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Icicle Toes and Snowflakes: A First Attempt at Snowshoeing

January 14, 2020

Icicle Toes and Snowflakes: A First Attempt at Snowshoeing

I walked into this year wanting a challenge. My intentions? To become more comfortable with being uncomfortable. When I asked myself what that looked like, how I would practice my intentions, snowshoeing came to mind. Of the miles I have hiked in my lifetime, snow has rarely been a part of the equation. My only other encounter with snow came while I was backpacking through the Italian Dolomites in the summer of 2019. Lucky for me and my trail runners, the conditions were not severe enough to require snowshoes, crampons, or skis. That experience tested my boundaries of comfort; skip to December 2019, I felt the familiar desire creeping its way back in.
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Now that you know the backstory, my intentions for escaping the warm temperatures of Texas, I can tell of the experience. The mountains arose from seemingly out of nowhere as I drove from Denver to the trailhead of my first hike. In Denver the mountains felt distant, now suddenly they were all around, towering above and beyond me. Although it was a short drive, my smile only grew as my distance from my hike shrank.  I was the second person to arrive. The sun was shining, and the sky was crisp and clear.
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As I looked around, something was missing. The snow wasn’t very deep, and I began questioning when I should put the snowshoes on. From my research I knew snowshoes were meant for powder snow, but this snow was compact and shallow. Lucky for me, another car arrived and as someone who is not afraid to ask questions, I decided to risk looking dumb to save myself from any future mistakes. An older man who looked like a seasoned winter sportsman (then again, compared to myself, nearly anyone in Colorado qualifies as such) suggested I put them on now, no harm done. I began to strap on my shoes the way I remembered the guy at REI instructing, but something wasn’t adding up. I thought to myself, this isn’t rocket science and I’m not an idiot, think. I recognized my error and a wave of relief swept over me, success, I’m not an idiot! With my shoes strapped, backpack stocked with an assortment of Wildway, and camera at the ready, I embarked on an adventure.
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I’m not a liar, so I won’t pretend that my first attempt (you read that right) went splendidly. With each glove removal to snap a shot, my fingers immediately screamed at me to put them back into the comfort of my gloves. As you can imagine, with my job being to capture photos of granola and snack mixes, my frustration at my inability to do my job was quickly growing. A thought came to my mind: I’ve come far enough, I’ve captured some content, no one will know if I turn around. And that’s what I did. Only once I sat in my car was I reminded what I came here in pursuit of in the first place, to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. Here I was backing down, retreating back into comfort and warmth, familiar surroundings.
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This comfort was short-lived as I decided to head back out into an environment uncomfortable and unfamiliar. I left the poles and annoying scarf behind and trekked back into the towering snow-covered trees with a new mindset and determination in tow. Just after passing the point at which I had initially turned around I knew I had made the right decision to return. The elevation leveled out and an untouched path of white powder stretched beyond me and snaked up into the trees. The warm glow of the sun speared through the dense tree branches and highlighted a gentle sprinkle of snow falling. I had found myself in a scene so magical it may as well have been out of a Hallmark movie. Each step became more natural as I pressed on and up through the trees. And then it hit me, despite my numb fingers and toes, I was becoming more comfortable.
To give in doesn’t mean to give up, but I knew I was capable of more, and so in my case, to retreat back to comfort would be giving up. I continued my trek up and up until a break came among the trees and there stood Vasquez Peak, bold and beautiful. I had reached the end of my hike and it was time to turn back around and make my way back to my humble abode (aka my car). As with most hikes, the descent flew by and before I knew it I found myself back where I had started. The only thing different now than when I began my ascent for the second time, I was far more comfortable.
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Anything that lies beyond what you’ve experienced is going to be unfamiliar and uncomfortable; give yourself grace to make mistakes, and with a little time and determination, you can find comfort in the unfamiliar.



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