I think I heard the other day that Chicago hasn’t had any snow this winter… boo-hoo, boo-hoo! I’ll have to call my friend Jon in Madison, to see how their winter has been, in terms of snow. We had a decent dump early in December, followed by a week of extremely cold weather -which I missed due to my surgery! But that initial snow all melted within a couple of weeks. Since then, it’s been almost like April. No snow. We got an inch the other night, but it was all gone before noon the next day! This coming weekend is forecast to have 50-60 degree highs. I haven’t had my snowshoes on yet this year!
Last week my physical therapy was scheduled to end on Friday. The forecast was for a foot or more of fresh powder on Thursday night and Friday. I went to my Wednesday therapy session and cancelled my Friday session. The woman behind the desk said they were getting quite a few cancellations because people didn’t want to go out on the bad roads, and she understood! I laughed, and told her I wanted to go snowshoeing! It would sure beat the hell out of a half hour on the treadmill – I knew that!
The therapists and RN’s had a brief celebration/graduation party for me completing (almost) my therapy sessions… kazoos, singing, hugs, good byes, and good lucks! All Fun! All great folks, but I was glad to be leaving! Alas, the storm track shifted south by a hundred miles and we got nothing, nada, zip! So no snowshoeing yet this year! I’m bummed!
March has a reputation for often being very snowy in Minnesota, although it doesn’t look like it within the next week. But I haven’t given up! Thus, I’m stuck with telling you about a great snowshoeing weekend back in 2013… only because I have a few pictures documenting the event.
The Superior Hiking Trail Association (SHTA) sponsored a group snowshoeing hike, probably in January or February that year, and a friend of mine -Tom L. was the designated leader of the event! It took my wife and me about five minutes to decide that we didn’t want to miss that one! There was plenty of snow, and the event was planned for a section of trail near Cove Point Lodge, one of our favorite North Shore haunts -especially in the winter.
It would be about a four hour drive on a Friday evening, to reach Cove Point Lodge. The group would begin the ‘snow-hike’ at 10 a.m. Saturday morning. Cove Point Lodge is about an 90 minutes north of Duluth on Hwy 61. We got a nice room and a complimentary bottle of wine at a good price. We were happy campers, and warm in our room!
Coincidentaly, I’d met the group leader, Tom L., four years earlier when he co-led (with Dick Z.), a SHT-group on a week-long backpacking trip (also sponsored by SHTA) over a fantastic section of the SHT (Caribou Wayside to Tettegouche). I’ve hiked more miles (winter and summer) with Tom over the past 8-9 years than I’d care to calculate… but we’ve had lots of good time and miles together! [That original hike where we all met in 2009 is described here.] -The first of three posts describing the entire week-long backpacking trip.
So early Saturday morning the group met outside Cove Point Lodge, and we staged some vehicles to get us back to our starting point after we completed the ‘snow-hike.’ We gathered for a group picture before we hit the trail (below). Tom and I are in gray jackets, front and center, Judy to my right. It was a great day, lots of snow, and we had to keep moving to stay warm!
I volunteered to be the ‘sweep’ on this hike. It’s the sweep’s job to make sure no one gets left behind, or lost on the trail. After a short while, I found myself following an older couple, and it was the woman’s first time snowshoeing. I had helped her get her very old, rented snowshoes on before we got started. She followed behind her husband, who demonstrated no patience for her along the trail. Following behind her, I could see when her straps were getting loose and help tighten them before her snowshoes fell off. After a couple of stops, her husband began yelling at her and I told him not to worry about it – ‘Just relax and enjoy the hike.’ She was having a good time, but we were moving pretty slowly; which was just fine, it wasn’t a race after all!
After a couple of hours, I figured we must be getting close to the vehicles we’d staged at a parking lot/trailhead -our day’s destination! As we rounded a turn I spotted Judy heading toward us up ahead. She was wondering where we were and how everything was going. I introduced her to the couple I was with and we chatted a bit before continuing along. She had said we were getting close to the trailhead. It wasn’t long and I spotted Tom coming down the trail toward us. He was looking for us too. He told us everyone had reached the trailhead and departed in their vehicles. ‘No problem,’ I said.
When we arrived at the parking lot, Tom’s vehicle was there to take us all back to our starting point. The older couple was telling him what fun they had doing the snowshoe hike, and the woman kept thanking me for being so patient with her and helping her with her snowshoes. She really appreciated my help, and they both had a great time.
I really enjoyed the entire experience, and was glad I’d been able to help the older couple enjoy their outing. Since then, I’ve volunteered to be ‘sweep’ on several other hikes. As ‘sweep,’ it seems I usually end up following younger or older, less-experienced hikers, and I don’t mind following slowly, often taking pictures along the route.
However, I don’t like being ‘sweep’ on SHT-group backpacking trips. On the SHT-group hikes, you’d usually hike with strangers with varied skill-levels. In fact, I think they have stopped offering the group backpacking trips due to the uncertainties of hiker competence, etc. I like keeping up a good pace, taking short breaks, and arriving at my daily destination in a timely manner. I don’t like carrying a heavy pack any longer than necessary. And as described in the 2009 hike above, some hikers need a sweep, and some shouldn’t even be out on the trail as they can be a risk to themselves as well as others on the hike. (Don’t confuse Boston John (’09 hike) with my friend Madison Jon, referenced above.)
Here’s hoping for heavy snows in March… the more, the merrier! I think 18″-20″ of fresh powder would be great! And if we get lucky, I’ll be sure to get lots of pictures for the blog post! And this spring, I’ll start getting some radio-oriented adventures posted as well!
Think snow! 😉
73, de Mike, KEØGZT