The wind whirled in raging swirls around the peaks of far off mountains as we strapped our feet into the bindings of our snowshoes. The fierce wind gusted temperamentally down over the edges of the summer hay fields, up the frozen creek bed and raced across the meadow, gaining speed until it loosened its grip on the picked up snow, dropping it in drifts upon the groomed trail ahead of us. White, deflated clouds raced along the bright blue sky pushed by speeding winter winds aloft.
Moment by moment the beautiful, snow padded landscape around us changed from tranquil and serene to blustery and windswept. Our views were temporarily stolen by sudden bursts of snow crystals being swept up and off the ground into giant swirling, miniature funnel clouds of ice whipping across the trail ahead of us. Were we all wondering whether to grab our stocking caps? Did we need our heavy gloves instead of the lightweight ones we had? Was my coat going to be warm enough?
And then, as fast as it was scooped up by the wind and into the air around us, the cloud of cold was gone and calm warmth ensued. Should I leave my stocking cap? Maybe my lighter gloves will do instead of my mittens? Do I even need to take a coat?
We probably could have spent all afternoon there at the trailhead, our minds changing by the second from one wind gust to the next. But without waiting for another cold wind burst to change our minds, we set out onto the groomed road ahead of us. With a beaming blue sky above and awkward, wide snowshoes at our feet, we began . . . our shoes crackling with the sound of our sharp, metal crampons biting into the drifted snow below us. We definitely didn’t need to worry about accidentally surprising a bear just escaped from winter hibernation, I’m fairly certain they could hear us coming from a mile away. In that respect, I think our snowshoes were doubling as an official alert to the wilderness that we were invading their space, and to please remain at a safe distance to avoid close-range ski pole artillery. Forget speed as any defense mechanism at our disposal in these contraptions.
There are moments in life that you severely regret decisions that you have made along the way. After spending 10 minutes being blown about by the raging wind, sweat already trickling down my forehead, I knew I had made one of those most regrettable mistakes: deciding to ever cut bangs into my hair.
I couldn’t take it any longer. A pit stop in the middle of the trail was hastily made and my emergency bobbie pins were retrieved, luckily, from somewhere within my pocket. Without so much as a care of what they looked like, those suckers were pulled back taut, pinned back out of my face and re-pinned with a second as an insurance policy (no need to take any further chances here.) With the first emergency situation averted, we walked on, crunching our way up the hill farther.
Unfortunately, I have had experience with wind and snowshoes in the past. Quite a few years ago, a group of my friends and I volunteered to help at a Tubbs Romp to Stomp Out Cancer event in Breckinridge. We were bribed with a free lift ticket to the top of the mountain and the promise of a free meal following the race. I think we forgot to consider that this was a race . . . . in the middle of the night . . . at the top of a ski mountain . . . . where the wind blows incessantly. I think we also had no idea that our “job” would be to stand at the finish line and cheer on the racers as they crossed the line. In the middle of the night, at the top of a ski mountain, where the wind blows incessantly.
I guess I pictured families walking their way across the 5K finish line, leisurely, enjoying the time spent with each other, albeit in the cold dark of night. What I did not expect was the first racers sprinting across the finish line just 15 minutes after the race started. I really had no idea that it was possible to run in snowshoes, let alone sprint in them. By the last stragglers that slowly made their way across the finish line two and a half hours later, I was wishing someone had taught everyone how to run and sprint in them. We were cold. Our voices were gone from cheering sweet nothings to the finishers. We were hungry. It was time for our promised free meal inside.
We sauntered in, drifted snow peeling off the bottoms of our ski pants, noses and cheeks reddened by the windchilled air, frosty eyelashes and iced-over eyebrows, toes that we only realized were still there when we looked down and saw that we really did still have feet attached to our legs.
As we unwittingly stood in the food line, already tasting the free hot meal hot upon our tongues, we had no idea that the food had ran out long ago, before even the last racer had finished. So we waited in line, not realizing that what we were actually waiting for was a token, an “I’m sorry we ran out of food” Clif Bar that would hopefully tide us over until we could make it back off the mountain.
Have you ever had a Clif bar? They come in delectable sounding flavors like, “Chocolate Brownie,” “Crunchy Peanut Butter,” and my personal choice, “White Chocolate Macadamia.” They are granola bar-esque, only they pack the punch of an organic energy bar. They are grainy and unbelievably dry. A chocolate brownie, they are not. And White Chocolate Macadamia is just slander, defamation of character of the sweet cookie we all know.
But after a night filled with icy wind and freezing temperatures, we resigned ourselves to our personal choices in Clif Bars, coming to the realization that White Chocolate Macadamia was not to be trusted. Ever again. In any form.
So today, as we found ourselves just finishing up our snowshoe excursion, the wind howling cold in our faces now, I couldn’t help but think of previous snowshoe adventures. From remote trailheads to the tops of ski hills — Where will my snowshoes take me next? All I hope is that it doesn’t require any sprinting. Or Clif Bars.