Snowshoeing low-impact winter activity for seniors

Published on Thu, Feb 26, 2009 by Jack Kintner

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Snowshoeing low-impact winter activity for seniors

By Jack Kintner

Snowshoeing is an ideal activity for seniors. Just ask Marjan Eicher, 74, of Blaine.

“It’s a great way to get out in the woods in the wintertime,” said the enthusiastic Dutch immigrant, who has worked with trail designer Bud Hardwick to provide dedicated snowshoe trails at the Salmon Ridge Sno-Park area. “If you like to walk, you’ll love to do this!”

Especially with the lighter-weight shoes, available from places like Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI) in Bellingham and the Glacier Ski Shop, navigating across snow-covered terrain and through the woods is quite easy, almost as if someone is placing little flagstones at your feet as you walk along.

Fit and active seniors often use poles when power walking or hiking for a more complete exercise, and with snow shoeing using ski poles also adds a lot to stability. Since the shoes have crampons, or ice-gripping serrated metal teeth, on the bottom they can plant so solidly especially on slopes that one can twist a knee, so hand poles can help make steps a bit more judicious.

There’s also the need to take along a certain amount of gear to go for a walk that’s not only outside but in the woods, where if something happens you may be on your own.

The so-called “10 essentials” are a good start. The list includes things like a map of the area and a compass, sun protection, extra food and water and so on. The complete list is available on the Mount Baker Club website: www.mountbakerclub.org/TenEssentials.pdf.

The only problem has been finding a place that’s easy and convenient to do this more and more popular activity.

One favorite place has been the Salmon Ridge Sno-Park, 13 miles east of Glacier near milepost 46 on the Mount Baker Highway.

“There’s really no ridge there at all, of course,” laughed Eicher, “but it’s a nice big flat valley with lots of room.” At just over 2,000 feet elevation it also holds its snow well into the spring.

But snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are not as compatible as one might think. While snowshoes allow anyone who is reasonably fit to walk all over a snow-covered landscape, if they step in a ski track they can ruin it without realizing what they’ve done.

The Nooksack Nordic Ski Club spends several thousand dollars a year grooming its network of trails in and around the Salmon Ridge area, and in recent years had become frustrated by snowshoers who would unwittingly trample their work. Planting a snowshoe footprint on a ski track is like pouring water on a bowling alley.

But since the land is all part of the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest it’s open for everyone to use.

Happily, potential conflicts between snowshoer and cross country skiers have been headed off by a creative response from both the ski club and the 98-year-old old Mt. Baker Hiking Club, now known as simply the Mount Baker Club in its revived form.

First of all, the Hannegan Pass Road that leaves the Baker Highway near the Salmon Ridge Sno-Park has been reserved for snow shoers and skiers who take their dogs along.

Secondly, new trails dedicated to snowshoeing were put in last January are now being finished. “We’ve just about got all the trails flagged,” said Eicher, “and we’ll be working on them a lot more as time allows.”

People from both clubs have helped create the two-mile trail.

The new snowshoe trail makes a four-mile loop along the Nooksack and eventually up Razor Hone Creek to a new bridge before looping back. Various route segments are called Elk, River, Huckleberry, Blueberry and Bear, and when fully flagged out will climb the hills into the White Salmon area near the Mt. Baker Ski Area.

The Salmon Ridge Sno-Park is on the Mount Baker Highway at milepost 46.5 across from Silver Fir Campground.

The Nooksack Nordic Ski Club’s website is located at www.nooksacknordicskiclub.org. For more information on snowshoeing and how seniors can enjoy it nearby, contact Marjan Eicher at 332-3195.