Snowshoeing has never in its long and storied history been as popular as it is right at this moment. Snowshoeing has emerged as the fastest growing outdoor winter recreational pursuit and is now a global sport, having reached all corners of the world.
It is a common misconception that Manitoba is a land of farms and wide-open prairies. The truth is, Manitoba is a varied land - sure there is farmland and prairies, but they make up but a small portion of the province. Manitoba's landscape is a cornucopia of geographic features, with numerous lakes and forests, valleys and rocky outcrops. North of Winnipeg, the provincial capital and largest city, lays the Interlake Region – an area bordered by Lakes Winnipeg, Manitoba, and Winnipegosis. Here the farmland that is predominant in the southern region of the province gives way to mixed forest. The landscape is scarred by boulders, remnants of the glacial Lake Agassiz's retreat thousands of years ago.
A funny thing happened to me this past winter - not funny "ha-ha" (although there were many of those as well), but funny in that I should have seen it coming. Somehow my "one" pair of snowshoes became "eight." Let me elaborate.
I was at a friend's cottage a few weeks ago. I had the run of the place, alone for a couple of days of "R and R." I had brought my snowshoes along, hoping to head out and take advantage of the scenery and hopefully take some wildlife photos - there were rumors of a lynx prowling about the area.
Traveling east along the Trans Canada Highway from Winnipeg, Manitoba's capital, the wide-open prairie landscape, which dominates much of southern Manitoba, gradually gives way to Precambrian shield and boreal forest. You'll find yourself entering a land of lakes and rivers, rocky escarpments, and deep forests. Welcome to the Whiteshell Provincial Park - Manitoba's wilderness playground. And it is here along the south shore of Falcon Lake that you will find one of the province's finest wilderness retreats - Falcon Trails Resort.
Despite the best-laid plans, life sometimes has a way of throwing a monkey wrench into things, causing everything to go awry, and forcing you take make a U-turn. And when that happens, sometimes you've simply got to make do - as the saying goes, if life hands you lemons, make lemon-aide. This mantra can be applied to snowshoeing.
If your ideal winter getaway involves sand, an over abundance of tequila, and bikinis, then it's a pretty good bet that Garrett and Alexandra Conover's "The Winter Wilderness Companion: Traditional and Native American Skills for the Undiscovered Season" is not likely to find it's way onto your top 10 list of must read books anytime soon.
I've had the same pair of snowshoes since I was 16. I'm now 34. My wooden framed Huron style snowshoes have traversed many a trail over the years. Eighteen years is a long time for anything to last, especially in a day and age of disposable and dispensable items, but with some common sense and care mixed in with a little annual maintenance, traditional snowshoes constructed of wood and rawhide will last a lifetime.
Traditional snowshoes. Works of Art? Most definitely. Traditional snowshoes, created by skilled first nations craftspeople are more than a means of transportation; they are in fact works of art.