Snowshoe through the winter

Pat Martin
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BY PAT MARTIN

If you can walk, you can snowshoe.

It’s easy to learn, inexpensive, poses little injury risk, enriches health, burns calories and improves cardiovascular fitness.

Two weeks into 2011, and 21 Scott’s Bay residents have joined the newly-formed group of local snowshoe enthusiasts. Each Sunday afternoon, the group meets at Phil and Gena Capstick’s to explore new trails and scenery.

Members are anxious to hit the trails, but Phil, a retired schoolteacher with 34 years’ experienced with outdoor venture groups, stresses the importance of proper protection during snowshoeing.

“Dressing in layers is critical,” says Phil. “As you heat up through physical activity, you can open or shed layers to prevent sweat build-up. Protecting your feet, hands, face, neck and head are extremely critical. Fifty per cent of your heat loss is through your head. Improper clothing can lead to hypothermia or frostbite and, in extreme cases, can cost you a limb - or even your life.

Most people wear hiking boots or snow boots, layering socks for warmth and to prevent chaffing and blisters. Hats are a personal choice. In addition to keeping you warm and preventing frostbite, face or neck warmers can help if you have breathing problems by helping you to breathe warm air.

Snowshoe designs are an individual choice, distributing weight over a larger area so your feet don’t sink completely into the snow. “Traditional” snowshoes are usually rounder and wider, made from hardwood and rawhide latticework. “Modern” snowshoes are of lightweight metal, plastic and synthetic fabric. Ski poles or trekking poles are often added for stability.

A half-hour hike, then a break at the cabin, sitting around the woodstove with hot apple cider and cheese and biscuits, and then off for another half-hour hike.

January 17, 16 newcomers and experienced hikers, some with as many as 60 years’ experience, hitched a ride on a horse-drawn sleigh. Lizzie, the Capsticks’ beautiful chestnut brown horse, often provides sleigh rides, pulls logs from the woods, travels in parades and even pulls wedding carriages. The group loves how Lizzie’s heavy trot and the sound of her sleigh bells complement the outing, setting out through a thick blanket of freshly fallen snow.

Two kilometres into the logging trail, the group made a brief stop at the cabin, and divided into groups of three for safety with a designated person to follow at the rear.

The day and trails were perfect: no ice, no steep terrain - just excellent conditions for snowshoeing. The outing was not only healthy and exhilarating, but also educational.

“This is a good example of an Acadian forest,” Phil explained, pointing out the differences between sugar and red maples, yellow birch, 200-year-old trees; explaining how to use trees as directional tools and pointing out fresh deer tracks.

The group loves to snowshoe and agrees the social activity, picturesque scenery, fresh air, sleigh bells and exercise is an excellent way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

“We have a very nice group of people,” says Gena, also a retired teacher, “and we are pleased there is such a good turnout and that every one enjoys themselves.”

 

Geographic location: Acadian forest

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