Friday, February 14, 2014


About 30 years ago I traded Floyd Miller out of a pair of aluminum, leather and synthetic sinew snowshoes. From that day forward they have hung forlornly in our carport–a constant reminder of my ineffective attempts at leisure activity; last week however, I finally found the opportunity to put them to use.
Navajo Black and White Tree of Life Basket - Elsie Holiday (#355)

Almost every Sunday we venture forth to visit "Grandma Washburn," my wife's sister Stephanie and brother-in-law Reid. This tradition has evolved into a real treat for me, because the womenfolk gather together their bountiful culinary talents and put on a Thanksgivingesque meal. On this particular day Laurie mentioned dinner would be served later than usual. We would, however, be arriving early to help prepare the feast. Because I felt guilty about leaving those webbed walkers hanging so long, and also a bit exhilarated by the prospect of exploring a winter wonderland, I was moved to action.

Laurie asked me to retrieve a cooler from the carport so we could take our fixings to Monticello. While extracting the icebox, I pulled the old snowshoes from their rusty nail. Inspecting them closely, I tested the materials for strength and durability. Amazingly they were in good condition. This I attributed to high quality manufacturing and storing them in a cool, dry place. Apparently my age old exchange had been solid. As I understood my wife's agenda, there would be a period of three or four hours between our arrival in Buckarooville and dinner. This seemed plenty of time for a walk, so I placed the shoes in our Toyota Tundra and fetched my bug-out bag, which I maintain for scouting events and day hikes. Laurie noticed my animated activity from the kitchen window and asked what I was planning. "I am going snowshoeing!" was my enthusiastic reply. "Just don't be late for dinner or you will be eating squirrels and acorns", she cautioned. "Umm", I thought to myself, "acorn stuffed squirrel might not be half bad."

When we arrived in "Cello", I helped Laurie unload the groceries, greeted Grandma and made a beeline for the mountain. The road to the dilapidated ski lift was snow packed and laced with cross-country ski tracks. I parked the truck, grabbed my gear and walked up the road to the entrance of Redd ranches real estate. Facing my as yet unspoiled entry point, I strapped on the snowshoes and stepped over a barbed wire fence. Standing there for a moment, I inhaled the pine-scented breeze and admired the clean, unmarked snow scape. There was a stout hour breeze pushing cotton ball cloud formations across the face of the mountain, therefore, I zipped-up my Carhartt jacket before pressing on. Sunlight burst through the spaces between traveling puffballs, causing shadowed movement through the trees and across the face of scant boulders left uncovered by the forces of nature.
Navajo Black and White Tree of Life Basket - Elsie Holiday (#355)

The snow wrapped itself around the trees like frosting on a cake full of candles. It sparkled and scintillated like a field of diamonds in the early afternoon sunlight. The first five inches of snow was fresh and fluffy powder. Beneath that was approximately a foot of crust I assumed had been warmed from beneath by earlier thawing. Each time I stepped forward my snowshoe sank several inches. When I put my full weight forward, the crusty snow beneath broke and settled even more. As I traveled through the gaunt, twisted and skeletal looking oak brush interspersed with evergreen pine and spruce, I made a swish-thunk sound that reverberated through the thickets. The pure, white snow was mostly trackless. I did, however, see one set of squirrel tracks that began at a large pine, trailed into a clearing and circled back. I thought of my spouse's comment and laughed to myself, thinking, "At least if I do get hungry, I know where to search for a nut or two." I soon came to the Washburn Enterprises fence line and hopped over. I passed through a grove of statuesque quaking aspen, by a small earthen dam holding back a live spring, through more oak brush and evergreens and finally into a large open space.

As I stood there taking in the scene, the snow covered meadow spread out in front of me with fragile, tubular stalks of columbine and clusters of crested wheat grass poking through. At the edge of the meadow grew oaks larger than twelve inches in circumference. These were backed by tall, perfectly formed yellow pine trees, which climbed the side of the peak directly in front of me. The mountain majestically rose up and reminded me of the Hostess Sno Balls we used to sell at the Plateau gas station our family managed on the south side of Blanding when my siblings and I were kids. For those who do not remember, Sno Balls came in a package of two and consisted of cream filled chocolate cake covered with marshmallow frosting and coconut flakes. Except for the stands of pine and spruce smudged on the side of the mountain, it was a good representation of that long lost treat. Maybe I was just getting hungry.

Walking across the clearing, I felt I was disturbing the peace and roughing-up the landscape. Entering the big oaks, I found a downed log and sat for a bit, enjoying the peace and quiet. Before long I checked the time and realized that if I did not start back soon I surely would be eating acorns. Reluctantly I retraced my steps, making my way back to the truck. Just before I arrived at the vehicle, Laurie called on the cell phone and asked where I was. I said I would be there in 30 minutes and cautioned her not to start without me. She assured me she could not make that commitment, so I better hurry. As I picked-up the pace, driving down the mountain road, I thought to myself what a beautiful country we live in and how enjoyable it is to get out into it.

With warm regards,
Barry, Steve, Priscilla and Danny; the team.

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