Snowshoeing in My Own Backyard

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Jill, Day Hiking Ambassador

Growing up as a child my backyard was always a realm of adventure where my imagination could take me anywhere. I could be a pirate sailing the seas, running on the Great Plains with wild horses, or wearing crampons as I scaled Mount Everest. That small square of enclosed wooden fence was a place of magic with endless possibilities. Well here I am today all grown up yet the magic of my backyard still remains. Enclosed now by a small mountain range instead of a fence I no longer imagine adventures, but I am actually out their living them.

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Opening my door this morning I was greeted by the Cibola National Forest wearing a delicate layer of thin snow. Elated to be greeted with white tidings such as these I went to check the forecast for the Sandia Mountain’s top most peaks. Measuring at 10,678 feet in elevation I saw that the mountains had gained an additional 4 inches in height thanks to the fresh snowfall last night.

Trilled about the idea of sinking my new Tubbs Snowshoes into the powder of an empty trail became overwhelmingly irresistible. We suited up in our gear and packed that car with two pairs of 30” Tubbs Wilderness Snowshoes and one pair of 25” Tubbs Xplore Snowshoes. Unsure of how deep the overall trail would be from the additional snow of a previous storm earlier this winter I brought both pairs of my Tubbs. My fiancé gave me a questioning look as I put my second pair of Tubbs in the trunk. Feeling inclined to defend my decision I shared my opinion that a girl can never have too many snowshoes.

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With the closing of the trunk we initiated the loading of the dogs. Our two dogs are Dog (8 years old) and Emma (6 months old); yep you read that correctly we call one of our dogs Dog. Yea it can get a bit confusing when talking about Dog in a conversation because people always think we are talking about a dog not Dog the dog.

With both dogs in tow we drove up the road into the mountains that make up our backyard. A large elevation gain and several mountain switchbacks later we found ourselves in the clouds. The entire Crest was socked in with storm clouds and violent gusts of wind accompanied by blowing snow in what felt like every direction. The snow accrual was surprisingly deeper than projected then stated on the forecast. It was so deep that I had to set aside my 25” Xplore Tubbs so that I could pull out my 30” Wilderness Tubbs. Yay!

Crunch! Snap! Tug…Shake. Crunch! Snap! Tug…Shake. My snowshoes were on and the trailhead was calling. Sliding on my K2 snow goggles I yelled “Let’s Do This!” to Paul in order to be heard over the loud gusts of wind from the storm. With a nod in agreement we opened the car and unleashed the hounds. Bounding out of the car one after the other we hooked our ecstatic pups to their leashes and we were off.

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Today we were venturing out to the Kiwanis Cabin, a small cabin structure that was built in the 1930s with the help of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). We have hiked out to the Cabin many times in the past but never have we snowshoed to it. We decided since our destination wasn’t too far of a jaunt that it would be a perfect excursion to introduce Emma to the world of snow and snowshoeing. Having only experienced snow once with a dusting at home we thought this would give her a chance to experience it all.

Her first steps into the powder sent her paws sinking deep into the snow. Befuddled by the sensation of sinking threw something that appears solid Emma looked at the snow and then looked at me in a questionable manner. With no means to explain the concept of snow where she sinks with her paws and I float with my snowshoes all I could do was encourage her to keep going. Taking another step into the white stuff Emma stuck her snout into the snow and chomped down on a mouthful and was sold. Trilled with her discovery of the cold white fluff she took off bounding into the deep powder. Returning back to me she ran with her mouth open wide in a smile as she collected snowflakes on her outward hanging tongue. She repeated this ritual countless times and would conclude each lap by throwing herself on top of my snowshoes begging for a belly rub. It was a grand day to be a snow-dog!

Several switchbacks, laps, and belly rubs later we found ourselves next to a frosted meadow where the outlining trees had been blasted so harshly by the freezing winds that the fallen snow didn’t sit upon the tree branches but was frozen to the branch in the direction of the wind’s fury. Though it was a bit eerie to witness the evidence of the wind’s power it was also astoundingly beautiful.

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With only a short distance left to the Kiwanis Cabin we pushed forward up the trail and there it was. Barely visible through the raging snow and wind it was ominously perched upon the crest. It stood there unyielding as it has for decades and beckoned us inside with its stone walls to seek shelter. Agreeing to its bidding we made our way up the incline and walked inside. Though there was no glass in the windows the walls held strong and blocked the whipping wind. Taking off my gear I was able to take a look around the small space. There was a fireplace, a registration station, a few benches built into the wall, and rod iron windows on three sides of the building.

The cabin was simple but rich in character. Each stone was hand picked by members of the CCC and then uniquely put into place. According to posted plaque the large slabs of limestone were made for the cabin by driving two-man crowbars into rock crevices with sledgehammers. Then one or two men would swing on the bar to crack off flat sections of the soft stone. The stone was then hefted by hand onto the flatbed of a truck and hauled to the cabin site.

Looking back as I reflect on the history, stories, and the shelter the Kiwanis Cabin I see it more as a living being then just a structure. Though it isn’t alive and breathing, it seems to have a soul, an old soul that was forged not just by the hands that built it, but by the people who have visited it. For that I am grateful to have visited and have become one more part of it.

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