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Treading on thin ice

I’m going to write about snowshoeing again, not from a “get outside and breath the fresh air” point of view, but from a returning to a favourite place perspective.

There’s something to be said about spontaneity

We climbed out of bed on Sunday morning and said, “Let’s go to Manning Park and snowshoe around the lake.” It's a game time decision. We don't come up with an excuse not to do it, instead, we throw some snacks into a pack, grab some water and hit the road. Okay, I added a flashlight, lighter, and a baggy of dryer lint with torn up paper for a fire starter. It never hurts to be prepared.

Why Manning?

Manning Park is a four-season get-a-way, close enough to Vancouver to make it a day trip, yet far enough away that you feel like you’re having an adventure. The terrain offers challenges for all levels of hikers, and you can ski—down hill or cross country—snowshoe, hike, skate, or just hang out.

It’s one of our family places—a spot we go to and feel instantly happy. We’ve spent a lot of time there over the years. I step out of the car and inhale memories. Even in winter the scent of snow and pine carries me back in time.

The lodge is bigger now. They’ve added more cabins and built a wedding venue—lots of wood—maintaining the look of the old lodge. You can get married in the alpine meadows or down by the lake. You can say your I do’s in flip flops or snow boots. In the summer, the veil can double as a bug screen.

Where to go?

One thing that hasn’t changed is the trails, they just look different in the snow. The day we go, the snow is packed down. We don't really need snow shoes to hike, but we wear them and carry our poles. Poles help with balance in rough terrain. They’re also handy for clearing snow off logs when you want to sit down.

We choose the Lightning Lakes Loop. For me, this means a lake that I don't have to climb up to. I admit it, I don’t like climbing hills. It’s a family joke. I think hiking should be about distance, not elevation. My husband says if you’re not going up, you’re not working out.

Treading on thin ice

The lake is frozen and the trail conditions perfect. We meet a few other hikers but don't find any bottlenecks of snowshoers. On the west side of the lake we stop and watch a pair of back-packers cross the ice at the widest part of the lake. They’ve been back-country camping and wear their packs like they mean business. To me, carrying thirty or forty pounds of added weight across a frozen lake adds a whole new meaning to the term risk-management.

The guy crosses first, prodding the lake with his ski pole, carefully transitioning his weight. “It looks good. Keep four feet between us.” Hmm, I think I’d need more reassurance than, “It looks good.”

I need to see tracks to prove someone else has already made the trip across, and maybe an elephant in a pink tutu dancing on the ice. The two back-packers are braver than I am.

Seeing the hikers reminds my husband of a video he watched on YouTube. It demonstrated the fine art of getting yourself out of a hole if you fall through the ice.

Crossing the narrows

Eventually, we do cross the lake. We take a short cut at the narrows of Lone Duck Bay. It’s the end of the day and the crossing shaves half an hour of hiking from our trip. The ice is spongy under my feet. I see water squishing up through the layer of snow. I’m wishing I’d watched the video, not just heard the synopsis on how to get out if you fall through the ice. I know it's not deep, but there are better things to do than wade through a frozen mountain lake. I make fast tracks for the safety of the other shore.

Later, I watch the YouTube video. If you plan to hike on, or near thin ice, check out How to survive a fall through ice. There are oodles of videos offering advice. In the one we watched, the instructor jumps back into the water a second time to make sure you understood his first demonstration—no just hitting replay for him.

Always have a reward

Luckily, we don't need to put our new-found knowledge to the test. Instead, we grab a late lunch in the Pinewoods dining room. Afterwards, tired and relaxed, we head for home. Nine kilometres on snowshoes is a good workout—bring on the couch.

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