Walking on Water

Diving feet-first into the world of snowshoeing.

From the first snowfall in late September to the lingering remnants in early May, buck up buttercup, winter's here! I'm a summer person, and besides disliking the cold, I used to hate winter because there was nothing to do.

Frankly, I'm intimidated by the ski hill. For one, I can't coordinate my legs to even do the snowplow. Who wants to ski if the only way to stop is by running into something? And I've seen too many knees blown out to think of skiing as anything but dangerous. Besides, it's expensive as hell.

That's right folks—I'm a college student. It's twenty-five bucks to rent gear, and thirty on up for a lift ticket. Some things are worth the money. I personally opt for eating.

Last year, while I was midway through my usual monologue about the unbearable length of winter, a friend asked if I had ever tried snowshoeing. Snowshoeing? Walking with tennis rackets on my feet for recreation? Ha! But my friend was insistent, and so the next day, I found myself shelling out seven dollars for a pair of rental snowshoes. They looked surprisingly state-of-the-art. They were oval-shaped aluminum frames stretched with a plastic decking; in the middle was a "toe-clip" with snow-gripping metal teeth for traction, and sturdy straps to cinch your boot in. No tennis rackets here.

Armed with my cheap, space-age rentals, we headed out. Passing the rich folk at Bridger Bowl, we took a left a few miles up the road at Battle Ridge. Strapping our feet in right there on the shoulder of the road, we embarked. "So this is snowshoeing!" I thought to myself. It took exactly as much finesse as walking, and just a bit more effort. I was hiking in the snow without sinking up to my armpits. Not bad. And just as I began to recant my "winter sucks" mantra, we hit a hill. As I tried to step up, the foot I was pushing off slid backwards. I tried again. I slid again. And again. After three minutes of floundering I was lathered in sweat. I stopped to survey my progress...ten feet.

Whose stupid idea was this anyway? Looking up I saw my friend plugging away, at an angle parallel to the hill. I took the hint. "Thanks for the helpful tips," I muttered, and dug the side of my snowshoe into the powder. Finding a rhythm, I finally headed up the hill, my breathing evening out. And as I caught up with my friend at the top, nature began to charm me. The ground ahead was untouched by footprints. The wind tickled my cheeks. The trees rustled. The snow sparkled.

"What is there to love in nature besides the wild beauty, stolen silence, and crisp moments when you are alone?" I mused. (I'm an English student, ok?). Anyway, I wasn't cold, injured, or broke. I was alive. Alive! And as I took another deep breath, I realized that I had just been converted.

So this Christmas I'm gonna ask Santa for a pair of my own snowshoes. For $150 (the cost of about three ski trips), you can pick up a really good pair. And with my new snowshoes, I'm going to explore some of my favorite summer hiking spots.

Mystic Lake for one. An all-day affair, it's an easy hike, with a big meadow that's fun to play around in with snowshoes. To find it, take a right from Kagy onto Sourdough, another right onto Nash, and then left on Sourdough Canyon Road. Emerald Lake is another favorite all-day hike, a little harder than Mystic. The terrain's beautiful, with a little creek and scenic lake at the end. To get to it, take a left from South 19th onto Hyalite Canyon Road, drive past the reservoir, and turn left at the fork. From the picnic area beyond hang a right and drive to the end of the road. And if you don't have all day, Sleeping Giant is a good smaller hike with a challenging hill and great view. Take Hyalite Canyon Road and hang a right at the fork, then park at the turnout about a mile up.

With all these places to explore, I don't mind winter anymore. I actually like it. And all it took was a miracle. Walking on water made me a believer!