The Ultimate Snow Day

With snow blowing in around different areas of North America, we thought we’d outline the itinerary for THE ULTIMATE SNOW DAY:

 

 

When you wake up and find out that school is cancelled.

When you open the door to go outside.

When you take your first step WITHOUT Tubbs Snowshoes.

When you take your first step WITH Tubbs Snowshoes.

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When you try to hike uphill WITHOUT Tubbs Snowshoes.

When you hike uphill WITH Tubbs Snowshoes.

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When Mom invites you to come inside and drink hot cocoa.

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When you go back outside after drinking lots of hot cocoa.

When you build an epic snow igloo for your dog.

When your snowman tells you that he can beat you in a snowball fight.

When you’re exhausted after a long day of playing in the now.

Happy snow day from Tubbs Snowshoes!

 

 

 

Glimmer of Hope

Sandy

Sandy, Trail Walking Ambassador

Tis the season to blog about my snowshoe adventures, tis the season…I had a glimmer of hope when snow began to fall, the ground and trees were covered with a blanket of white. A true winter wonderland, this was going to be another great winter in Eastern PA. But before I could get my new shiny snowshoes on my feet, the rains came no more white. How I envy my fellow ambassador—most of them live in places that when it starts snowing it keeps on snowing. I live on the line…the snow and rain line in the southern tip of the great Pocono mountains, some of them reaching great elevations of higher than 1500’! It is beautiful and serene, but we are on the line. That is what you hear from the weather man, maybe 6-12 or maybe none. We are on the line. Hopefully soon the snow will fall or north I go to the other side of the line.

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow

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 Michelle, Day Hiking Ambassador

I know winter technically doesn’t start until December 21st, but this year it feels like it is taking forever for the snow to arrive! We finally had a legitimate snow day last week and I couldn’t have been happier. With snow finally on the ground I am counting down my last few days of work before the holidays arrive where I can spend as much time as I want outside.

A few trips we have planned with our Journey snowshoes include local locations such as Eagle’s Rest – a favourite lookout, local lakes to check on the ice to see if they are ready for ice fishing, and my parent’s backyard (they have 100 beautiful acres). Those are just our local trips that we have in mind but we also plan on exploring other areas, which involve road tours!

Where are your favourite spots to snowshoe, close to home or places you have to travel to?

Soundtrack to Adventure: Tubbs Journey

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The Tubbs Journey soundtrack was designed with a solo full moon hike up Camel’s Hump or a long stretch of the Catamount Trail in mind.

 

Introducing Friends and Family to Snowshoeing

Jan & Kelly, Day Hiking Ambassadors

When you have the opportunity to take friends or family on their first time snowshoe adventure, it is an opportunity to help make their experience an enjoyable memory.

Throw in a fun activity to keep the mood light and fun. This outing, we decorated trees for the holidays with festive beads. At the end of the season, we will be environmentally responsible and make the trek to remove them.

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To keep the spirit of success, don’t push the guests to go past their comfort level and encourage frequent breaks.

Photo #2

 

 

Encourage them not to overdress. The tendency is to wear heavy outerwear that will overheat your guest in most conditions. If the temperature is moderate, I recommend that my guests wear lightweight, breathable gear and bring a backpack with room to store excess clothing just in case they need it later.  Ear, neck, head and hand protection is critical, and is easy to manage taking off and putting back on to adjust temperature comfort level.

Photo #3

 

The other essential gear is water and a snack, a backpack for carrying these items and to store clothing layers. If they aren’t used to the altitude, encourage pro-active hydration and frequent breaks to drink water, catch their breath and be prepared to travel half the route you normally do.

Save the alcoholic beverages for the finale.

Photo #4

The Lost Highway

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Rich, Day Hiking Ambassador

A sweeping arc of unbroken white stretches before me in a level plain that disappears around a long bend. An artfully sculpted on-ramp of gradual incline rises behind me. Above me hangs a floodlight, dark as a forgotten thought. I am in a panorama sketched by a human hand, with all the trappings of an interstate save one: it is empty, filled only with heavy snow.

The snow blew in two nights ago upon the winds of a nor’easter. It has continued falling since. A nor’easter is a particularly fierce type of storm that forms in the North Atlantic before defying traditional weather patterns and moving west. It rotates counter-clockwise, and as a result the winds it generates are experienced on land as coming from the northeast. New Englanders know it well. This particular storm has dumped over a foot upon the Champlain Valley. It is the type of snow dreaded most by downhill skiers and driveway shovelers alike, heavy and dense with water, sodden through.

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I have come to call this place “The Lost Highway,” a .65-mile (1.05-kilometer) expanse of orphaned interstate running through South Burlington, Vermont. First conceived in the freer-spending 1960’s as a continuation of I-189, the stretch of road has since been barricaded off and abandoned. It was intended to be part of a beltline that would more directly link the interstate to downtown Burlington, allowing the ever-frantic morning commuter to shave a few minutes off his or her weekday journey. Concerns raised in the more environmentally-conscious 1970’s over pollution of nearby wetlands caused the project to be shelved and finally altogether scrapped.

Mine are the first footprints in the new snow that lies atop this deposit of manmade stone. In spite of nearby traffic from the open stretch of interstate, this is a landscape returning to the wild. Bushes and vines encroach, joined intermittently by trees. I make my way over to the median, concrete intended to separate two eastbound lanes from two going west. In the summer it is filled with long grasses and goldenrod, like a single exceptionally long and overgrown flowerbox. I climb up on it and find myself standing upon a bed of hemlock. Further on the highway crosses Pine Street, and the direction I am walking swings from west to north. Beyond Pine Street the work is less complete, the forest less cleared, leaving the wilderness to make a stronger return. In the shadow of the trees sumac thrives along the median, its conical bunches of vibrant red berries the only color distinguishable in a landscape of black and white.

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Walking along this concrete valley makes me feel as if I am participating in a glimpse of a dystopic future, a post-petroleum era of human history in which snowshoeing nomads traverse the frozen-over roads of the past. To me this does not seem like such a bad alternative, and our current era of the automobile stands to leave behind an extensive network of potential trails.

We read of past civilizations and know that they were fleeting, yet we endow ours with a sense of inevitability and permanence of which it is undeserving. It is out of this nearsightedness that the Lost Highway was conceived and constructed, the belief that we will always live in the same manner and do not need to change. We have come to expect that a new technology or resource deposit will allow us to carry on as we have been, causing us to sacrifice wilderness in the name of a comfortable way of life. And so we press on, self-assured in the confident hope of a miracle.

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The roadbed ceases abruptly, and a footpath leads the final few yards out to Home Avenue. I have reached the end of the road, where the highway terminates absurdly in the back streets of a quiet neighborhood. The fact that this road has continued to go unfinished gives hope that perhaps there are limits to what we are willing to sacrifice. And yet the voices of growth and development are once again calling, seeking permits to recommence this project now half a century old, under the new moniker of the “Champlain Parkway.” As I turn my snowshoes around and begin walking east in the westbound lanes, I know this highway is best left lost.

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Anticipation in Toledo

Lauren from Metroparks of the Toledo Area, Get Outdoors Recipient

It recently felt like Christmas had come early to Metroparks of the Toledo Area, as several boxes from Tubbs Snowshoes were delivered to our offices. My fellow programmers and I tore open the packages, oooh-ing and aaah-ing at the brand new Tubbs snowshoes contained therein. I could almost hear the mental gears turn as we all began to dream of the programs we would plan, the groups we would snowshoe with, the winter fun that would transpire! And the timing was perfect: the first snow of the season had arrived just two days earlier! Eager to try out our new gear, I reached for my winter coat…

…And then I remembered that it was presently 55 degrees and sunny.

I love living in Northwest Ohio. The wide variety of landscapes, fascinating flora and fauna, and rich local history are just some of the things that make my job as a programmer and interpreter so rewarding. However, the roll-of-the-dice weather can be frustrating – especially now, when we have just been selected as recipients for the Get Outdoors program!

Last year’s dice rolled a “polar vortex,” as I’m sure I don’t need to remind you. While the record-shattering snowfall made for great backyard play, it created a conundrum for my colleagues and me. You see, we had recently been given the opportunity to revamp our agency’s Outdoor Skills division. Our goal is to offer adventurous outdoor experiences designed to foster in participants a connection to the land, hopefully inspiring them to support conservation efforts. This effort was launched just as the legendary snows were beginning to accumulate, providing an outstanding opportunity to plan all sorts of fun snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and sledding adventures!

There was just one problem: we didn’t have any snowshoes, cross-country skis, or sleds.

We tried offering “Bring Your Own Gear” programs, but we just didn’t get enough participants. Lots of Toledoans love the idea of outdoor recreation, but it seems that not many of them already own the proper equipment. While our agency is committed to providing these opportunities, we simply don’t have the funds to purchase every piece of equipment that we would like to own. So days turned to weeks inside our little programming office, with inches of snow far outnumbering program registration, and not many adventures transpired.

Thanks to Tubbs and the Get Outdoors program, though, this season will be different! We are so excited to finally be able to bring winter adventure to our community. We hope to hold snowshoeing programs for all sorts of audiences, including school groups, scout troops, homeschoolers, teens, and more. Snowshoes are so versatile that we will be able to trek all across our park district, tromping through nine Metroparks that span nearly eight thousand acres. We will be able to craft brand new programs and adapt popular preexisting snowshoe-friendly programs. Our opportunities are as boundless as the snowdrifts themselves!

It may be clear and sunny today, but as any wise denizen of the Midwest knows, a blizzard could be just around the next Great Lake. Now that Metroparks of the Toledo Area is outfitted with a fleet of brand new snowshoes, we will be eagerly awaiting the white stuff, which will be seen this season as an opportunity rather than a nuisance.

Winterval in Whitehorse

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Brent & Dorian, Day Hiking Ambassadors

Every year in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, there is something called “Winterval”: the Santa parade, lighting of the Main Street Christmas tree, carol singing, arts and crafts, pictures with Santa, bonfires, and rides on a vintage streetcar. It’s definitely small city cool, and event volunteering when traveling is something we’d highly recommend. You get to meet all kinds of people, and by throwing yourself headfirst into an event you become a “temporary local”. Friendships have been made doing these kind of things.

Our gig was to help out in The Old Firehall with participants who wanted to do crafts like make postcards or prayer flags. It was a lot of fun, and sadly the time went by too fast. We made a flag that got put on a parade float, and one we kept (scan attached). What a great souvenir of Winterval!

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We got to spend a little more time with Santa than usual, and he wanted to show off his favorite mukluk footwear. He even let us take a picture of them! They were beautifully crafted, and he told us that he’s had them for many years.

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A major find for us were a pair of hand carved, mammoth ivory igloo earrings for Dorian. Unbelievable!

There are many interesting shops and stores all over Whitehorse. Who can say no to Bison Jerky?

Even though the snow levels were not up to seasonal depths, we got out and had many wonderful hikes and adventures. We saw some Auroral activity, but not as much as we had hoped. It’s always hit and miss with the Northern Lights. A highlight was out at Takhini Hot Springs under the full moon. Wow, what a great spot! People have known about the natural hot water there for over 100 years. Their website is easy to find, and well worth the 20 minute drive out of town.

Whitehorse is a very outdoorsy place. Mount McIntyre recreation center has an amazing network of Nordic trails that are all snowshoe friendly. We’d recommend doing some research on the Yukon just to see what’s going on up there. There is a lot of history because of the Gold Rush. Right now, the days are short; but come June the sky never gets completely dark. In fact, it’s hard to see the stars in the summer.

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One saying that stirs your imagination: “there are strange things done in the midnight sun”.

We didn’t make it to Dawson City. We’ll save that adventure for next time.

We were able to promote Tubbs all over the place; ’cause when your an Ambassador, that’s what you do!

10 THINGS I’VE LEARNED ABOUT SNOWSHOEING

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Kathy, Day Hiking Ambassador

1) Check your gear twice before you start out for the trailhead. Not too many things worse than driving for hours into that glorious powder only to find you forgot to put on your trekking poles “snowflakes” or the zipper on your wind shell is stuck! Of course, your Tubbs’ Snowshoes are ready to go!

2) Dress in layers but remember to start a bit “cold”. The activity level of even strolling in snowshoes on more or less level ground will raise your body temperature quickly. If you are too warmly dressed, you will end up sweating and ultimately chilled. An extra layer – down vest, fleece mid-layer – in your backpack can be quickly added if needed.

3) Depending on the terrain (flat to hilly) and your speed (2 to 4 mph), you will burn between 400 and 1000+ calories per hour. Who snowshoes at 4 mph? <pant>

4) Drink lots of liquids. All that activity will dehydrate you more quickly than you will notice. Hot liquids are nice but not necessary, alcoholic beverages are not so nice. Really! Alcohol will speed up dehydration and will lower your ability to feel the cold and speed up hypothermia.

5) Know where you are going and make sure others know where you are going and when you will be back. Leaving a note in your car at the trailhead with that same information is very useful in an emergency situation. Don’t depend on your cell phone for emergency assistance. Take a buddy with you for safety and for more fun!

6) Take a topo map/GPS/compass and know how to use them. Be especially observant on the trail even if you’ve been on it before. In the snow, the landscape totally changes and familiar landmarks of the summer may be hidden or look totally different. Take the time to look back down the trail the way you came to familiarize yourself with your return route. Stay on the trail!

7) Know your limits! Don’t push beyond your comfort zone. First time out, a 10-mile technical hike might not be the best idea. Work up your endurance level. Remember – “Reaching the summit is optional. Getting down is mandatory.” Ed Viesturs – my Hero!

8) Keep your cell phone and your digital camera (and any other battery-operated device) in an inside pocket of your jacket, close to your body. The cold will suck your batteries dry a lot faster than usual.

9) Take an extra pair of warm socks (cold, wet feet are a drag) and an emergency space blanket (can be wrapped around you/ under your jacket/used as a ground cloth or shelter), extra batteries/headlamp with you in your pack along with some extra snacks. Should you get delayed, these items may become very useful and take up very little room in your backpack.

10) Be safe, but not paranoid. Enjoy the views but pay attention. Soak up the silence but laugh out loud! HAVE FUN and get out there AGAIN!

Origin Stories

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Rich, Day Hiking Ambassador

The wooded hillsides plunge down to an idyllic stream of quiet water and ice. This is Podunk Brook, running through the back of my parents’ property. It is the day after Thanksgiving, and we are in the Upper Connecticut River Valley, moving through woods laden with newly fallen snow.

Clinging with snowshoe crampons we cross the brook on rocks crusted over with ice. I am snowshoeing with my girlfriend Kristin and my sister Kasandra, accompanied by Kasandra’s backpack-sized dog Maggie, a jet-black mixed breed canine torpedo she affectionately calls her “trail hound.” Kasandra is outfitted with Frontier model shoes, while Kristin is using an LLBean model of Tubbs loosely resembling the Frontier. I’m wearing my Wilderness shoes. As I cross the stream and begin up the other bank I am glad for the extra grip the Wilderness crampons provide me.

From higher hills Podunk Brook drops between opposing slopes, flowing for several miles through the wilderness of Hartford and Norwich, Vermont before emptying into the White River, an east-flowing tributary of the Connecticut. The water meets the larger river at the Vermont-New Hampshire border, aside a village appropriately named White River Junction.

We are approximately eight miles west of the junction, still well within the valley of the Connecticut. The names here are replete with the tongues of the past. ‘Connecticut’ is a French corruption of the Mohegan name ‘Quinnitukqut,’ meaning “long tidal river.” Podunk, which has entered the English language as an adjective denoting a small and unimportant place, is originally a name used for an Algonquin people from modern Connecticut. Here the adjective has been applied endearingly and re-elevated to the status of proper noun.

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This part of the Connecticut River Valley, referred to colloquially as the Upper Valley, is where I grew up. Until I left for college at the age of nineteen my life clung to either bank of the river and the hills rising around it. In a landscape of soft foothills and stunted crags the course of the Connecticut River has always seemed to me an anomaly. Whereas all the other rivers of the region twist like writhing snakes held at either end, the Connecticut flies in the face of the rule, and with sheer audacity draws a surprisingly straight line from north to south.

The reason for this, as it turns out, is very simple, and it is found in the geology of the region. 250 million years ago North America and Africa were joined as parts of a larger supercontinent known as Pangea. The supercontinent began to tear apart, and, as it did so, rift valleys began to develop. One such rift valley formed where the Connecticut River now flows, its southern course following the break in the surface of the earth. Had the rifting continued, the land comprising New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Maine, Newfoundland, Eastern Connecticut, and Eastern Massachusetts would all be part of the African Continent. The eastern and western banks of the Connecticut River would instead be on the opposite sides of an ever-expanding Atlantic Ocean. Eventually the rift failed and a new one began, one hundred miles east of the present East Coast, where the continental shelf drops off into the depths of the Atlantic.

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Halfway up the climb we arrive at an old stone wall deep in the undeveloped woods. The stone is granite and basalt, remnant detritus of volcanoes and lava flows that dominated the landscape as the rift valley opened. In more geologically recent times – that is, within the past one-hundred-thousand years – successive glacial advancements and retreats carved out the valley and softened the hills. Glaciers effectively took a valley shaped like a V and scooped it out until it more closely resembled a U. The landscape through which we snowshoe was born of fire and shaped by ice.

But, of course, the stones of the wall did not stack themselves, nor were they assembled so neatly by the glaciers. In part as a result of its volcanic past, the Connecticut River Valley possesses the richest farmland found in the region. The only catch was that the upland came riddled with stones, the broken pieces of mountains the glaciers had torn down. Painstakingly the rocks were picked and stacked to form boundaries of the newly cleared pasture and farm fields.

There are few areas of old growth forest left in Vermont. There are none here. We are climbing through forest undergoing stages of succession, the enterprising conifers being slowly replaced by hardwoods. We climb past empty building foundations filled in with snow and a family graveyard of headstones cataloging several generations, all dating to the mid-nineteenth century. At that time all of the surrounding forest, as well as much of the state, was cleared and under agricultural production. Maps dating to the period reveal a patchwork of family farms where today one finds uninhabited wilderness.

Rich

It is as if one has stumbled upon the overgrown ruins of a vast and ancient agricultural civilization. It is also a characteristically New England experience to set off into the woods and find oneself amidst the remains of a deeply human past. Throughout our hike we will climb over multiple stone walls and encounter another, much larger, graveyard, shrouded in wilderness and miles from any modern town.

Without ceremony or fanfare, without hardly realizing, we pick up the Appalachian Trail. The AT is the longest contiguous hiking trail in eastern North America, running for 2,200 miles and through 14 states. Continuing in our current direction would take us 450 miles to the trail’s northern terminus at Maine’s Mount Katahdin; turning around and going south would be a much longer 1750 miles to Springer Mountain in Georgia. Instead we jump off the trail and onto an old logging road, part of an unmapped system that crisscrosses the area, piecing together a several mile loop comprised of logging roads, bits of AT, and stretches off trail.

When I was growing up I would disappear for hours into this labyrinth. I saw nothing special about having my choice of places to pick up the AT, traveling for several miles, and hiking back out on some old logging road. Today I recognize that those early experiences are the foundation of my current perspective, and I know it is a privilege to have that as my origin story.

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