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What's the Point?

Okay, so we know how I’ll benefit from this endeavor. I’ll gain experience in the great outdoors that will help me write a better book set in the Adirondacks. But you, my dear reader, may well be asking, “What’s in all this for me?” Hopefully you’ll gain a little knowledge, have a few laughs, and vicariously enjoy a sense of adventure. Think of it as a modern-day Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, where you get to sit comfortably at your computer screen – much like Marlin Perkins watching from a safe distance behind some bushes. I, on the other hand, will go out into the wild, ala Jim Fowler, and do all the heavy lifting in an effort to entertain you.

            Well, on second thought…

Entries in equipment (1)


Gearing Up to Snowshoe

            Now that I’d plunged into this endeavor (literally, see Taking the Plunge post), I figured it was okay to ease up a bit. And why should I go through this alone? Wouldn’t it be better to drag my family along with the excuse of spending a little quality time together in the Adirondacks? That was my thinking, anyway, when I signed us all up for the Family Snowshoe Day at the Adirondak Loj at Heart Lake. I was attracted to the activity because it seemed like a good starting point for a beginner. After all, if the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) felt that six-year-olds could handle it, there was a chance I might be able to handle it, too.

            But then they emailed me the supply list for the outing – and it was four pages long. I was starting to question my choice of “beginner” activity. My family has lots of stuff, almost all of it geared for life indoors. So it quickly became clear we’d need to buy most of the items on the list. A lot of it was considered “required,” that is, you’d better have it if you wanted to survive. Since nothing puts a damper on a family outing like dying, it was time to go shopping.

            Even the items we did have turned out not to be made of the right material. Only wool, fleece and polypropylene were allowed. No cotton because it absorbs and retains water, drawing heat away from the body. Experienced outdoors people will tell you: cotton kills. According to the ADK, “cotton clothing is deadly in the backcountry and is not to be risked.” With word like those, I not only began to fear the contents of my sock drawer, I also wondered just what I’d gotten us into.

            My husband’s outdoor gear was best suited for a round of 18 holes, so he was starting from scratch. He came home with a load of stuff, including 5k pants. At first I thought 5k referred to distance, as in “I’m going to snowshoe 5k (3.1 miles) in these pants.” But when I looked at the receipt for just his stuff, then multiplied it by four, I started to think 5k meant 5 grand – because this was costing us a fortune. Nature may be free, but apparently the price tag for surviving in nature can be quite hefty.

            As the day of the outing drew nearer, my husband began tracking the long-range weather forecast. Just our luck – the weekend was going to be, as they say in Boston, wicked cold. “Do you think they’ll cancel it?” I asked. I became truly worried when my husband, who is my optimistic half, said, “Are you kidding? These people are from Lake Placid. Subzero temperatures are just another day for them.” At least he refrained from adding, “thanks a lot for signing us up.”

            The morning before our ordeal – I mean outing – Ryan Doyle, a guide from the ADK, called, wanting to know if we were still interested in snowshoeing the next day given the cold temperatures. “Well, we really are just beginners,” I said, grossly overstating my family’s skill level. Ryan said the projected high for the next day was 5˚, with a wind chill of minus 20. “We can still do it if you want to, but we’d be ducking in and out all day. With temperatures like that, it’s more about survival skills than having a fun day outside.”

            I tried my best at a lighthearted laugh that I hoped sounded natural – like it’s what I always do when faced with death. Then, to reinforce the concept that I was no wimp, I threw the ball back in his court, “But if you think it’s better to reschedule.” I let my voice trail off. Thankfully, Ryan said he’d email a list of alternate dates so we could reschedule.

            Now we had Saturday off. I wasn’t sure how we’d spend a whole day of quality time together as a family. But odds were good, whatever the activity, we’d be doing it inside.