Killed by a January Thaw!

KODAK Digital Still Camera

While we are always learning new things that make life better, we are continually forgetting important skills that saved us from an untimely death a few generations back. This thought came to mind when I began to plan a snowshoe outing during our recent lovely weather. As I put my snowshoes on and took a few steps, I found that the surface of the snow was very wet and I sunk deeply into the drifts.

It was at this moment that my memory kicked in and I turned right around and headed back to the house and removed the snowshoes. In the historical past, trappers, hunters, and explorers were fearful of a sudden thaw when traveling during the winter months. Extensive wet snow soaks the webbing on the snowshoe and the wetter it get the more it sags and begins to stretch apart. If you keep traveling in these conditions the webbing gets so soft your foot sinks deeper than the frame of your snowshoes.  Eventually the webbing breaks and you are forced to stop and make camp.  The snowshoes need to repaired and dried out while you calmly feed your fire and await colder weather.

If you are caught on the trail miles from your cabin or proper winter shelter the situation becomes precarious  With deep snow conditions travel on foot is impossible.  Without snowshoes your moccasins become soaked, lose their strength and come apart, leaving you with wet feet.  At this point you are forced to sit out the so called better weather and hope you have enough food to keep you alive until things freeze again. Some stories report experienced outdoorsmen being trapped for almost a week.

Travelers who get into this situation and fail to appear at the end of the trail, cause friends to become concerned.  The poor snow conditions also prevents help from traveling to the rescue. Everyone just has to patiently await colder weather before he can hit the trail.  The search will usually find the traveler out of food, hungry and cold.  Under sever conditions the amateur will be found starved and/or frozen to death.

Keep this in mind before you head out to check your traps or visit your friends and relatives.