There are many winter sports worth trying when there is snow on the ground. Snowshoeing is one of the easiest.
Snowshoe with a Ranger tours are offered each winter at Mount Bachelor. When the Ochoco National Forest hosted a tour at Walton Lake in the mountains northeast of Prineville, we had to check it out.
“We wanted to do it out of the Walton Sno-Park. You could see the hut and the trails but that would have been a little over two miles,” said Kassidy Kern, public affairs officer for the Ochoco National Forest. “We wanted to make this family-friendly. I know my kids would not be able to hang for over two miles, so we wanted something a little shorter. Something a 6-, 8-, or 10-year-old wouldn’t whine too much at their parents, so we tightened it down to 1.5 miles. It wasn’t really taxing for folks. There were a lot of stops along the way to learn about the beautiful Ochoco and its rich history.”
Walton Lake was originally a meadow with springs flowing through it that was dammed by miners who needed water. Later, the Isaak Walton League built a larger dam to create a reservoir for recreation purposes.
Today, Walton Lake is a much-loved place, but there’s nobody there in winter except those willing to break trails through deep snow.
“It can be pretty tiring. Be mindful of that if you are going through deep snow,” Kern said.
“We call it post holing where you are just putting your feet into the ground. Oh fiddle, it will get up to your middle before you realize. Make sure you know where you are going and you have that plan. If the snow gets to the point that you are really starting to sweat, turn back. You don’t want to be sweating in all those layers and making yourself tired and potentially hypothermic,” she said.
The beauty of going on a guided snowshoe tour is that the guides are prepared with the 10 Essentials:
- First aid kit
- Extra clothing
- Extra food
- Emergency shelter
- Gear tape
- Extra batteries
- Lighter or some other way to start a fire
They will teach newcomers how to prepare for adventures on their own.
I asked Dan and Lucy Seed from Redmond what they thought of their first snowshoeing expedition.
“I’d say perfect for beginners,” said Dan.
Was it fun?
“Yeah. It was very tiring,” said Lucy.
“One of the reasons we chose snowshoe is you don’t have to be rich to do it,” Kern said.
“We were able to use Discover Your Forest snowshoes and we were able to provide equipment to those who didn’t have them. I don’t know that we’ll be able to do that in the future, but this is something that you can rent for not much money. You don’t need a helmet and gear. You just need good warm clothes. You need water. You need to know where you are going,” Kern said.
You can go virtually anywhere on snowshoes.
The tricks are to pick up your feet a little higher and walk with a slightly wider stance. Never try to walk backwards. Some people use ski poles for additional balance.
“I love it. The views. We haven’t seen the lake frozen over. It’s beautiful,” Dan Seed said.
“It will be fun going with my class,” Lucy said.
“Our field ranger work force is well staffed in the summer and we recently extended it to year-round,” Kern said. “That really is to provide a better customer experience for people who are out on the forest. You don’t stop having questions in the fall and winter and then the spring. We wanted to make sure we had a consistent workforce that could be there year-round,” Kern said. “If folks aren’t sure where they are and they are out there on their snowmobiles, their snowshoes, we want to be there for them. This is just an extension of the customer service we provide in the summer and we are doing year-round now.”