It’s April, and while there is still snow to be found in the high country of Colorado (and after the occasional spring blizzard in the Mile High City, embroiling the bus system and turning the city streets into a slushy quagmire), I feel my first season of snowshoeing winding down.
As I lovingly trace the scuffs and nicks on my once pristine plastic and aluminum-scented snowshoes, my thoughts turn, quite literally, to yesteryear. September 2004 to be exact. What a different man I was: Wide-eyed and naïve, ready to launch headlong onto whatever snowy trail fate laid before me. Over the last eight months, many people have offered their advice and encouragement, from the Swiss Alps to the sands of Nevada, and while their knowledge has been welcome and useful, it is experience that has proven to be the best teacher. My exploits have a certain “Family Circus” Billy-cavorting-about-the-neighborhood dotted line feel. These are some of the things I’ve picked up on the way:
*Poles are your friends. Not only for keeping your balance when you’re negotiating challenging terrain but for hauling your out-of-shape butt upward until your winter legs develop.
*Cross-country skiers don’t appreciate it when you stomp on their glide tracks, but they are usually nice when you apologize and tell them you’re just getting the hang of trail etiquette.
*Granola bars are a great morning after remedy.
*Few things in this world are cuter, or more humorous, than small children snowshoeing or skiing.
*The scientific concept of compass declination (that’s a lie…I still don’t understand that).
*Professional snowshoers are tremendous athletes, and true specimens of the human body.
*When in Vegas, enjoy the complimentary drinks, be choosy about which buffet you select (they’re all good), always double down on eleven and don’t try to assume a false identity.
*R means right, and L means left. These are occasionally on your snowshoes, and can save you some embarrassment if there is an expert nearby.
*Crampons, “floating”, and Shirpas.
*Layers are crucial. You’ll start out cold, work up a sweat quickly, and be shivering again within minutes.
*There are a lot of Subarus in Colorado. It’s downright overwhelming.
*Companionship is also vital. You spend a lot of time conversing and getting to know people on the trail and on the car ride up. Make sure you appreciate the company.
*Snowshoers as a people are friendly, happy, family-oriented folks who are quick to offer a smile and a hello. Wave back.
That about does it. From the climbs of Mount Evans to the crowds at the Beaver Creek Snowshoe Adventure Series to sipping hot chocolate while the snow clung to my face in Estes Park, it’s been a memorable time.
I’d like to thank two people who have inspired me this winter. The first is Dave “Big Foot” Felkley, whose contagious enthusiasm has me looking forward to growing older gracefully and outdoors. The other is the immortal Hunter S. Thompson whose life ended this February here in Colorado. From the beginning, this column has been a humble attempt at “Gonzo journalism” and while I’ve steered clear of the mind-altering drugs, I’ve always appreciated his genius.
This is Marcus the Intern, hoping to see everyone out on the trails this coming winter, signing off.