FOR THE LOVE OF SNOWSHOES
By Harold J. Reid
My father was an avid fisherman, whose life-long dream was to purchase and run his own fishing camp. One day in the late 1960s, I received a call from him telling me that he had an opportunity to purchase a camp, but he needed help to finance it. I proceeded to break open my piggy bank, and we became partners in what turned out to be an exciting adventure.
To get to the camp, one had to go to the small town of Hagar, which is located between Sudbury and North Bay, in Ontario. Once there, you had to continue north on the rough, dirt road that was made by the lumber company who cleared trees as they forged ahead. Once over the Canadian National Railway line, it wasn’t too far to the lane that went to the lake, where our camp was located.
We had finalized the purchase late in the fall but had to wait until spring to get things going. Wanting to show the property to my buddies, however, we went up at the end of December, in my pickup truck. We had learned that there were still some workers at the lumber camp north of our fishing camp and that the road was being cleared of snow. I also knew that the narrow lane into the camp would be snowed in, so I bought in advance my first pair of snowshoes (which were wooden beavertail snowshoes around 42 inches long) so that I would be able to get in.
When we arrived at the roadway to the camp, we parked the truck, then removed the small aluminum boat I had taken up in the box of the vehicle. We put our supplies into the boat, and with our snowshoes on, pushed it across the untouched snow to the camp. The sky above us was blue and cloudless, the air around us was cold but fresh, and the snow that blanketed the ground sparkled. Combined with the tranquility, I knew that I was instantly hooked on snowshoeing, which I continue to enjoy in my senior years.
There is nothing like going snowshoeing the day after a fresh snowfall, when the sky is clear and everything around you is peaceful. The way the snow hangs off whatever it has landed on is spectacular, and if there has been some freezing rain, the shapes formed by ice hanging off branches makes one pause periodically to catch a longer glimpse.
Something else to think about is: go snowshoeing on a day when it is snowing, and it gives a whole new perspective to your walk. Also, if you are adventurous, go snowshoeing when there is a winter snowstorm. While it’s exhilarating and challenging, one must be cautious and safety minded. In my case, I don’t own a watch or a cell phone, so I make sure I tell my wife exactly where I’m going and roughly how long I’ll be (I always check the time before I go out and again when I get back. This way I always have an idea how long my walks are.).
Another activity to do while snowshoeing is observing and identifying animal tracks. Deer, rabbits, foxes, raccoons, and coyotes are just a few to keep an eye out for. Smaller rodents making winding journeys across the snow, and birds that drop out of the air to do a little dance on the surface, are also interesting to spot.
As I explore, no two outings are the same. Once I was going through a wooded area that I travelled on quite frequently over the years, when suddenly, I stopped myself abruptly after I had gone up and down a bump. It entered my mind that this part of the trail was normally flat, so I went back to investigate. As I stood over the lump, I took my walking stick I always carry with me and began to break up the hard snow. Underneath lay a dead racoon that had met its end in that spot and had been buried by future snowfalls.
One winter, I knew I had an upcoming appointment at the dentist, and I thought— why not try to snowshoe there? Now it’s about 4 kilometres from my house into town (Sutton to Jackson’s Point, Ontario). I knew that as I entered Sutton by car, there was a clearing in the trees where snowmobiles went. So, in advance of my visit to the dentist, I found a way from my house (at times along some trails and other times through wooded areas) to this clearing. Then, on the day of my appointment, I knew how to get there again and how long it would take. I snowshoed along the edge of the road through town to the dental office and parked my snowshoes before getting my teeth cleaned. Then, I snowshoed back home.
If I’m snowshoeing along a trail, or through a not too dense wooded area, I wear the standard size beavertail or bearpaw snowshoes (ranging from 36 inches to 42 inches in length). If I’m in an open area where the snow is especially deep, I wear one of my longer 60-inch snowshoes (Ojibway or Pickerel or Alaskan). When the surface of the snow is ‘hard’ or ‘crusty’ and the terrain goes up and down, I wear my metal snowshoes with ice cleats on the bottom.
For those of us who live in a region where we have a long winter season, why be miserable counting down the days to spring? Stay active by embracing an activity like snowshoeing. If you are unable to snowshoe for whatever reason but like their unique look, why not buy a pair to decorate a front porch, garage, or rec. room?
Whether you are looking for snowshoes or an addition for another collection, support your Ontario antique stores—for the fun of it, and for the love of your local dealers!