Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Snowshoeing Nebraska: Boyer Chute National Wildlife Refuge 2011

Over a year has passed since the last time I snowshoed.  Yesterday I finally got out.  I went to the site of my last snowshoeing outing, Boyer Chute.  Things were a bit different from last year.  The temperature was a balmy 19°F, up from the -5°F I experienced last year.  The warmer temperatures actually took away from the experience a bit, as I expected it would.  Last year the trees were covered in rime that gave everything a black and white winter wonderland feel.  This year white and brown were the colors.

Sunrise Over Boyer Chute
When I arrived, the sun was just rising over the trees to the south east.  I put on my new snowshoes and headed out.  There was plenty of snow, about 10-12 inches in most places.  It was a fluffy, powdery snow which made it a little challenging.  Snowshoes work better on packed snow, I think.  From the main trail that divides the refuge into North and South Island trails I turned North.  The snow was pristine except for a cross-country ski trail predating this weekend's snow and lots of deer tracks.  Along with the deer tracks were goose and some small, hoppy tracks which I would guess are some small bird.

The trail split, one branch going straight to meet with the North Island trail, the other curving around a grove of trees in a more circuitous path to another part of the North Island trail.  I turned and followed the path around the trees, following the cross-country trail (you can see it in the picture along the left side of the trail).

This trail eventually merged in with the North Island Trail, but not after paralleling it for awhile.  I ended up cutting a little off the length of the trail by, accidentally, following a game trail to the North Island trail.

I turned east at this point and followed the the trail along the bank of the icy Missouri river.  I stopped to rest a bit and watched the swift moving river carry chunks of ice south.  By this time I was getting pretty tired and I still had a ways to go.

I plodded my way along the trail, my snowshoes sinking four to six inches down in the powder.  It was soon obvious that snowshoeing uses some muscles that regular hiking does not.  The snowshoes (and the boots that I'd last worn last winter) felt awfully heavy as I lifted them up through the snow.

Trees along my wavering path.
I caught myself staring down at my feet more than at the nature around me.  I felt I was walking a straight line but, looking back on occasion, I was surprised to see how wavering and random my path looked.

At about the four mile mark I reached the trail that I started on (the one that bisects the refuge).  I looked around for a place to sit but only found a mound of dirt, covered in snow, left by last year's construction equipment.  It was enough.  I sat down in the snow, ate a rock hard snack bar and drank some cold water.  Last year they were dredging out part of a smaller chute in the area and the place had been full of idle equipment.  The main bisecting trail was also cleared of snow so the workers could get in and out.  With the dredging complete, the equipment was gone and the trail was covered in snow.

The last mile and a half or so was psychologically easier as I could see my destination.  The refuge is mostly flat grassland with a few scattered groves of trees.  On the central trail you can see a green shelter roof near the start and you can easily gauge your progress.  Progress went well except when, after I took a picture, I reached down for my trekking pole that I'd let fall into the snow, lost balance, and ended up flat on my back in the snow laughing.

I got back to the car, put my equipment in the trunk and then struggled a bit to get out of the parking lot.  The snow didn't want to let the Honda go.  It took me three or four tries before I could back out and get back on the snowless road.  When I got home I stripped off my coat and sweatshirt to uncover a completely soaked long sleeve t-shirt.  My socks were soaked through.  I had a blister on my right heal.  What a workout.  I felt great!!!

This was my longest snowshoe at 5.35 miles.  I added a few pictures to my 2008-2013 Boyer Chute National Wildlife Refuge Google Photos album that can be found here.

P.S.  We are expected to have temperatures in the upper 30s and low 40s later this week so a lot of the snow will be gone soon.  I hope this isn't my last chance to snowshoe this year.

4 comments:

  1. Breaking trail through fresh powder in snowshoes is definitely a workout. The last time I went snowshoeing, I think I ended up stripping down to just a t-shirt because of the effort being expended. Looks like a pretty awesome hike (despite the blister).

    P.S. - where was the new header photo taken at?

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  2. GH: Definitely harder than your typical hike for sure.

    Yu should recognize the header photo as I'm sure you've been there. It's from the La Jolla Nature Reserve near Point Mugu.

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  3. Looks beautiful!

    I have yet to try snowshoeing...

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  4. JaG: It was. I'm surprised you haven't snowshoed before. I mean with where you live and how much you like shoes :)

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