Trying to Pee in Snowpants and Snowshoes

Snowshoe

A word to the wise: snowshoe bindings are more delicate than they seem.

Saturday we decided to try to find the waterfall our neighbour directed us to a few months ago. Last time, we left too late and it got dark way before we made it back to the truck, leaving us frantically snowshoeing in the dark. This time, we pre-planned. We woke up early, packed food, supplies and extra socks, posted our whereabouts on Facebook, and were all set for a good time.

I have to interject with the fact that all my life I’ve been reluctant to pee outside. Even when I was a kid, I was the one scouting out roadside gas stations and restaurants so my father couldn’t make me pee on the side of the road. Unfortunately, if you’re going to take on an outdoor activity, you have to stay hydrated. Before we even had our snowpants on, parked at the beginning of the trail, I had to pee.

Matt went through the motions of trying to adjust the truck so I could do my business hidden from the road, but I outright refused to drop trou ten feet away from the highway. My plan was to hike out into the woods, safe from the prying eyes of passing traffic, once my snowshoes were on. Except, once my snowshoes were on, I took three steps out into the snow, sunk two feet into the powder with all of my weight on my toes, and promptly found my face nearly planted in the drift.

If you’ve never worn traditional snowshoes, let me tell you that getting up from a fall is difficult. It’s even more difficult when you’re on a steep downhill like I was. It took me at least a minute to right myself. I tried trundling out into the woods again but the super-deep snow was making it incredibly difficult so I waited for Matt to get ahead and break trail. I spotted a private dip in the woods and started on my way, periodically sinking in and having to hoist my feet out from under the weight of the snow.

Another fun fact about snowshoes: it’s really hard to execute sharp turns, so turning around completely is quite the procedure. If that’s hard, then backing up is probably the most difficult manoeuvre. That’s how I found myself stuck, feet all over the place, toilet paper in hand, snowpants still zipped and buttoned. After a few minutes of shuffling around, only to find myself backwards and further away from where I wanted to be, I got mad and undid my snowshoes.

With one step, I was up to my knees in snow.

Peeing outside is difficult to begin with. Now I know how difficult it is when one is half-mired in snow, in -20C temperatures (with wind). By the time I got my shoes back on and lumbered over to where I had left Matt, I realized he wasn’t moving at all.

Peeing outside is difficult to begin with let alone when one is half-mired in snow, in -20C. Click To Tweet

“I broke my harness,” he said, and with that, we carefully exited back out the trail, took off the snowshoes, packed up the truck, and ate our lunch on the drive home. At least the harness broke within walking distance to the truck. But if I had known his harness was broken the whole time I was trying to arrange myself in the woods… I really could’ve just waited, you know?

Zombie Honeymoon

Gargoyle

Last night, at my urging to watch a zombie movie, Matt picked out Zombie Honeymoon, which we thought would be a cheesy B-movie.

Turns out it was just creepy and gory enough to have me whimpering with fear and disgust with my head in Matt’s lap covering my eyes with a blanket at the end. The ongoing refrain for the rest of the night was to the effect of, “Man, that movie was GROSS.”

After the movie was over I was too tired to exist any longer so I headed to bed, and Matt decided to come with.

I should mention now that, through totally neglecting to check out our oil tank gauge recently, we’re stuck rationing our heat in the house until tomorrow. It’s expensive enough to fill a tank but if you have to make an emergency weekend call, the price dramatically increases, and we didn’t realize we were nearly empty until Saturday morning. Since then it’s been a delicate balance of crank the heat up, turn the furnace off completely, find an extra blanket, and look forward to Monday (says the girl in two sweaters and knee-high socks). It’s pretty frigid in here, though it’s nothing that can’t be cured with some extra sweaters and body heat.

So before Matt climbs into bed, the cat climbs up his shoulder and onto my wardrobe, then into the top shelf of the closet. He seems to think it’s a hiding spot up there, like we can’t see him if he’s elevated past eye level.

Matt shuts off the light and gets under the covers, and as he’s settling in I automatically reach for his hand. Visions of zombies dancing in my head I realize the hand I’m holding is as cold as that of a corpse, and without even thinking I let out a bloodcurdling scream, thus equally scaring the daylights out of Matt, who couldn’t figure out why I would intentionally grab his hand and then scream.

Once my heart rate returned to normal (with a bit more whimpering and hiding my head under the covers) I was relaxed enough to try to sleep.

Until the cat, invisible in the dark, launched himself off the wardrobe and onto my body.

I don’t want to watch zombie movies anymore.

Turning 23: A Birthday Retrospective

Little me

A good indicator of growing up is having to work on your birthday and not really caring that much.

I turn 23 today, and between dinner and cake I’m heading out to cover the return of our local entertainment series, featuring a percussion quartet. I’m guessing Matt will find a way to entertain what guests we have in the meantime. Honestly, I’m not that worried or bothered — work is work, getting paid is getting paid.

All through high school, birthdays were pretty boring for me. The day hit right in the middle of exams, so I don’t really recall a birthday party from Grade 9 on as everyone was too busy studying.

When I turned 18, my two best friends and I travelled to Ottawa, spending the night at a bar in Hull dancing on a speaker to avoid creepy men and drinking Polar Bear shots. I believe I ate my first McDonald’s hamburger that night.

Turning 19 was fun, if a bit anti-climatic. I worked the morning shift at our campus Harvey’s, then headed out to the campus pub to take my first legal shot of tequila at 3 p.m. I’d been going to bars since that summer with a fake I.D. so it didn’t seem too spectacular. The rest of the night involved a homemade John Stamos cake, many bars, and pizza.

For age 20, I took the train to Waterloo and hung out with the same people from my 19th. This was my last ‘party’ birthday– I bought a fancy shirt, hung out in a bar that smelled like vomit, then took the train home. Apparently I was also really skinny, which I wish I had noticed at the time.

No photos exist of my 21st birthday, which is probably a good thing. Having been working on the campus newspaper, I had logged very little sleep when my friend Michelle took me out for dinner. The server refused to give me a beer because I left my I.D. at home, and I was so exhausted that I giggled hysterically at the cheese dip for a solid 10 minutes. Later that week, my dad visited and took me out for another dinner, thoroughly disappointed because he chose one that didn’t do the awful song-and-dance embarrassment routine.

Last year, turning 22, didn’t really feel like a real birthday. I had been in town for all of three months, and my father visited for the first time. On my birthday, I battled a politician over a misinterpreted statement, conducted an interview with a local magician, then headed home to witness my father meeting my boyfriend. After stuffing us full of food and wine, Dad decided to take us out for wings and beer, which turned into Dad and Matt playing ‘who can eat the hottest food’ while my roommate and I ignored them for our own conversation.

One big reason I’m not that stressed about having to work today is that I feel like it’s my birthday anyway — people are saying it (what did we do without Facebook?), I get cake at work, Dad sent flowers and Matt is scurrying around with something up his sleeve.

The other reason is that we’re heading out to Winnipeg this Saturday to celebrate in style, with a fancy hotel and a real restaurant (and a birthday dress!). If I’m going to grow up, I may as well have a classy birthday.

Using Traditional Snowshoes: Hardwood and Rawhide

Traditional Snowshoes

My First Excursion on Traditional Snowshoes

I actually didn’t know that anything other than traditional snowshoes existed until I moved up to northern Ontario, which seems sort of backwards, to me. I always thought that snowshoes referred to the big, wooden, beaver-tail shaped monstrosities that always seemed to be in our basement when I was a kid — a kid who, for what it’s worth, grew up with parents well-versed in northern Ontario life.

Turns out modern snowshoes are lightweight, synthetic and small — but that’s not what we have. We have traditional snowshoes.

My father brought me my mom’s old traditional snowshoes from when she was working in geology in northern Ontario, and Matt’s father gave him a pair from his family camp, way up north. A year later, when two weeks in November gave us enough snow to bury everything, we set out on our first adventure. It was my first time strapping snowshoes on, and I thought it was stupid– why would I wear giant shoes when I could just walk? A quick five-minute jaunt through the same snow in my boots made me realize the “extra flotation” thing isn’t a lie.

After that excursion, our neighbour dropped by our house one morning to make sure we didn’t need help — given that we were outside for quite some time, trying to jump my truck since the battery died in the cold — and he told us about a neat little trail that would take us to a waterfall. It sounded like fun, so we headed out, with our traditional snowshoes.

Step one was to shovel out a parking spot for my truck on the side of the road. Half of everyone that drove by asked us if we needed help because they thought we drove off the road into a ditch. By the time we got the shoes on and started out on the trail, the sun was starting to sink down behind the trees and I knew we’d be trekking home in the dark.

The first section of the trail was easy walking– it was broken in, with a few snowshoe tracks and the occasional boot print; likely hunters checking on a feed pile and a motion activated camera set up further down into the trees. The further we ventured, the more blowdowns and sort-of-creepy tunnels of trees we encountered, but the going was easy and the scenery was pretty.

About halfway through, the hunter’s trail ended, and Matt took the lead, breaking trail through heavy, powdery snow that looked completely untouched. Did I mention it was seriously freezing cold? My hair grew frost.

Suffice it to say, we didn’t even make it to the waterfall. Matt could hear it, but it was getting darker and colder by the second, nobody knew where we were but our neighbour, Matt’s legs were about to fall off, and my night vision is essentially non-existent. We headed back, snowshoeing through the dark, empty forest.

It took over half an hour for the truck’s windows to defrost upon our arrival, and by the time we got home, we were both so ravenous that we inhaled a large Hawaiian pizza, thus negating the 2000+ calories burned from snowshoeing for four hours. The good thing is, now the trail has been walked over four times, so maybe our next attempt will be a bit quicker and easier.

Using Traditional Snowshoes

Tips for Using Traditional Snowshoes

First and foremost — go slow. Once, I pretended that I was going out of control and was going to fall… and then I fell, flat on my face. Traditional snowshoes add a lot of square footage to your feet, and you need to get used to it before you try to pick up speed.

As with most winter activities, dress in layers. It’s surprising how much you can work up a sweat while snowshoeing, but at the same time, you’re out in the cold and you definitely want warmth as an option. If you’re out during the day you may need sunscreen and other sun protection even if it’s the dead of winter.

REI has some good technique tips for snowshoeing as a beginner, though they might not all work for traditional snowshoes. I recommend tromping around on easy terrain before you head out past your comfort zone by accident. And, as always, remember that however far you go, you need to be able to get back, so factor that in when planning your trail!