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PAUL SMITH: Another deep-snow winter — maybe … hopefully

I’m hoping for a great winter in the backcountry. —  Paul Smith photo
I’m hoping for a great winter in the backcountry. — Paul Smith photo

I just walked back into our warm and cozy house from the backyard.

I tramped my way through mid-thigh deep snow to reach our compost container, itself nearly buried in heavy accumulated undisturbed snow. I added a pile of vegetable scrapes peels from the turkey soup that Goldie has boiling away on the kitchen stove.

I have the fireplace lit and that wonderful delicious aroma of bubbling soup permeates the entire house. It’s snowy, cold and windy outside, with 80-km/h winds from the southwest forecasted for later.

Hey, it’s a perfect evening for writing, maybe tie a few salmon flies, or read a book about fishing, or whatever. Fishing for me because a have a few new ones about South Florida.

Odd it is, reading about fishing for snook and redfish on the Florida Flats while the snow blows around my window.

The weather is terrible outside, not fit for even me to go snowshoeing, and I do go out in crazy weather sometimes.

But no, tonight I am enjoying the comfort and ambiance of home. I might crack open an India beer, indulge in a toddy of Morgan, or maybe a glass of Malbec.

I’d say this is koselig, a Norwegian thing, or as the Danish say, hygge. There isn’t a single word in English to match, but I think you get the idea. So here we are, just a week into the New Year and we have more snow on the ground than I’ve seen in a very long time. And there’s more coming tonight. I heard the other day that we’ve had nearly 100-cm and that’s more than fell all last winter.

I hope you guys and gals got snowshoes for Christmas. I got a new pair, crazy I know, and I’ve lost count. Some people collect stamps, mugs, hockey cards, cars, whatever. I collect snowshoes and fly rods.

I have to try everything that tickles my fancy.

There’s lot of snow in our backyard. —  Paul Smith photo
There’s lot of snow in our backyard. — Paul Smith photo

Anyway, I should have put the racquets on for that mission to the compost. I got my bloody boots full of snow.

No odds, I’ll put my feet to the flame for a bit. On a serious note, we have to be careful with deep snow.

If this winter keeps going the way it’s shaping up we may have some serious deep powder. Good, I haven’t used my 36-inch Tubbs shoes in years. But let me tell you a tale with a serious message from the very deep snow winter of 1999-2000.

We had a ton of snow that winter, the most I’ve ever seen in my whole life. It started in early November and kept up for the whole season.

I hope I have this right, because it may have been 2000-2001, and feel free to correct me if I’m wrong. I remember the early November part for sure because we had a moose licence and we shot our moose way back in the country, in from where our cabin is now. There was no trail back then so we just went right ahead and made one, including two wooden bridges. The moose ended up spending the night hung in the woods.

Turkey soup is so belly warming on a cold winter’s evening. —  Paul Smith photo
Turkey soup is so belly warming on a cold winter’s evening. — Paul Smith photo

It snowed overnight and we ended up having to shovel parts of the trail to get the ATV’s in. Nobody in the party had a snowmobile. But we got the moose out and the snow stayed on the ground till nearly May.

Now back to my cautionary snow tale. In January of that big snow winter, Robert Richards and I made a long trek up the north side of Spider Pond for some serious rabbit hunting. We were running beagles for bunnies in those days and loved a day on the fresh snow.

Overnight snow and a clear sunny day is heaven on Planet Earth, and I still absolutely love it. So there we were in January 2000, or maybe 2001, with a fresh four inches of powder atop six feet and more of accumulated snowpack. It was mid-afternoon with maybe eight or nine white hares in the bag.

Spud started howling and Rob and I both hustled for a strategic location to get the shot. I was wearing a pair of wooden bear paw style wooden snowshoes tightly bound to my rubber felt lined boots with leather harnesses. It was just 20 years ago but the gear was so vastly different than today.

I think I have told you before to watch out for the tops of spruce and fir trees sticking up through the snow. The thick green boughs prevent the snow from compacting to any degree. In my haste to get the jump on a rabbit I threw caution to the wind.

Down I went over my head in snow with those big racquets secured tightly. The top of my head was barely level with the powder at the surface. I was in quite a pickle. I yelled but Robert didn’t respond, at least not that I could hear. I recall reaching down to try and unleash the shoes, which now were holding me down instead of the opposite intended purpose.

Watch out for those snow sinkholes. —  Paul Smith photo
Watch out for those snow sinkholes. — Paul Smith photo

Luckily, Robert did actually hear me and showed up after a few minutes. After a short spill of taunting and fun making he hauled me out. What a relief it was. You know what? I’m not sure if I would have ever gotten out of there on my own.

I suppose I may have but it would have been quite a struggle. And back then there were no cellphones. The lessons here are logically obvious.

There’s the no-brainer — avoid treetops sticking out of the snow.

But I suppose neither should you go into the deep woods alone. But I always have, and probably will continue to do so. I’d best get one of those satellite emergency devices, because even with a mobile phone, there isn’t always a signal, especially in a snow cave.

Yup, that’s my best option, because I will always trek solo sometimes, and those trees tops are sometimes not glaringly obvious. Be careful.

This deep snow talk reminds me. I’m 60 years old and I have never slept in a snow cave. If winter keeps coming on strong and rain stays away that could change very soon.

Stay tuned. I have a new backpack shovel. Paul Smith, a native of Spaniard’s Bay, fishes and wanders the outdoors at every opportunity. He can be contacted at flyfishtherock@hotmail.com or follow him on twitter at @flyfishtherock.


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