Post-Bulletin outdoor writer John Weiss is taking the Department of Natural Resources 125-mile challenge. The DNR wants people to cover by bike, boot or boat 125 miles in any state park, trail, forest or water trail this year, the 125th anniversary of the state park system. This is his first outing.
For the snowshoe hike at Carley State Park south of Plainview Sunday, I, as usual, chose to wear basic wool.
My ensemble was an old pair of wool pants held together by patches, mendings and memories, a wool hat also patched and a wool shirt in need of some work. An ancient parka and old Sorels completed my garb.
It was the spur of the moment and I couldn’t find others to go with, so I went solo.
I love the idea of that 125-mile challenge; I’m competitive, too, and the idea of racking up some miles appealed to me.
The temperature was maybe a degree or two above zero, cold enough for most people to stay away from snowshoeing. But wind was meek, the sky blue — conditions were perfect for snowshoeing.
The gate to Carley is closed for the winter. I parked outside, strapped on the 43-year-old snowshoes and began walking. I quickly found others had had the same idea and I was going to have to follow others’ tracks.
As expected, I saw many tracks of deer, rabbits and squirrels, but no deer, rabbit or squirrel. They’re smart enough to sit low, hunker down and wait out cold; they have to conserve their fat.
I pushed fairly hard at first, wanted to rack up the miles. Then I slowed, or the beauty of the winter park slowed me. Why hurry? Instead of racking up miles, I vowed to pack in as many memories per mile as I could for all 125.
In an open area, I left the trail. Snowshoes were needed to keep my feet from breaking through crust and for stability. At the Whitewater River, I saw much was frozen over but riffles were open. There were tracks on snow of the ice but not those of otters, which I have seen before at Carley.
I walked the Wildflower Trail, the main one in the park, and I knew in maybe 10 weeks, it would be resplendent in the blue of bluebells, for which the park is best known.
After a while, I pushed back my parka hood and rolled up the face mask of my hat. I was getting too warm.
Finally, I curled back and ended my hike at 3 miles. That’s not a lot for about 1.5 hours, but I stopped often for photos or to listen to the immortal silence of winter.
Three miles were good miles; only 122 left to go.