Snowshoe walks highlight wonders of winter

Feb 9, 2015

Pole to polle BETHANY — Shannon Morley couldn't stay away.

The native Western New Yorker missed the cold crunch of snow beneath her boots and the wonder of a snow-blanketed field. Winter just isn’t the same down South.

“Not having winter is like not having a sunset,” she said.

Morley, 38, is Genesee County Park’s new conservation education program coordinator, a job she started about two weeks ago.

Taking a brief snowshoe walk Tuesday in the 431-acre county park, Morley stopped in a field, near the edge of a stand of pine trees, and marveled at the park’s beauty.

“Look at this. This is gorgeous,” she said, as she pointed to the quiet, pastoral setting.

The Rochester native lived in Virginia the past two years and said she missed the snow and crisp temperatures.

The program coordinator is seeking converts to her winter-time pursuits. She is offering snowshoe classes at the park beginning today and continuing on every Saturday in February.

The lesson begins at 1 p.m. at the park’s Nature Center and is followed with a hike guided by Morley. No experience is needed.

Advance registration is required and can be done by calling the Nature Center at (585) 344-1122.

Refreshments will be served at 3 p.m. in the Nature Center.

The cost for the event is $15 and includes a pair of snowshoes for each person to use. Participants can also bring their own snowshoes.

Most of the hikes will go through the park’s woods.

Morley said ancient cultures from all areas of the globe where there were snowy climates invented equipment to make it easier to travel on foot. Traditional snowshoes are made of wood frames and rawhide webbing.

The concept behind snowshoes and skis is to spread out a person’s body weight over a larger surface area. That makes is easier to walk on top of snow and also prevents sinking into it.

Morley sank about 6 inches into Tuesday’s soft snow. She would have gone in to her knees without the snowshoes.

Morley continued her walk Tuesday, then stopped and fell backwards into several feet of the white stuff. She made a snow angel.

“I haven’t been in the snow in so long,” she said.

The depth of the snow made for a soft landing.

“You can really just fall back and not worry about it,” Morley said.

The program coordinator said snowshoeing is simple to do and provides a good workout. No special equipment is needed and the stride is about the same as if walking at a steady pace.

Snowshoers should wear thermal underwear and also dress in layers and for weather conditions. The amount of clothing to don is similar to what a person wears when taking a brisk walk, Morley said.

“It’s not intense like cross-country skiing,” she said.

Morley suggested waterproof boots so a snowshoer’s socks and feet don’t stay dry.

Other items include lip balm and on a bright days a pair of sunglasses.

“You’re good to go,” she said.

“The great thing about it is you get to enjoy nature. You don’t feel cold once you are out there and doing it,” she said.

One tip Morley provided to help keep hands warm when outside in cold conditions. Use lotion to provide a protective layer on the skin.

One of the challenges for a novice snowshoer is getting the proper fit of the bindings onto the person’s boots. Most brands and styles of modern showshoes are made the same way, with an aluminum tube frame held in place by plastic webbing and nylon straps.

The size of the snowshoe correlates with size of the wearer. The larger the individual, the longer the shoe.

The park has shoes small enough for preschool-age children.

The binding straps, similar to ones on backpacks, are adjustable in the same way as seat belts.

“Kids can do it themselves,” Morley said.

She demonstrated the technique on a pair of the park’s snowshoes.

The straps hold a person’s boot in place with the toe in a fixed position.

The heel of the boot is strapped so it can move up and down but not side to side.

Morley flipped over a snowshoe and pointed to metal teeth on the bottom. The crampons help snowshoers during icy conditions.

“If you want to hike an Adirondack summit in winter, you’ve got these,” she said.

Visitors to the Nature Center at other times in February and March can also rent snowshoes for use only in the park for $5, weather permitting. The rentals are available from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday and Friday.

There is also an adults-only night hike from 7:30 to 9 on Feb. 21. The cost is $10 and includes a lesson and campfire.

Morley earned a bachelor’s of science degree from New York State College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse and has more than a decade of experience in outdoor education and interpretative programs.

She worked as a naturalist in Monroe County and in Fairfax County, Virginia. Morley also interned as a naturalist with the state Department of Environmental Conservation at the Five Rivers Environmental Education Academy in Albany.

Article from Batavia Daily News and taken from http://www.thedailynewsonline.com/news/article_f11c9030-ae6a-11e4-b32f-734a51e5263c.html