Making Tracks in Deep Powder
“Bring your toes all the way forward, Grant, up to the clip of this binding, and then pull the strap across the top of your foot as tight as you can.”
So advised my guide, Jack Newkirk. But when it’s twenty degrees with a wind chill making it much colder, and the snowflakes are buzzing circles around your head like an angry hive of hornets, stepping into and strapping on a pair of two-foot-long snowshoes isn’t the easiest of winter activities.
Yet with Newkirk’s patient tone and simple instructions, it was but a matter of minutes before I and my companions were set and ready to follow his lead into the snow-covered hills of the Deschutes National Forest in Central Oregon.
Newkirk is a guide who works for Wanderlust Tours in Bend, and leads varied year-round recreational outings across the region, but in wintertime when the snow is waist deep, the specialty is snowshoe hiking.
It’s the powder that folks live to play in near central Oregon’s Mt Bachelor – high cascade powder that is lighter and fluffier than the snow that falls across most of western Oregon. It draws folks from all over who yearn to ski or board the mountain’s slopes.
There is a blissful feeling of nearly floating across the snow on the broad, lightweight shoes. It isn’t anything like the desperate plodding you often see in movies, or read about in Jack London’s tales of the far north.
Rather, despite the six-foot snow depth, there’s a certain rhythm to the walking, and it takes only minutes to get the hang of it. Then you begin to look up, take stock of your surroundings and the magnificence of the snow on the trees, burdened with the heavy overcoat of fresh snowfall.
And then there is the quiet of the forest. It seems to whisper to you, “This is Mother Nature at her finest.”
Editor’s Note: Grant’s Getaways is a production of Travel Oregon brought to you in association with Oregon State Parks, Oregon Dept. of Fish & Wildlife and Oregon State Marine Board. Episodes air Fridays and Saturdays on KGW Newschannel 8 and Saturdays on Northwest Cable News Network.
About the Author: Grant McOmie
Grant McOmie is a Pacific Northwest broadcast journalist, teacher and author who writes and produces stories and special programs about the people, places, outdoor activities and environmental issues of the Pacific Northwest. A fifth generation Oregon native, Grant’s roots run deepest in the central Oregon region near Prineville and Redmond where his family continues to live.