I once again have decided to face this winter’s snowshoe challenge alone. I really don’t have that many friends who own, or wish to own, snowshoes. Standing behind my SUV in the parking lot with the snow-covered fields stretching to the south, I slide my boots into the snowshoe brackets. I make sure both brackets on each shoe are properly fastened. I pull the straps across the boot backs to keep them in place. I double-check to make sure all is secure. 

It is very difficult to make adjustments once out in the field due to snow and ice buildup. If I were to fall down, it’s unlikely I’ll be able to get right side up. I zip up my insulated vest and jacket and adjust my sunglasses. I slip on my mittens, slide my hands through the pole straps and head out toward the wind-blown fields. The first few steps are like walking with tennis rackets stuck to my feet.

It’s about 20 degrees in the late afternoon. I head south into the wind, relishing the pristine snow and rugged tree line along my right. Vigilant to the left and right, I cross a few animal tracks, no human ones. I venture into the tall grass field off the trail for deeper snow. After about 20 minutes of huffing and chuffing, I unzip my jacket and take a break. Loving the solitude, I take in the beautiful sunset behind broken winter clouds. 

I appreciate this “fun” variety snow, clean and white, compared to the gray and gnarly “work” snow we wrestle with after every snowfall. 

Now my quivering legs tell me it’s time to head back. My runny nose agrees. I make a sweep like a semi-trailer truck in a parking lot. My skills are minimal. I have no training, no expertise. I huff and chuff back. After a few more gasps, I slide down the snow mound to the parking lot and clomp to the back of my SUV. I open the tailgate and start the removal ceremony, meticulously cleaning each shoe. I place all the gear in back and shut the tailgate. 

Settling into the driver’s seat, with the heater easing my pains, I congratulate myself for having survived another solo wilderness trial. I’ve been told that being a brittle 77, I should be more cautious. The challenge is the thing. But I am wearing my new high-tech watch with SOS and GPS that can find someone in distress upon the open sea. I figured nearby help would quickly be at my side should I go face-first into the snow.

Feeling one with Mother Nature, I start my journey home and exit the Forest Preserve parking lot, heading north on First Avenue in Maywood toward Roosevelt Road. The massive Loyola Medical center, with all that potential help, is to my left. I’m a mere 20 minutes from that gnarly work snow piled around my house in Oak Park. 

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