Footprints in the Snow

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In case you haven’t noticed, I really hate winter.  Hate the snow, the cold, the dark, having to wear so many clothes, scraping the car, shoveling,frozen fingers, and oh yeah, have I mentioned the snow. I still run in the winter, because not running will make me old, fat, and crazy, but it’s not nearly as good as running in the summer.

The woods are much less interesting in the winter.  There are few critters to see, nothing is growing, and everything is brown or grey.  I really enjoy having the woods to myself, too, and in the summer it’s easier to keep that illusion.  But in the winter, all the footprints people, and critters I never see, leave in the snow make it clear that you never really are as alone as you think.

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The first big snow we had this year was the week between Christmas and New Year’s.  I decided to snowshoe that Sunday.  From the parking lot, there were lots of footprints, and some cross country ski prints leading down toward the trails.  Once I got into the woods, there were only prints from my snowshoes, and one other set of snowshoes.  My snowshoes are kind of teardrop shaped, tapering to a point in the back.  The other set was oval.  Over the next few days, I didn’t see any other people out on snowshoes, but I saw quite a few prints.  Oval seems to be the more popular shape!

Lots of folks walk their dogs in the woods (see my previous rants about unleashed dogs), and their prints run through the woods together.  Sometimes though, there are big paw prints with claws, running along with no footprints.   I always wonder what makes them (coyotes, fishers?) and I hope not to run into them when they are hungry or angry.

I like to wear running shoes as often as possible.  My boots are okay, and very light, but when there is less snow, shoes are better. I invested in some Sealskinz, waterproof socks, and they are quite nice.  They are bulkier than regular socks, and need to be worn over liners to prevent uncomfortably sweaty feet, but dry feet are happy feet!  It’s interesting to see the different kinds of footprints that people leave.  Looks like a lot of bootprints, and some walkers wear those elastic wire things over their shoes that are supposed to give better footing on the ice.

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I’ve seen a lot of prints from cross-country skis.  Sometimes there are ski prints even when there is only an inch or so of snow.  These people must be really eager to ski!  It surprised me to see so many motorcycle tracks in the snow.  I ran into a guy one day who had spiked snowtires on his motorcycle.  He was as surprised to see me running as I was to see him riding. There have been some mountain bike tracks, too.  I’ve ridden my bike on the road in the snow, but never in the woods.

Last month we had a week or so of brutally cold weather.  I ran almost every day (remember what I said about old, fat, and crazy).  I hate wearing anything on my head, but wore a buff anyway to protect my ears and face.  Once I got off the railbed, and onto the trails, my footprints were the only ones along my route all week.  Everyday I expected to see more prints, but there were only mine, a new set each day.

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So, put on your layers, dig out your wool socks, and go play outside. (Remember old, fat, and crazy).  And countdown the days til summer!!!

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