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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  Outdoors

Alan Liere: Snowshoeing in practice not quite as shiny as theory

The only exercise I get in the winter when the weather is bad is shoveling snow, hauling wood and bird hunting. This winter there has been quite a lot of wood hauling and snow shoveling, but the deep snow has made hunting unproductive. I don’t mind driving 70 miles to hunt quail, but I hate driving 70 miles and only being able to hunt an hour because the deep snow quickly wears me out.

Without giving it too much thought, I decided I needed snowshoes. With snowshoes I could go hunting again. Hadn’t I seen those hardy individuals from the Alaska shows on television gliding over deep snow while chasing moose?

I went to the REI store in Spokane – it was the first time I had visited the shop. I had stayed away from REI because of a misconception it was frequented only by Starbuck-swilling yuppies, but the friendly, helpful clerks and the attractive female cashiers impressed me. Particularly the attractive cashiers.

Had I discovered the store a couple of years ago, I’d probably be in-line skating, climbing mountains, snowboarding and kayaking with them by now. I paid $179 for snowshoes – high-tech aluminum, plastic and nylon devices with steel traction grips and sturdy rivets. They were simple to put on and take off.

I took them home for a test run, but when I stepped off my porch into 16 inches of powder, I discovered snowshoes do not really allow you to float on top, they merely cut the distance you sink – which under the current conditions, was 5 inches. Walking with snowshoes was not nearly as easy as I had hoped. Still, I had paid $179. Calling the dogs, I set off down the hill toward the creek and made a discovery – if the two dogs went ahead of me and broke trail, I didn’t sink nearly as deep.

Unfortunately, the novelty of belly-deep snow soon wore off for Lucy and Jill. They, too, had made a discovery – walking behind the big guy was a lot easier than plunging ahead. I was breaking trail and working up a terrible sweat. Nevertheless, I plodded on, my breathing beginning to sound very much like my dishwasher just before it died.

Before long, the dogs decided it would be fun if they periodically stepped on the back of a snowshoe, an act that usually sent me sprawling. This, to them, was the signal I wanted to play, and they moved in quickly, tugging at my clothing and rolling over the top of me until I raised my voice and called them terrible names.

Chastised, they would back off for a few minutes, but before long, one would step on my snowshoe again, all the previous harsh words would be forgotten, and the rollicking in the snow would begin anew.

Back home two hours later, I was tired and sore, but somewhat exhilarated. I missed half of a football game (a very good thing considering the holiday glut), the dogs were happy, and I probably burned a million calories.

I also saw some interesting stuff – the pile of feathers and wing marks in the snow where an owl had scooped up a quail, the spot of blood and disturbed earth where a coyote had enjoyed his pocket gopher breakfast. Snowshoes may not work for bird hunting, but I’m glad I bought them.

I’m going to go back to REI and tell the girls so.

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