After a very busy couple of weeks with no time to get out with my new snowshoes, I finally found an hour today to get out with the dogs for a quick hike. The last hike I took was one I blogged about a few weeks ago, and it went pretty well. I had figured out that if I leave my boots bound in to the snowshoes, I could just slip into them and tighten the laces instead of messing with having to tighten the thick leather straps every time, which is really a pain and takes too long in the field. So I wore my regular winter boots to drive out onto Crex to the trail that I wanted to hike.
My two German Shepherds become complete idiots when they know they are going to get to go to Crex for a walk. They had been stuck in the house with us during the cold snap last week, and they had oodles of excess energy to burn. They whine and moan and are completely awful to be cooped up with inside my tiny little Prius, and so I let them out of the car as soon as we made it to Phantom Lake Road. I let them run for a good 1/2 mile or so before making them get back into the car so I could drive us all a couple miles further down the road to the trail. Of course, during this 1/2 mile, they probably put in a total of three or four miles of running, and so they calmed down quite a bit.
Once at the trail, I was able to slip into my boots that were attached to the snowshoes and tighten the laces. The last time I was hiking, I had used some old ski poles, and the nylon straps had disintegrated and broke when I put a little pressure on them, rendering the poles mostly useless. I had found some adjustable hiking poles in the garage that were newer and had good straps and so this time I brought those along to use on the hike.
The dogs and I started down the trail, and the first thing that went wrong was that one of the poles would not tighten, so I had to either use it at half the length of the other one, or leave it behind. I chose to carry it along and continue to try to get it to tighten. It finally did after walking along about 100 yards or so. Good!
I rounded the first corner and the terrain got a little bit uneven along the dike that the trail followed. The snow was not deep, but it had a nice hard crust on it so that when I stepped forward, the front of the snowshoe grabbed the crust and slowed me down a bit as I worked to adjust my step to accommodate for this. I had to lift up a little more with my toe to lift the front of the snowshoe. The shoes are new to me, and I am definitely a novice at snowshoeing, but I was not dissuaded by this. The shoes are fairly short and not very wide, which means that they are pretty light so it was not too difficult to make that adjustment, and I am still learning the ins and outs of these shoes and how they will work for me in the long run. However, the uneven terrain made my left foot slip and twist sideways a few times, which did not feel good to my still-recovering sprained ankle, and made the poles all the more needed.
The trail smoothed out again, and I went along pretty well for a few hundred more yards, until the other pole that had been tight from the beginning, decided to slip. I worked to get it to tighten again to no avail. Down to one pole again, I was still going along pretty well and made it to the point where I had decided to turn back just fine. The dogs were having a grand time running back and forth across the trail and through the woods, sniffing interesting smells and knocking each other down in the snow drifts along the sides of the trail. Annie, my short-legged corgi/terrier mix was happy to follow along behind me walking in the trail left behind by my snowshoes.
About half-way back down the trail, I realized that my left shoe was not going as straight as it had been and looked down to see that the strap across the toe of my boot had come loose. I was still strapped in, but the boot was not sitting as straight on the shoe. I tried to readjust the straps, but the leather straps are so stiff that I was not able to get them to do what I needed them to do. I continued down the trail, but the shoes were hitting each other occasionally while I walked. Then the other pole decided to loosen too and so I was stuck with two very short poles (about hip-high!).
Finally, when I was only about 50 yards from my car, the heel strap on the right binding broke. It was still strapped on around the middle of the boot, but otherwise, my boot was nearly free of the snowshoe. I tried to undo the strap around my foot so I could walk the last few yards, but it wouldn’t come undone.
I limped along, flipping the right snowshoe forward and then standing on it with the boot, then stepping with the left snowshoe, and then doing the same again until finally I made it to the car. Once there, I was able to slip my feet out of the boots and put my other boots on. The snowshoes and poles were (gently) tossed into the back of the car and we headed home.
I am planning to participate in a primitive biathlon in less than two weeks, and I will need to work these kinks out before then so I don’t have problems while running the course! I will need to re-do the bindings, maybe replacing them all together, and find the right poles. I also need to make sure my ankle will be able to withstand the course. Luckily, the terrain at the event is smooth, so I am not too worried about that, but it is a consideration! Now if I could find a good solution to fogged up glasses… that may prove to be my downfall if they fog up too bad when it comes time to shoot my muzzleloader after snowshoeing to the range!