The Literal Leave No Trace of Snowshoeing

While snowshoeing this winter, several times I thought of the ethic that permeates many of our minds when out on the trail: Leave No Trace. Aside from possibly unintentionally dropping a snack wrapper or whatever, snowshoeing really does exactly that over time; it leaves no evidence that we were there.

What Was There Is Now Gone

Snowshoeing is, in some ways, like surfing. When a surfer paddles and catches a wave, the wave face is marked, initially, by the board sliding down it. A trail of sorts is left behind, the ocean water having been cut or carved, if you will. As the wave rolls to shore and the next wave comes in, though, that carved line dissipates into nothingness. It is, for all intents and purposes, gone.

Snowshoeing provides such serenity. Photo by James Murren, Laguna Mountain Recreation Area, San Diego, CA.

Also, I think of mandalas, the Tibetan sand paintings that, when finished, so to speak, are then quickly “destroyed,” hands of the artists moving over the sand to “mess” up the mandala. The act of creating the mandala is the purpose.

Similarly, the elaborate sawdust carpets found throughout Latin America during Semana Santa that take days to create, only to then be walked over by the Easter processions of people. When walked over, the carpets are “ruined,” as some might say. The art on display in the streets is/was a creativity that stopped traffic for a moment in time but then no longer exists. Each stepping foot makes its pass and what was there on display is forever gone, never to be created again.

The sand and the sawdust are swept up and the mandalas and carpets are gone, except for in our memories and/or on our camera memory cards.

The Snowshoeing Canvas

What does your canvas look like? Photo by James Murren, Laguna Mountain Recreation Area, San Diego, CA.

Snowshoeing, to me, is in the same vein. We go out into the mountains, the forests, the county park, the wood lots near our homes to walk on winter’s precipitation. In front of us, assuming we are the first ones out, and if no animals have hopped, stepped, walked prior to us being there, there is a blank white canvas. Then we walk over that canvas. In so doing, though, we leave tracks behind, signs that we were there. The white canvas is now pockmarked with snowshoe imprints and holes where our trekking poles pierced the snow.

Nevertheless, what is comforting, to me, is knowing that warm temperatures will come. The snow will melt and feed various ecosystems as it flows, and all the while, our tracks slowly fade away, eventually leaving no evidence of our being there. Essentially, with a long view of time and space, we have left no trace. Summer’s scenes depict nothing of snowshoeing.

Read More: Simon Beck: The Art of Snowshoeing, Snowshoeing As Art


About the author

James Murren

James Murren is the author of 3 books and numerous outdoor adventure and travel articles. More of his writings are available at:

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