Walking On Snow
I have always been someone that has enjoyed winter fun. As a small child, I cross country skied and ice skated regularly with my family. I wouldn’t say I was a pro at either one, but they were fun and a great way to enjoy Wisconsin winters. I also enjoyed sledding and tubing with friends. One winter activity that I hadn’t tried was snowshoeing. It was on my bucket list of activities to try, and so when the Waukesha Pewaukee Visitors Bureau (WPVB) asked if I was interested in writing about it, I was all in.
The tricky thing with a winter activity is waiting for the winter weather to cooperate with your schedule to be able to go. Between busy weekends and frigid temps, I had to reschedule a few times before finding a day to go. But I’m sure boaters and campers say the same things in summer – waiting for the weather to warm up and then it rains!
For my friend and I–everything seemed to come together in late January–we were ready to give snowshoeing a try. Retzer Nature Center in Waukesha has snowshoes to rent and being a free park, it made it very appealing for us to check out. Renting snowshoes for half a day for $5.50 is definitely my idea of fun. But I really had no idea what I was in for.
Retzer has a lot of snowshoes to choose from–the traditional woven wooden ones and newer metal and plastic ones. They come in a variety of sizes for children through adults. We were recommended to use the metal ones because of the dense snow pack as they have metal “claws” on the bottom to give us added traction. We were told if we can walk, we can snowshoe.
The next step was getting them on — and it seemed simple enough. Just put your foot in, tighten two straps across the toes and then a strap across the back and you are in. However, upon review of my photos from the day, I will admit that I might have wanted to swap feet so I wasn’t stepping on the straps. But there doesn’t really seem to be a left or right foot that I could tell. Learners curve? At any rate, they stayed on quite tightly for the most part.
After standing on them and making sure the bindings were tight, we were off to the trails. We tested them out close to the building at the top of the hill to see how well they provided traction. The snow was very heavy and a little slick in a few spots. I’m please to report that the shoes gripped rather nicely no matter which direction we stepped. I did get a little over-confident and almost wiped out having a little fun trying to jump in them–I guess that’s part of testing them out!
We were told we could go anywhere that there was snow and make it our own adventure. So we started out by heading towards a trail that I knew of from a previous trip to the park. After crossing a small bridge, I had forgotten there were some stairs we would need to navigate, but other than that, it was a very picturesque.
Then we really decided to go “rogue” and created our own path heading to the top of the hill. The longer we were in the snowshoes, the more confident we became, though the denser snow did cause for a few slick spots. I can’t imagine how we would have done in the woven wood snowshoes that didn’t have metal “claws” on them! Those are definitely for the powdery snow!
At the top of the hill is a cool lookout spot that I was unaware of. It was a little hazy, but still really pretty to see the rolling hills of western Waukesha. I’ll definitely have to come back and run the park in the summer!
We wandered throughout the park for a total of an hour, chit-chatting and catching up on life before it started to rain on us. This drizzling did make it a bit more of a challenge to head back as the trails are sometimes slanted and and downhill to get back to the Center. Overall, the shoes definitely provided better grip than just my snow boots would have. And I know that we both want to come back and try it in fresh snow.
And about that advice — yes, I completely agree — if you can walk, you can snowshoe! We’d like to plan another trip with a larger group of friends. We think it would be a blast!