No, I would much rather avoid the post-Christmas shopping madness and spend that valuable day off outside, doing something that I enjoy.
George Privett and I were chatting last week and we both wanted to get outside, so we made tentative plans to go for a Boxing Day snowshoe. We've had a great winter in terms of snowfall; it started early and just keeps getting better - if you're interested in snowshoeing, that is.
George called me up on Boxing Day morning to arrange a time to meet. We still hadn't decided on where to go. At -15oC, the temperature was milder than it has been lately, but the moist southern wind that brought the warmer temperatures also wanted to get rid of its excess moisture. It was snowing and visibility was poor. The low cloud cover and snow meant that any sweeping mountain vistas were "out of the picture". Where could we go that would be fun to snowshoe and not have the trails already packed by Whitehorse's Legion of Snowmachiners?
After considering a few options, I decided it was time to investigate a rocky face on Mount McIntyre that I've been wanting to investigate for its rock climbing potential. I knew that the trail (or lack thereof) would be unpacked.
My in-laws are in town visiting and they wanted to come, too. Our team of two turned into a team of five, thanks to the three extra pairs of snowshoes that we keep (one can never own too many snowshoes, you know?).
The days are still fairly short, and I was hurrying so we could make the most of the daylight on an otherwise dark day. I quickly grabbed some food, the snowshoes, my sled, kettle and Liard Firebox. We all squeezed into the car, and were off.
When we arrived at our starting point, everyone strapped their snowshoes onto their feet. We had an eclectic mix of traditional and modern snowshoes, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. As for myself, I prefer the traditional wooden and babiche snowshoes with a slightly more modern leather binding, especially when snowshoeing in the light powdery snow that's typical of the Whitehorse area.
Adjusting the bindings on my snowshoes.
We had a slow start, but once everyone got their snowshoes adjusted properly, things went smoothly. We weren't long into the trip when I realised that, in the rush to leave, I had left my camera behind. Fortunately, George came prepared. All of the pictures in this entry are compliments of George.
Packing down an otherwise unpacked trail.
George (who took all the pictures in this blog entry - with the exception of this one).
My sister-in-law, Nem, and brother-in-law-in-law, Pedro (not his real name).
My father-in-law, Gabe.
Pedro (aka Michael) takes in the somewhat limited (but improving) view.
Nanuq decides he's not interested in the view and promptly returns to his lifetime passion of stepping on the ends of my snowshoes.
After a little side-trip to check out the scenery, we made are way into the valley with the rock wall. It was full of willows, sagging from the weight of the snow. It made for difficult snowshoeing, but I was determined to make it to the rock face. The rest of the crew stayed behind while I broke trail and Nanuq stepped on the ends of my snowshoes.
Eventually, covered with snow and sweating from the effort of finding a passable route, I made it to the rock face. The valley was nothing like I expected. While I was able to rule it out as a potential rock climbing area, it definitely warrants more investigation in the summer months. I retraced my steps, packing the trail even harder for the rest of the crew.
When I got back, it was clear that the rest of the crew wasn't interested in heading for the willows. It was time for tea.
I broke out the firebox and made a fire. The trick to a good winter fire, is to make sure your fire doesn't sink. Fortunately, with the aid of a few short sticks, I was able to build a simple base to support the firebox. Once the fire was going, we put the kettle on. Soon we would have tea.
Or would we?
Building a fire in the Liard Firebox.
When I was asked for mugs, I couldn't produce them. I had forgotten to bring any. I noticed a few small birch back up the valley and went to see if I could peel a few small strips to make some birchbark/willow cups. Unfortunately, the bark was just a little too dry and kept cracking when I peeled it. Defeated, I returned.
Fortunately, George is a resourceful guy. He took the Pepsi bottle that he used for carrying his water supply and cut it in two. By keeping the cap on the spout end of the bottle, we now had two "cups" for holding tea.
Nanuq curls up for a rest.
Next, it was time for making bannock-on-a-stick. Fortunately, no cups are required for that. I poured some luke-warm water into the bag of bannock mix and squished it all together.
Preparing a stick for making bannock.
The dough was freezing quickly and didn't want to attach itself to the sticks. With a little coaxing and massaging, I finally managed to get them all wrapped.
Wrapping the quickly-freezing bannock dough around a stick.
The trick to making good bannock-on-a-stick is to heat the bannock slowly over the hot coals. Sticking the dough into the flames will result in a crispy, charred outer layer and a gooey, cold, doughy inner layer. While that may work well for marshmallows, it do make for good bannock.
Warming the bannock dough the wrong way.
Certain members of our party (who shall remain unnamed but who are in the picture below) were so eager to eat their bannock, that they went for the flash-cooked outer layer and ate it off before returning their dough-covered sticks to the fire. They repeated this process until all the warmed dough had been consumed.
Cooking dough on a stick.
In his enthusiasm, Pedro eats his bannock nearly raw. Ew.
Yes, a little patience and some good hot coals makes for great bannock.
Bannock on a stick done the right way. Yum.
The sun had set and the dark afternoon was quickly turning into a dusky afternoon. It was time to pack up and head out.
Packing for home.
As I drove home, I thought about what it means to me to get out and go snowshoeing (or canoeing or camping or hiking or biking). After I go, I always feel better physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally. If ever there were a church for me, being outside is that church. I guess shopping is like that for some people.
Our Boxing Day snowshoe was a good way to end 2008, also known as "The Year in Which I Didn't Get Out Much", and a good way to warm up for 2009, which will likely be known as "The Year in Which I Got Out Even Less" but which I hope will be known as "The Year in Which I Got Out Lots and Lots". In fact, I've decided that for the first time in years I'm going to have a New Year's Resolution. I hereby resolve to get out more and for longer.
It's a resolution that I look forward to upholding.