Joe and I needed an outdoor adventure to more fully appreciate Northern Michigan’s winter face.
“Let's try something different,” said I. “How about snowshoeing?”
Years ago my downhill skiing had been frequently plagued by acute ski-tangle. Any topographical anomaly encouraged them to mount each other: down I’d go. Rising again was comically difficult, as the mile-long skis refused to be reasonable. I’d flail around, graceful as a walrus on a dance floor. Joe, finally realizing I wasn’t behind him, would ski back, hunting for pole-sign under six feet of powder. After one 12,000- foot triumphant ski experience down---and three spectacular wipeouts in the Rocky Mountains, high, I huddled in front of Winter Park’s ski lodge’s blazing fireplace and firmly declared that the odds were against me. Downhill skiing would henceforth morph to the cross-country sort. It was just too frustrating, otherwise.
But those (even longer) skis proved just as irritating. I found myself entangled more than upright. Face it, I grumbled to myself: you’re just too short (barely 60 inches high and shrinking) for such long fellows.
This time, though, I’d acquit myself well. I mean, what can happen to a reasonably nimble person wearing little tennis racket-type thingies?
Besides, I’d already mastered walking.
So, off we went to rent some snowshoes at the Timber Ridge Lodge, about twenty minutes southeast of Traverse City.
The clerk measured us and brought out two pairs. He was surprised at my surprise. I’d never looked closely at snowshoes; these plastic fatties looked weird! Bristling with teeth underneath and sprouting buckles and straps topside, they were strongly reminiscent of steroidal Bigfoot feet. Intrigued, I strapped them on (with his help) over my sturdy boots.
If ducks could walk flatfooted, then so could I.
Awkwardly staggering out of the lodge we set off through a huge, mature forest with powdery snow deep and crisp and even. Initially lurching, legs spread out like two-year-olds with a load in their pants, we soon found our strides, relaxed into a rhythm and began looking around the spectacular woodland with deep pleasure. The curved trail, which seemed to meander on forever, was wide and nicely groomed. Though the weather was incredibly cold (high teens) there was no wind. Plus, we seemed to be alone out here.
Wow. We could love this.
Crunch, crunch. Lovely iPod music filled my headphones as I padded, buoyed by Bach.
Half a mile later, I glanced back.
Huh. Where was Joe? I listened. Nothing.
I waited, sure he’d slide around that bend and wave, but no...
Backtracking, I grinned. Was it possible I’d find him down?
A few turns later there he was, lying on his back, waving those broad, webbed feet, chuckling.
“I tried to back up to look at something more closely—unwise. I figured you’d find me sooner or later....”
Oh. Backup difficulties hadn’t occurred to me!
Clumping over to him I extended a mittened hand to pull him up- and foolishly reversed, seeking more leverage. With a squawk of dismay, I fell backward. There we were, two prone stuffed sausages, flailing away in a deep snow bank.
What can one do but laugh?
Struggling to sit up (not easy, with protruding equipment swamping both boot ends) I finally managed to remove my gear, pull Joe up, and then re-buckle- which was a struggle, as my fingers went numb. But. Alas, all this huffing and puffing was for nothing. Teetering to one side, I tipped into the snowy depression we’d made. OMG.
Upright Joe fell against a five-inch tree trunk, laughing. Jolted, the tree dumped a large pile of snow smack onto my face. Sputtering, I rolled onto my side, noting glumly that our winter sports history was gleefully repeating itself.
This footgear, though much shorter, was wider and, well, ducky, presenting its own challenges.
On the bright side, only the forest had observed we two backward city bumpkins.
It was small comfort.
But now we’d become disoriented. Snowshoe and cross-country ski tracks went both ways, so it was tricky to decide which direction would take us back. After some discussion we simply trudged along the trail, reasoning that sooner or later, it would end up back at the Lodge.
There was another problem. I was really hot! My snowsuit would be hard to take off, though. I’d have to remove my snowshoes again. And my gloves...
I had warm, layered clothing underneath, but would then have to tote the suit... (Friends had warned against overdressing for this adventure but I didn’t listen.) To peel off the top layer now would eat up the scant minutes we had left. (Our rentals had a two-hour time limit.)
Cooking, I carried on, with Joe firing off verbal pictures of roasting marshmallows melting the snow.
The trail wound around and through the countryside and, a good while later, did eventually lead home. We were very late, though. The kind clerk let it go, noting snow where it shouldn’t be.
All in all, though, it had been a thumbs-up adventure. Snowshoes are fun!
Timber Ridge was beautiful, but we’d buy our own equipment and explore trails much closer to Traverse City. The Commons, for example, offered gorgeous possibilities...
Joe has occasionally tried to get me to reconsider skiing, but I’m resistant to wearing anything skinnier- and longer-- than I am.
These fatter pseudo-feet, however, promise a cool future!