Our adventure began at the Activities Centre located in the Pedestrian Village where we received our equipment and met our personable and knowledgeable Professional Adventure Guide Yves Kirouac, related to that "other" Kirouac, the Beat Generation writer Jack, author of the book, On the Road, who used the alternate spelling of Kerouac. While we were not able to go "on the road" with Jack, we were excited to be going "on the trail" for a 2-hour lesson with Yves.
Professional Adventure Guide Yves Kirouac
Unlike other sports that require lots of equipment, snowshoeing requires but a single piece of equipment. Originally, snowshoes were made of a hardwood frame with lattices; however the new snowshoes are made of lightweight molded plastic in sizes of 25-inch or 30-inch to help distribute your weight over a larger surface, and are easy to wear and to carry.
Debra: The snowshoes have adjustable strap bindings that will fit over most boots, however I was wearing Moon Boots, which are extremely warm, comfortable, and are almost like wearing your favorite slippers; however they are basically vertically straight and do not have a groove like most boots to be able to hold the snowshoe straps. Being an adventurer means being able to adjust, to rethink, and to do whatever it takes. Yves to the rescue, he handed me a type of galoshes with a groove at the back that can go over any type of boot, I slipped them on over my boots and I was ready to begin, although between the Moon Boots and the galoshes over them, my feet looked so enormous that I was afraid that people might mistake me for Big Foot.
Debra showing off her skill walking uphill in snowshoes
Equipment donned, our next step was learning how to walk wearing snowshoes. Actually, it is easier than you might imagine, at least on the flat stretches. Going uphill however is more of a challenge until you get the hang of it. The bindings secure only the toe portion of your boot to the snowshoe allowing you to be able to pick up your heel. When walking uphill, you walk on the front of your snowshoe lifting your heel as you sort of stomp your way up the hill digging in your toes. With our arms slightly out to the sides for balance, we looked rather like penguins shuffling our way up the hill.
Learning to go downhill was another challenge to master; for this, we needed to learn how to take short steps and stomp our heels to dig in for stability and balance. Little by little, we became accustomed to walking and almost forgot about our new "appendages" as we became engrossed with the beauty of nature trekking through pristine snow-covered wooded trails with ice floes down a hillside, a little frozen brook visible under the light coating of snow, and the mélange of deciduous and conifer trees around us.
Edward and Debra at ice flow
Although the afternoon was bright and sunny, it was rather cold, and we bundled up in several layers, ski clothes, warm hats, and heavy gloves for our adventure, not realizing that we would be getting a workout snowshoeing. It was not long before we had shed our hats and gloves, unzipped our jackets, and put our Smith Optics Sunglasses on, soaking up the sunshine radiating off the snow.
Exploring the trails
As we walked through the woods, Yves taught us not only to appreciate the beauty around us, but to also look for nature's signs in the snow, pointing out rabbit, fox, and wolf tracks, an indention where a small deer might have slept, as well as signs on trees, lines and holes made by a Yellow Belly Sap Sucker Woodpecker, and claw marks made by black bear that ran up to the top of a beechnut tree. With our new found knowledge, we no longer simply walked through the woods, we now noticed the small things that made the walk that much more interesting.
Wolf Tracks and Yellow Belly Sap Sucker markings
Learning basic survival skills are also very important when going into the woods, and we learned how to find north using trees and their limbs, as well lichen and moss on rocks, and also how to start a fire without the aid of matches. Nature provides wonderful tools to create a fire; you just need to know what to gather.
Debra showing bear claw markings in tree
From a dead yellow birch tree, Yves took a piece of chaga, a funky black and orange fungus; from a cedar tree, he scraped a small amount of shavings; and from a dead white birch tree, he peeled a long strip of bark.
Chaga in tree Edward examining piece of chaga
Nature's tools gathered, he put a small piece of the orange part of the chaga on an old tree stump, and rubbed his flint and steel together to create a spark near the chaga. Once the spark took hold, he blew on the chaga to keep the spark going. He rolled up the white birch bark to create a cylinder, stuffed it with the cedar shavings, added the smoldering chaga, and blew at the cone to encourage it to burn. Fire started, he put the cone back on the tree stump, added small pieces of kindling that he had found, and we warmed our hands over the fire against the slight chill of the late afternoon.
The Art of Fire Starting in the Wild
Lighting chaga Smoldering chaga Fashion cylinder
Stuff cylinder Add chaga & blow Light kindling
As we walked back in our snowshoes to the shop, we realized that our lesson had been part outdoors exercise and sport, part survival lesson, and that our 2 hours spent was most enjoyable and passed all too quickly. After spending an afternoon learning how to snowshoe, we agreed with Yves Kirouac, that this is a sport that could get you hooked.
For information on snowshoeing and other year-round activities available in Mont-Tremblant, please visit The Activity Centre (Centre d'Activités) website: www.TremblantActivities.com.
The Activity Centre (Centre d'Activités)
118 Chemin Kandahar
Mont-Tremblant, Québec, J8E 1T1
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