care. I’m not fast- and light-packing. I always carry it with me on my jaunts, and I often use it.

-hand warmers, like Grabber Warmers. Trust me, your hands will thank you. The foot warmers work too, but beware if you’re wear them all day, they puff up into these lumpy not-warm things that don’t feel so good anymore.

-a headlamp. This is overkill, you protest. I shall not be out past dark. Well, I sure hope not. But just in case, throw one in your pack. They don’t take up much room (nor do spare batteries for them), and you never know.

-a map. Doesn’t have to be a topo, if you have no idea how to read one. (In which case, you’d better not being going off trail.) If you’re hiking in a national park, the provided trail map should suffice.

-cell phone. Yeah, really. Put it in a resealable plastic bag, and turn it off so you’re not draining the battery.

-tiny tube o’ sunscreen and SPF lip balm. Super sunny days reflect quite well off snow.

-small notebook and pen. You might need to record vital stats if something not good happens. Or, you might just want to jot down your innermost thoughts while hiking in the beautiful wilderness.

-a lighter. Potentially useful in many situations.

-duct tape. Wrap it around a tongue depressor. Potentially useful in many situations. The duct tape, I mean.

10) Attention, Everyone… Tell someone where you’re hiking, especially if you’re going alone, and when you expect to be back. No, really. Must I reiterate the Aron Ralston story again?

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Winter Hiking Tips & Tricks 101

Do not fear the snow. It’s one of my personal favorite times of year to explore outside in Utah. (That is, as soon as I stop my whining about how cold it is. Hey, I’m human.) Here are some of my hard-earned learnings about how to hike right when it’s really cold outside.

[ed. note: A version of this post originally appeared on my previous blog in March 2010.]


Hiking in the winter? In snow? In cold? Can you even find the trail?

Yes, yes, yes, and (sometimes) yes. Really! And you don’t even have to be Davy Crockett. The key, however, is to do it the old-fashioned way: using your two personal sherpas, otherwise known as your legs. Wintertime exploration on foot is a sublime experience. Why?

1) Unlike a ski resort, you won’t get plowed down by an out-of-control novice snowboarder or pay an exorbitant amount for lift tickets.

2) Snowmobiling may take you farther into the backcountry, but its noise pollution can ruin the experience not only for you but others, including Bambi and Thumper.

3) Amazing exercise. You thought just hiking was tough? Try hiking through snowdrifts. As someone I knew once put it, that’s a major ass-blaster. (Snowshoeing is a fabulous way to go, as I’ve recently rediscovered.)

4) Best bonus? Seeing the landscape in a way few will.

Safety considerations are paramount, of course. We all like to come back alive and whole from our adventures. Here are a few of my favorite pieces of wintertime hiking advice.

1) Dress warmly, but don’t go for overkill. Layering is key. Too many layers, however, and you’ll head out feeling like that Stay Puft Marshmallow dude. Which means you’ll quickly get too warm, which means sweat, which means ultimately really cold when it dries on your skin! I like to wear a synthetic (remember, “cotton kills”) long john top as my first layer, then a fleece pullover, then a down vest, then a waterproof outer layer. For the lower half, I again go for synthetic long john bottoms, then jeans, usually Carhartts. (Yes, I know I just said cotton kills, and wet jeans will definitely make you an unhappy hiker. I’m used to it and can take care of myself. If you’re not an experienced winter hiker, don’t do it!) If, however, I’m snowshoeing and likely to fall down in deep drifts (yes, I am that coordinated) or it’s actively snowing, I’ll wear waterproof outer pants instead. Note: if it’s sunny and warmish, those are already too many layers! Layer down just a bit in that circumstance. But keep those layers with you if you suspect the weather may change during your trip.

(Notice my NEOs–New England Overshoes–which keep my tootsies and boots inside dry and warm. Also, my très excellent snowshoes)

2) Water. Yeah, on a cold day you think you won’t want water. Sorry, your body needs it no matter what. And when you’re hiking through snow, you’re working out, which means you’ll eventually dehydrate if you don’t replenish. Your best bet in chilly outdoor conditions is a hydration system that includes an insulated drinking tube. Camelbak,which makes a lot of stuff I use, has some good cold-weather options.Such a hydration system also often comes pack-style, which means places for you to stash those pesky extra layers when you start to get your heart pumping.

3) Ye olde trail mix. For some, good old gorp is outdated. But you can make your own yummy & instantly fueling mix from just about anything, as long as it gives you a bit of energy just at that moment when you’re about to bonk (not that kind of bonking, folks. I mean the kind where your blood sugar is hurtling straight down to your toes). And of course there are dozens of energy bar brands on the market, as well as various energy goos and gels (this concept makes some, such as yours truly, a bit ill). My current energy boost of choice? Shot Bloksby Clifbar. (Beware, however, if they harden a bit from the cold and you have dental work in your mouth! Could be asking for trouble unless you let them warm up in your pocket first.)

4) Map. Compass. GPS. Directions. Companion who knows where the heck s/he is. Frankly, I wouldn’t rely solely on any sort of GPS…satellites aren’t necessarily receptive right when you need them to be, and batteries can and do die. Having map & compass skills is still a great thing for outdoor messing around, even in our highly technological age.

5) Pace yourself. Slogging through snow can be way tougher than you’re used to. Trust me, you’ll get wiped out much sooner than you’d expect. Usually can hike four miles no problem? Aim for two in the snow, and don’t be surprised if it takes you as long as or even longer than a snowless excursion with more mileage.

6) Um, tell someone where you’re going! If nothing else, scribble a note to put on the dash of your car. Last-minute itinerary changes have been the downfall of many, even experienced outdoorsy types. You may feel silly, but better silly than frozen and undiscovered out in the wilderness for months. Seriously. There are also cool little devices on the market that can help searchers find you should you fail to return at a pre-designated time.

7) Wear sunscreen. Bring a container of it with you. Sun hitting the snow reflects with even greater intensity on your face, much as sunlight hitting water, and can therefore make you crisp up a little sooner.

8 ) Favorite tip: take a dog. Your own, or borrow one. They love it so much, they make snow hikes that much more fun. (Just make sure your dog is at least as fit as you are. Hiking in snow is tough on them too.) And who knows, maybe they’ll play Lassie for you if you make a mistake and end up wandering in circles.

Have at your snowy adventure, be safe, and enjoy your winter wonderland adventuring. I know I sure do.

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8 Ways on How NOT to Die in the Southern Utah Desert

There are two remarkably simple yet easily prevented ways to die in the desert during the hot summer months. (Check out Craig Childs’ fascinating book on this subject for more in-depth analysis and tales.)


1) Thirst
2) Drowning


The first one seems obvious, of course. Deserts = dry, godforsaken places in most minds. But are you remotely surprised by #2? Then read on.


My desert home rests at almost 7,000 feet, making it a “high desert.” We have the usual four seasons, although spring is sometimes lamentably short. We also have a fifth season, monsoon, which this year seemed to overtake our summer. Midsummer thunderstorms, part of the wild southern Utah monsoon season, are commonplace in mountains. Here, they usually happen in the afternoon, or so my creaky memory attests. This year, for about two weeks they happened morning, noon, and night, lasted all day, lasted all night, brought not only torrential rain but the drifting clouds and fog that made me think we were in Scotland instead of southern Utah.

The result was much greenery (and, frankly, much bitching from many residents during lawnmowing time) and much, much water. In a desert environment such as this one (high clay content in the soil, low saturation levels), water from the sky doesn’t absorb into the ground very quickly or much. If it did, we’d be Oregon.



What does unsaturated water do? It flows above ground. During or soon after a big storm, it flows damn fast. Flash floods are awesome, gorgeous, terrifying, oddly smelly, loud, powerful, and often quite unexpected to the hikers they overtake. Or so I’m told. I’ve never been close to a major one. Part of me wants to. Part of me says, thank god. Don’t wanna see one after some of the stories I’ve heard. Watching a small one and allowing my imagination to grow it exponentially is enough for me.

Point is, during the summer you can get really, really thirsty in the desert (seems duh, but it can happen), or you can get really, really wet and cold, and even swept away by a raging wall of water. Most people never think about the second possibility, especially not when they’re hiking on a hot August day.


So without further ado, here’s how you go about avoiding these demises should you choose to go adventuring in the southern Utah desert during a scorching summer month.


4 Ways to Not Die of Thirst in the Desert


1) Drink water. I’m serious! Bring it, drink it, pee it out, drink it more. If you’re not peeing clear, you’re dehydrated. People come from lower elevations, they never drink water at home, they survive on sugary caffeinated drinks, yadda yadda yadda. I don’t care. A gallon of water per person per day is the rule of thumb, if you’re out all day. Bonus tip: add an electrolyte to your water, such as Camelbak Elixir or Emergen-C. Keep those electrolytes flowing, baby. All water and no salts in your body (hyponatremia) can also make for a very unhappy day.


2) Know where you’re going. You can drink all the water you have on you, but if you get lost on the way to wherever you’re heading, that might not be enough to help you survive. Especially because deserts, as we know, are deserts because they don’t have a lot of water hanging around in the form of streams or lakes to drink from. Know the trail, take a guide, be familiar with map and compass skills, use your GPS (don’t rely on those things, though–yes, I’m a skeptic), use your noggin. Not sure if you veered off trail? Stop. Backtrack following your actual tracks until you’re positive of your whereabouts. Then either keep going if you’re sure, or go back to your car.


3) Wear proper clothing. Light colors, light weave, loose fit. Synthetics good, cotton bad. Hiking in tight, dark, heavy clothes (yes, that means jeans) traps your sweat, makes you feel icky, and can actually help you reach a state of hyperthermia. (Also known by the pleasant names of heat stroke, heat exhaustion, etc.)

4) Pay attention to your body. Got any of this going on? Breathing heavily, rapid pulse (feel your wrist or the side of your neck–gently on the neck, though!), light-headed, tired, flushed skin. Thesecan all be signs of impending dehydration. Sit down, drink up, and recover. Think about heading back if you don’t feel better.


4 Ways to Not Drown in the Desert


1) Avoid slot canyons when it’s cloudy, raining locally (as in, on your head), raining nonlocally (as in, as many as 40 miles away from you, which might still be close enough to send nonsaturating water roaring down your canyon while you’re in it), local officials (say, those park rangers who know the area better than you do) tell you they don’t advise canyon travel, or you just don’t have a good feeling about it. It can rain miles away and the water can still collect and rush right over your beautiful, enclosed, inescapable trail. Be safe, not dead.

(yes, I’m in a slot canyon, there’s water in it, and I’m smiling. Slot canyons can be great fun, of course! Didn’t actually go much farther in this one because the water got over our heads and I was too nervous about not being able to see what the sky was doing overhead. A storm had boomed through the area the night before.)


2) Don’t drive your car across a wash, dry or running, if the weather threatens a storm. Even low levels of water can suck your tires into the mud, or quickly rise to levels that don’t allow for escape. And if it’s dry now, I can guarantee that it won’t be shortly after if it starts to rain hard on you.



3) Stay high and dry. Stay away from low areas. Need I say more? *Note: but watch out for high areas if it’s actively storming and lightning is striking. Oh, mama nature…


4) Keep your ears open if you are in a canyon, even on  bluebird day. If there’s a storm far away or if it builds while you’re in the canyon and you can’t see it, flash floods will announce themselves with a sound akin to a freight train barreling down, or a jet plane passing about, oh, ten feet overhead. Floods are loud. You hear a sound like that where no such sounds should be, move. Fast. *Check out this video to see flash floods in action. Notice the deceptive blue sky above in many of the shots!*



Pretty basic stuff, but don’t forget it. But also don’t let all this scare you away either! Come visit, marvel at the gorgeous landscapes, explore. Just be safe when it’s monsoon season in southern Utah’s canyon country.

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Things I Realized While Snowshoeing

 

I’ve gone snowshoeing once or twice before, about a decade ago. I remembered it being hard. Even so, when a friend recently mentioned he was selling his snowshoes, I jumped at the chance to try them out. Lately, my home has been that good ole winter wonderland, and it is driving me nuts that I can’t run. Here’s what I discovered from my new obsession.

 

1. Snowshoeing not only really rocks as a running substitute for winter exercise, it really rocks as exercise, period. The snowshoes I’m using are great, although the paint does chip off of them when I (gasp) bash them against freaking boulders hidden under the snow.

waiting to go out & play

2. My lower back really, really aches after even just two hours of dedicated snowshoeing. I was told that this normal because we tend to lean forward while flinging our suddenly extra-large feet forward and break trail. Sigh…anti-inflammatories and yoga are my great friends at the moment.

3. If snowshoeing with a dog, said critter will likely step upon the back of my snowshoes on occasion, causing me to wonder why I’m such a wimp all of a sudden and can hardly lift my feet. Smart dogs, you see, will quickly learn to follow in the tracks of the snowshoes rather than continue to fall deep in when their feet sink right through.

dogs like it when people snowshoe. heck, dogs just like snow.

 

4. When a friend tells you there have been mountain lion tracks recently found where you will be snowshoeing (read: slow, awkward going, very vulnerable to being eaten by a creature much faster than you), every time your dog pauses to sniff the wind with great attention, you get a little freaked out.

5. It is utterly, totally, amazingly freaking gorgeous in the “backcountry” (yeah, it’s not really all that far back there, but it sure seems so when I’m slogging through drifts).

 

the beautiful semi-backcountry in winter

6. Wearing layers in wintertime is essential…as are places in which to stash said layers when one begins to peel out of them, sweating and gasping for air.

aaand…drumroll please…the best thing I realized (for the millionth time) while snowshoeing yesterday:

7. The road less taken…runs right by my home. I really, truly live in paradise. All this, and I was only about three miles from town. Not too shabby, eh?

breaking track

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ATV rant

I mean, it’s not as if I would PRAISE ATVs. Of course this is a rant. But as it is late, this will be a gentle rant, dear reader.

Stay the @#$#*&$ on the roads meant for your use, ATV riders. Or can you not read the signs that clearly state, “No Motorized Vehicles”?? (And in case the answer is No, actually, I can’t, as I’m a morally bankrupt illiterate–well, may I kindly point out that said signs include very clear PICTURES also indicating No Motorized Vehicles.)

So. The most current history behind my rant is from a few days ago, when I took riders (that would be horseback) up toward a gorgeous place called Lost Lake. As we left the road part of the trail to hit the trail part of the trail, guess what greeted my wondering eyes? Yep. Signage, pulled out of the ground and flung (flung, I tell you) carelessly aside, barricading rocks & tree limbs hurled elsewhere, so the oh-how-pretty ATV gouges could destroy the trail, making it five times as wide as it had to be.

I almost said Very Bad Words in front of the guests, but I managed to restrain myself. Instead, I sighed and explained to the Easterners (East as in Massachusetts, not as in Oil for which we spill too much blood) why I was upset. They agreed it was uncool.

Luckily, the trail is a really hard-core one, and the ATV tracks petered out after a few hundred feet. HA! But those hundred feet really did not need to be churned up as they were by some troglodyte (love that word) on his burly man-toy. (Yes, that comment is a bit sexist…but you understand where I’m coming from, right? I’ll find stats on ATV gender use and post them sometime.)

God, it just pisses me off. What the hell is wrong with people? How freaking hard is it to stay on their own trails, follow the rules, and think, Gee, I bet there are other people in the world beside myself who might have different viewpoints on things like trail destruction?

Grr. Rant, rant, rant. I’d’ve taken a picture, but I was so mad I forgot about my camera in the saddlebag. (And you know, for anyone out there ready to take a deep breath and holler about how livestock ruin the land as well, let me point out AGAIN that this particular trail is open to Hikers and Horseback Riders. Period.)

Okay. I suppose this is another example of how being angry can be constructive. Lookie here, it got me writing again, did it not?

Well. I feel a bit better now. Thanks for listening! And remember: if you must ride ATVs (let me throw in here the little tidbit that someone who was riding an ATV in a nearby area over Easter weekend had an accident and is now PARALYZED from the neck down), please follow the rules. There’s enough fricking road for you, already. If you want to see the backcountry, get off your ass and walk into it, already.

Signing off, the irate defender of the wilds (and user of ALL CAPS too, apparently).

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