When the temps go low and the ground gets slippery and/or snow-covered, I put my mountain bike away….generally this means I while away January and February on my indoor windtrainer trying not to be bored… The windtrainer is a contraption that allows me to turn my bike into a stationary bike. If I keep up the regimen a few days a week, I’m feeling pretty good come spring and ready to bust out of the cabin full speed ahead….
But it IS boring. And many of those days are glorious sun-shining winter days, bringing back memories of when I used to try to ride all year-round, when I was younger. Ironically, and finally(!)the new Blue Hills Resource Management Plan in place now allows mountain biking year-round in the Blue Hills, with the exception of the March ‘mud season’.
The past few winters I’ve discovered snowshoeing. I would say re-discovered, as I did start a collection of old-school wooden rawhide-laced snowshoes back in my early 20’s while living in Vermont. But those old-school ‘shoes needed lots of care and the leather straps generally didn’t last more than a couple of years, before crumbling away…. The last time I used my old Canadian ‘shoes, I used old bicycle tubes as bindings, to hold them on to my boots. They worked, but were cumbersome, and in most situations, the 42” length was way overkill.
As the snowshoe companies moved into the modern age, some of my friends were bragging about their new, lightweight designs that were easy to put on and didn’t fall off after every 100 feet down the trail…So I went shopping. I found the selections at my local ‘outdoors’ store varied enough—and all seemed well-made….
That was 3 years ago. Now, I own two pairs of modern snowshoes that will take me just about anywhere I want to go. Trail or no trail, the built-in crampons bite into the slippery stuff. They are light enough to strap onto my hydration pak if I find I don’t need them.
As I began to enjoy the slower pace of winter-hiking, I fine-tuned what I needed for clothing layers. Most of my bike stuff works fine for moisture-management, and an on colder days, extra outside layer gives me a place for the camera, cell phone, GPS, and snacks.
I also discovered Micro-Spikes, an ingenious invention that stretches over any boot and gives instant traction on ice with ½” stainless-steel spikes. These also pack small and light, I now consider a necessity on almost every winter hike, when snowshoes aren’t needed. Good insurance against falling on cold hard ground….
Oh yeah, and the most important thing to take care of is my feet. I wear a pair of insulated winter boots, with toe warmers. You need to keep your feet happy!
Now that I’m prepared for winter actually I look forward to it. As much as I love my mountain bike, I find that I can create a similar workout in about the same time, hiking with snowshoes or Micros.
On a typical winter day, I can hike any of the Skyline Trail. Climbing is the most fun, and the Blue Hills vistas are always worth the effort. Rattlesnake Hill is challenging on a dry day, even more so in the snow… Deeper snow even better, to cover up the rocks and roots and allow for some ‘flotation’.
One of my favorite snow-hiking areas is Tucker Hill. Athol Path, and/or the Green Loop, mixed up with following deer tracks, it’s a good workout and gets me out there for at least 1.5 hours.
Another of my favorites is to try to follow old heritage trails such as the Great Dome Trail, which was officially taken off the DCR map a few years ago. Some un-named sections still exist, but you really need an old map to find it in its entirety. I usually don’t promote off-trail use, but when there’s 2 feet of snow on the ground, it can’t hurt….
When there’s less snow down here, Gunstock or Cranmore areas have some great climbs…
I found myself so enthralled with winter trail use that I started a facebook page, Winter Buzz. Look it up and catch the Buzz!
By the time you read this, with luck we’ll be knee-deep in the white stuff. If not, it’s back to the mountain bike(yippee!) or windtrainer….