Let's Go Snowshoeing
One of my goals with this blog and podcast is to try new things, share them with you and give you enough information so you can make the decision to try those things for yourself. I’ll be the first to admit, there are many things that I haven’t done or seen in Wisconsin and my goal is to continue to experience as much of what this state has to offer in my lifetime.
When I set my goals list at the beginning of the year, one thing that I wanted to try was snowshoeing. But in order for that to happen, we needed snow in Central Wisconsin. Which, for a while seemed like an impossibility. In the months of December and January we received no accumulating snow fall. However north and south of our area, enough snow to fell for those places to kick off winter and enjoy those outdoor activities. Then February showed up and with it the snow we’ve been waiting for. It seems it snows almost every other day now and not just a dusting, we’ve received a few storms that have produced well over six inches each time. In fact, while I’m writing this, we are having our biggest snow storm of the year. The great thing about all this snow, is it has finally allowed me to try some new things like snowshoeing. A couple of weekends ago, my whole family took our first steps on snowshoes.
We picked a weekend where the girls didn’t have any basketball games and my wife didn’t have to work. It was a bit colder than we wanted but we decided that if we didn’t go, we probably wouldn’t get another chance to go as a family. The morning of our hike, the temperature was well below zero and we thought we were going to have to postpone our plans. But around lunchtime, the sun was out and the temperature was in the mid-teens, so we made the decision to bundle up and head out.
We decided to hike the trails at 9 Mile Forrest and Recreation Area in Marathon County. They have four different trails ranging from 4 kilometers up to 10 kilometers. They also rent snowshoes, which for our family worked out well. We didn’t want to purchase snowshoes to later find out we didn’t enjoy it. Renting for us was a smart option. When we got to 9 Mile, it was pretty busy. They were finishing up an event for Special Olympics and as they were leaving, many cross-country skiers we heading out on one of the many cross-country ski trails. 9 Mile offers plenty of parking so there wasn’t any difficulty in finding a place to park.
We entered the chalet and picked up our passes and snowshoes. The cost was reasonable for two adult trail passes and five sets of snowshoes came to $41 dollars. We grabbed a trail map and gathered outside to put on our snowshoes. The kids were excited to get started and after a little adjusting to get the fit right we set out on our first snowshoe adventure.
For those that haven’t visited 9 Mile before, it’s a beautiful place. It sits on over 4900 acres of land and offers activities all year long. From mountain biking and horseback riding to cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. There is something for every outdoor enthusiast to do. Our first steps on the trail took us through some tall pines that are lined up in perfect order. And with the recent snowfall, they sat heavy with fresh snow that accented their beauty. They don’t groom their snowshoe trails, the hikers are the groomers so most of the trail is single file walking. This worked well for our family. We let the older girls lead the way and my wife and I took turns bringing up the rear with our youngest.
It took a little time to get used to walking with the snowshoes and we realized quickly how much our typically hiking pass had slowed down because of the snow and the shoes. But we knew the pace would be slower and we were ok with that. Walking in the forest was peaceful and with the workout of the hike, we were all plenty warm enough.
Before we started, we decided to just do the 4K loop. We felt that would give us a good taste of snowshoeing without tiring us out too much. But after about a half and hour into our hike we realized that took the wrong way into the trail and instead of going towards the 4K part, we were on the 6K trail. This is where we messed up as a family. The trails travel both ways so we should have turned around and just went back. But we decided as a family to keep going and see if we could find the 4K trail. After about and hour into our hike, we found a trail marker and new what we did and knew we were on the 6K trail. The kids were starting to get restless and we figure that since we were already an hour into the hike, we were at least half way. And besides, the trail ran through the forest and the beauty of winter was in full display.
We took a few water and snack breaks along the way but each trail marker we reached, we felt like we were farther away from the chalet then the last marker. We would meet a few other hikers on the snowshoe trails, but for the most part we pretty much had the trail to ourselves. Which only added to our sense of urgency. We started our hike at 2pm and figured to be out for around an hour and a half. Two hours into our hike and the kids were starting to get worried about being out in the dark. We reassured them that we still had plenty of light and that we were almost back to the chalet. We ran into our final couple as they were coming off the 4K trail. They were really nice and told us that the trail was really difficult because it hadn’t been used much and the trail wasn’t packed. They also told us it probably would have taken us just as long as the 6K because of the softer snow. But the good thing was we were only 20 minutes from the chalet.
By the time we reached the chalet, we all were pretty relieved. It was getting late and our hour and half planned hike took us two and half hours. We were all really tired and I could feel how much of a work out snowshoeing was. By the time we got back to the truck, my kids swore they would never do that again and my wife and I both had mixed feelings about the experience.
We did a few things wrong. We underestimated our pacing a lot. As a family we can typically walk a mile in about 20 minutes. Which is good for having three kids all under 10. Our pace for snowshoeing was about a mile in an hour. We also didn’t anticipate how difficult it would be for our youngest daughter. She struggled most of the trail and that made it less enjoyable for all of us. We also should have ask more clearly about the course and where the shorter trail was located.
But overall, it was a good experience! I enjoyed hiking in a such a beautiful area. I think it would have been a better experience if my wife and I had just gone on our own. But I’m proud that we all tried it and made a family memory. I can see myself snowshoeing again, but next time, I will ease myself into it a bit more. Tackling a 6K was a bit much for our first time, but now we know what to expect.
I think it’s important to try new things and realize that you may not always like or enjoy them. We got out there and strapped on some snowshoes and hiked the trails. We learned a lot about snowshoeing and what to do better next time. In fact, I look forward to going again and being a Wisconsin Outdoor Explorer.