Wednesday, January 14, 2009

It Was Love at First Hike

Remember the line Renee Zellweger says to Tom Cruise in the 1996 movie Jerry Maguire: "You had me at hello?" That's how I felt about snowshoeing. Within the first ten minutes on the trail, I knew it was something I could get into. That's a pretty amazing statement for me, considering I hate cold weather and up until now, I've never met a winter sport I like.

It may be a stretch to call snowshoeing a sport; it's as simple as walking. At least, it was simple in the way we approached it--on flat terrain using a well-packed trail. I even decided to take along ski poles for added balance, although they really weren't necessary. I'm sure it's a whole different story to snowshoe up a mountain or to be the first to break through fresh, deep snow.

Our first excursion on snowshoes was last Saturday night during a full moon hike at Peabody Mill Environmental Center in Amherst. The Center is adjacent to the nearly 600-acre Joe English Reservation, a wooded area named for a Native American who befriended the white man and was eventually killed for betraying his fellow Indians.

Peabody Mill offers full moon and new moon hikes year round and they also rent snowshoes during their normal daytime hours of operation. Vicky, our naturalist guide, was enthusiastic and knowledgeable, even if Mother Nature didn't quite cooperate.

The moon and stars stayed hidden behind a veil of clouds during our one-hour trek. We never saw any animals or heard so much as a peep from them, but we did see lots of animal tracks, including snowshoe hare, weasel, porcupine and mice and we learned some interesting facts about animal behavior. Vicky surmised the wildlife might have already hunkered down against the snowstorm moving in later than night.

So it was dark and quiet, but oh so peaceful. I couldn't help thinking about Robert Frost's poem, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. One line kept running through my head as we crunched along on the trail: "The woods are lovely, dark, and deep. But I have promises to keep. And miles to go before I sleep. And miles to go before I sleep."

After our mini-adventure, I made a promise to myself to keep trying new outdoor activities, no matter the weather. There's so much natural beauty all around us, if we only stop long enough to enjoy it.

Things to Know Before You Go: There are many places in New Hampshire offering snow shoe rentals and trails. I'll try to write more on that in coming weeks. For now, check out Peabody Mill's website for more information. Their next new moon hike is January 24th at 7 pm and the next full moon hike is February 7th at 7 p.m. Reservations are required.

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