Homer's Travels: Snowshoeing Iowa: Wabash Trace South Of Coin

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Snowshoeing Iowa: Wabash Trace South Of Coin

Wednesday I drove almost two hours to the small town of Coin, IA. Coin is the next to last town on the Wabash Trace. I had originally intended to head north towards Bingham. The deciding factor as to which direction I would head in was the condition of the trail - Snow Free I would consider going north towards Bingham; Snow Covered I would head south towards Blanchard, the southern most end of the trace.

What brought this choice on was a preference I have when hiking - I like to have a destination. A waterfall, a scenic view, a peak. On the Wabash Trace towns are the obvious turn around destinations. If the trace was relatively snow free then a fifteen mile hike to and from Bingham was doable. If the trace was snow covered then it would be better to save the longer hike for a snow free day in the spring. Since I'd never snowshoed before, the southerly route had two things going for it. The first is it's only 5.4 miles to Blanchard. Snowshoeing was supposed to be more rigorous than hiking and a shorter target distance was more realistic. Second, in case it was even more rigorous (which I expected), there was a geocache a mile south from the town that could serve as an alternate turn around point.

As I drove into town I passed by the trace. I couldn't see it for all the snow. I parked on main street a couple blocks from the trail and suited up. I walked down to the trail and turned south. I decided to walk the block to where the trace crossed an asphalt road. The depth of the snow, eight to ten inches, proved difficult in just my boots. I crossed the asphalt and put on my snowshoes and got my trekking poles ready.

The trace ahead of me was unmarred and pristine. I started down the trail. Initially it didn't feel that hard. The snow was soft except for the thin eighth inch crust of ice, the result of the freezing drizzle we had Sunday night.

After a short distance the undisturbed nature of the trail changed as signs of wildlife started to appear. Deer Tracks. Rabbit tracks. What I assume were goose tracks. Small dog tracks. Three-legged dog tracks ... what?!? As I approached Coin I'd passed a three legged dog. He was gone by the time I got to the trace but I found some tracks that had to be his. You could see the dog print at the bottom of the holes in the snow. There was a pattern - first a pair of tracks then a single track. One of the pair was shallow so I would guess the dog was balancing on it's right front and rear legs and using it's left front leg mostly for balance. The three-legged dog tracks (I named him Tripod in my head) accompanied me my entire way.

At the one mile point I reached a bridge (one of four in the 1.5 miles of the trace I snowshoed). I expected to find a bridge here since this was the location of the geocache I was looking for. Geocaches on the trace seem to like bridges. Makes sense since there are a lot of good, sheltered hiding places under bridges. Searching under the bridge with snowshoes on was awkward but I suspect they helped me get up and down the snow covered banks easier with the metal spikes on the bottom of the snowshoes digging in the hillside. I found "
Bears On The Bridge" safely tucked up under the bridge.

I climbed up from under the bridge and considered my options. I decided to try for another mile (making the whole thing four miles) and continued down the trace. I pulled out a snack bar ... a frozen snack bar ... and ate it while I walked on. At the 1.45 mile point I reached a long bridge stretching over the Tarkio River.

I walked across the bridge and decide that I'd had enough. I turned around and started back. The way back was draining. I must have been tired as I was getting a little careless with my foot placement. I pulled out a second frozen snack bar. I took a bite or two when, SMACK, I face planted in the snow. I found out a trekking pole can't do it's job when you are holding it up off the ground with a snack bar in your hand. My left snowshoe caught on something (probably my right snowshoe) and down I went. I got back on my feet, took inventory (no damage), looked around (no one saw me), brushed the snow off my snack bar, and took another bite before I continued down the trail.

The rest of the way was uneventful. By the time I got back to my car I was tired and sweating. I'd dressed 15° warmer than I should have. I stopped for some food and drove home. I was tired ... no, exhausted when I got home. It's been a long time since I felt that weary. I guess snowshoeing was tougher than, and me not as tough as, I thought.

My total distance was about 2.9 miles with 100 ft elevation. My speed was about a third of my normal hiking speed. I guess that says it all. I added some pictures to my
2009-2013 Wabash Trace Nature Trail Hike Google Photos album.


  1. Heh, heh, didn't I warn ya you'd be sweatin from the effort? :)

    Glad you enjoyed your (first?) snowshoe. And bravo on that face-plant!

  2. GH: Yeah, but do I listen to you ... sometimes but only sometimes :-)

    Hopefully it will be the first of many.

    As for the face-plant - :-P~~

  3. I have yet to experience my first face-plant :). Nevertheless, great post.

  4. Godefroy: Trust me, it was not that fun and a little embarrassing. Thanks.