Snowshoeing has much to recommend it. No elaborate preparation or bothersome delays: Out the front door and you’re under way. The pleasures are many: the immaculate unbroken glistening carpet of white and the exquisite silence save only for the crackling of tree trunks shrugging off a breeze at their upper reaches. The deep snow envelopes everything at ground level, covering up all debris – downed trees and jagged branches, stone boundaries as well – occupying most every depression, creating natural paths, opening routes un-navigable during the warmer seasons. There is also the thrill of “conquering” with relative ease, steep gradients thanks to metal fixtures beneath the snowshoes; also, the exhilaration that comes from observing the busy tracks of all manner of creatures traveling every which way in their anxious quest for sustenance.
So, it was the other day when I ventured out, delighted at the depths deposited by recent storms. Now, what I am about to relate ought not to be uttered in the same breath as those well-documented dramas of cave confinement, or mountaintop marooning or Pacific atoll abandonment, but it did produce uncomfortable moments which at least hint at the trials involved in those other often tragic predicaments. The snow on my acreage was uncommonly abundant, and as I trudged along I couldn’t help but notice how far down my snowshoes descended into the icy depths. But that was fine; to make headway required additional effort and this greater output translated into more intense exercise.
I headed toward a steep rise, approached the top, but never made the summit. Indeed, I tumbled backward into the snow a soft landing, more embarrassing than distressing. I had, over the years, fallen occasionally and so proceeded to laugh it off. Instead, I chose to lie on my back immobile in the snow for a few moments, enjoying a perspective rarely experienced. As I turned and prepared to regain my footing I realized just how far I had sunk in. Moreover, each time I braced myself on the snow and attempted to rise, my hand gave way, plunged downward well below the surface. I tried repeatedly to lift off, attempted to pack down the surrounding snow so as to construct a solid foundation. It didn’t work. I imagined the plight of quicksand captives and how their repeated struggles only aggravated the situation. It was not, however, anywhere near night fall, and I wasn’t hurt or cold – but this was ridiculous, and I wasn’t getting anywhere.
At some point, my wife, reckoning I’d been gone too long, shouted out to me, “Are you OK?” I called back reassuringly. Bu then she spotted me off in the distance, lying on the snow, and concludes I’d withheld some of the facts. I was “okay”; still, I was unable to get to my feet. Her next words, “I’m going to call the police,” were for me an unmistakable call to action. That would be downright humiliating. Embarrassment can be a powerful motivator. It was time, I concluded, to use my brain; thrashing about as I’d been doing had achieved nothing. I lacked any of the skills associated with survival training, but surely I could improve upon my performance to that point. Not far from where I lay I spotted a sturdy sapling. Why not, I reasoned, crawl over and use it as a crutch? I reached the tree, wrapped both my hands around it and lifted up slowly into a standing position. Crisis averted.
This is not an inspirational story of a dramatic rescue or of personal heroics. It is a simple account by one individual who experienced however briefly a bout of helplessness, then discovered a sensible way out of his difficulty. We all can appreciate and benefit from encounters of this sort.