Homer's Travels: Snowshoeing Iowa: Hitchcock Nature Center

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Snowshoeing Iowa: Hitchcock Nature Center

Snowshoe print to the right,
Pole with snow cup on the left.
It has been over nine years since I last snowshoed.  It wasn't due to a lack of desire.  We just haven't had a lot of snowy Winters the past few years.  This month has been completely different.  We've had nearly 18 inches (45.7 cm) this February alone which is high for Omaha.

I like snow but I don't like snow when I want to do my strength training hikes.  Hiking in snow sucks frankly.  So when we got another five inches of snow this week I switched out my backpack for snowshoes, added snow cups to my hiking poles, and headed to Hitchcock Nature Center.

This was only the fifth time I went snowshoeing and the first time I snowshoed on trails with hills.  I snowshoed a number of different trail with different conditions.  Some had already stomped on my hikers/runners.  The rest had no tracks besides the wild kind (deer and/or coyote).  I picked a route that minimized hills but that turned out to be unnecessary.  The hills I climbed weren't bad on snowshoes at all.

For those familiar with the Hitchcock trails, I started on Fox Run Ridge, went down the Chute to the Bluestem Meander, down to Heritage, around Wildwood, and back to the car via Badger Ridge trail.  The Bluestem Meander, part of Wildwood, and part of Badger Ridge were pristine with no human tracks.  These were also the most difficult parts of the snowshoe.

The pristine snow on the Bluestem Meander.
I was not the only person to have snowshoed here.  On part of the Wildwood trail I followed snowshoe tracks.  Fortunately their stride was similar to mine so I stepped in their tracks to make it a little easier on me.

On the last part part of the snowshoe I climbed up to the top of Badger Ridge trail.  The ridge is exposed to the winds and there were snow drifts all along the trail.  Walking through the drifts was not easy.  At one point I sunk down to my knees.  For those not familiar with snowshoes, they reduced how much you sink into the snow but do not eliminate it all together.  They don't do much on fluffy drifted snow.  At one point I came across a set of tracks on the trail.  Apparently someone without snowshoes tried to hike the ridge and gave up.  I compared the depth of their tracks to mine and found my snowshoe prints were about half as deep as their boot prints.

My favorite tree on the Wildwood trail.
The overall hike was around 2.9 miles which matched the length of my very first snowshoe back in 2009.  I'd forgotten how tiring snowshoeing can me.  I ended up crashing when I got home.  There is more snow coming this weekend so I hope to head back out on my snowshoes on Monday.

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