I wasn't born to snowshoe...
Of all the words used to describe me, “keen outdoorswoman” is rarely employed. While I greatly appreciate nature, it is often in a relatively controlled and hygienic fashion. A stroll through a botanical garden, a gentle nature walk in a National Park, occasional car camping trips punctuated with wheels of Brie and flagons of wine. So when the idea of snow shoeing in the Ontario Highlands was proposed to me, the very idea seemed so athletic, so intrepid, so…. snow-y that my anti-adventurist nerves were tingling. And not in a good way.
In order to put my (most sensible) fears in context, it pays to get acquainted with 10 year old Vanessa. As the recipient of a pair of plastic cross country skies at Christmas, I took to the pancake-flat acreage of my house with the dynamic athletic grace of a much more experienced explorer. As I glided over the one inch moguls of snow and flew down our 1 degree inclined driveway, I seemed destined for greatness. For two years I perfected the craft of backyard skiing until I finally had the opportunity to join on the annual class ski trip to a proper, downhill course.
What I’m about to say might shock you but you simply must know – downhill skiing is not the same as backyard, plastic ski, cross country skiing. Not even a little bit. I managed to ski out of control on the flat practice area where the lessons were being conducted. When they put me on the tiny practice hill (not the bunny hill – just the gradually sloping side of the lesson section), my skiing prowess saw me escaping from the tightly corralled area and careening wildly towards the main lodge. A school teacher was dispatched to chase after me and stop me by the only method available to them – tripping! You would think after all this they would have put me back on the bus for the duration of the day but instead I was sent down the bunny hill. Best just to say I spent the remainder of the afternoon in the lodge, gulping down scalding cups of cheap hot chocolate, dragging my feed in sodden snow pants, and desperately trying to figure out how to use a payphone to call an unreachable, imaginary rescue squad.
And I have cheerfully avoided all forms of winter athletics ever since.
So when a short snow shoeing experience was proposed by my travel blogging friends, I was torn between decades of well-founded fear and the highly logical position of not wanting to appear wimpy or uncool. So I was in, but for what I was not sure.
My fears were somewhat relieved when I met Maria, our guide from the Haliburton based Yours Outdoors. Maria didn’t seem like a winter sadist at all. In fact, she seemed downright friendly! She assured all of us (including my now slightly nervous looking colleagues) that she wasn’t there to push us and she was happy to go at our speed and our level. She assured us of a beautiful day and a fun experience and, together with her partner Corey, we'd have all the assistance we required.
When we arrived at our starting point Harrington Park, Corey warned us that the first few minutes of snow shoeing can feel quite awkward and that falling down is a natural part of the experience for everyone. Hmmm…… this didn’t bode well for me! I was comforted somewhat by the fact that the snow shoes were modern looking apparatuses (no wicker tennis racket-style contraptions here!) and they felt very snug and secure on my feet, with two buckles over the front and one around the back.
We were encouraged to stomp around the parking lot to get used to the sensation of wearing the shoes. I was surprised by how natural the movements felt and how quickly that the snow shoes felt like an extension of my own feet. Could it be that I was secretly a natural at snow shoeing and I never knew it?
I didn't have to go far before I realized that I wasn't quite a born natural snow shoe-er but it DID come to me more naturally than I had anticipated. Snow shoeing may be a bit awkward at first, but walking on deep snow is even more awkward and unnatural. Snow shoes were a tool to help me walk easier and, while I had a few unsteady moments, overall I felt confident and comfortable. And falling down? Well, not to brag, but I WAS the only one in our group to stay on my feet the whole time! (Alright, I confess, I am bragging a bit about that!)
While there were a few unsteady moments, I soon gained some speed as I got the hang of the movements and I was able to walk more steadily and quickly than I had ever anticipated. Snow shoeing made an otherwise inaccessible trail our own personal adventure as we were able to get close to the water and explore around trees and caves. Marie and Corey brought the local eco-system to life as they told us about different trees and plants and pointed out signs of animals.
There's no denying that snow shoeing is a great workout - by the morning's end, muscles I didn't even know I had were throbbing - but I'm proof that people with all different levels of outdoors experience and fitness can enjoy it. It's an affordable, easy to learn, experience that can be enjoyed just about anywhere there's snow and I would absolutely snow shoe again.
As always, I welcome and encourage your comments. What's the most adventurous winter activity you've done?
If you enjoyed this article, you'll also like:
Travel Memories Are Made When I Explore the Great Outdoors
Tales from the Anti-Adventurist: Vanessa Goes Kayaking
Tales from the Anti-Adventurist: Exploring the Grand Canyon
My snowshoeing experience was compliments of Ontario Highlands Tourism in conjunction with Yours Outdoors. This did not effect my review and all opinions remain my own.