Outdoors blog: Snowshoes are a different and fun way to get around in winter
Once, several years ago, some other adults and I took a group of Boy Scouts on a winter camping trip. It was a Friday-through-Sunday affair not far from home but a chance to get out.
The goal, as always, was twofold: to have fun and do it outdoors.
In this instance, the idea was to take the boys snowshoeing.
Pray for snow, I told them. We'll need about 4 inches to make this really work.
We got about two feet. Remember “Snowmageddon”?
Undeterred — and not sure once we were there that we could get home anyway — we hit the woods, eager to roam and explore. That's just what we did, too.
But not without a comedic start.
The boys stood single file at the entrance to the park's prairie as we got organized.
None had been in snowshoes before. So they were standing pretty close together.
And when the one in the back tripped over his own suddenly huge feet and fell forward? Well, that's where the domino effect came into play.
As a nonvictim who got to see the whole thing play out, almost in slow motion, I thought it was funny. Truth be told, the boys tumbling to the ground one after the other did, too, to hear them laughing.
We all had fun that weekend.
Snowshoeing is an ancient way of getting around in winter. Some estimates are snowshoes were invented more than 6,000 years ago.
Explorers, hunters, trappers, hikers and winter wandering souls of all kinds still use them today.
We got to use ours free, in one sense.
We paid for our campsite that weekend. And we paid for our food and fuel to get there.
But the snowshoes?
We did our snowshoeing at Jennings Environmental Education Center. That facility, like many operated by Pennsylvania's bureau of state parks, offers free snowshoe rentals.
You have to leave a driver's license or some form of identification to get the gear, and you have to stay on the property, but otherwise you can get snowshoes appropriate for your size, strap them on — there is a left and right snowshoe, by the way — and take off. A number of parks typically have some in sizes for smaller children.
I'm not sure how many people know that opportunity exists. But it's probably not enough. Probably fewer still take advantage of it.
It's something worth experiencing, a way to wander trails that otherwise might seem inaccessible in winters like this one.
Now, I know the weather is warming up — or is at least supposed to — in the coming days.
But parks in the Laurel Highlands still have lots of snow. And we almost assuredly will get more yet this winter.
So do yourself a favor and visit a park where you can strap on some snowshoes.
Just leave yourself a little room to tumble.