On my walk: Return to Aspen Vista Trail

Robert Frost quote and a view of Aspen Vista Trail  near Santa Fe, New Mexico.

“The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,” Robert Frost. This photo comes from an outing last winter.

Late last week, the Wrenaissance Man and I went snowshoeing again at Aspen Vista Trail. Since 2 or 3 feet of powder had fallen up at the ski basin, we decided to leave the pups in daycare for the morning.

Aspen log structure at Aspen Vista Trail, New Mexico

Is this log structure an avalanche dam, or a temporary shelter? Inquiring minds want to know!

It was silent deep in the aspen forest. The white snow concealed all the colorful patchwork of the forest floor, revealing the details on the aspen trunks.

Trailside view of an aspen tree trunk in snow, New Mexico.

Rose, gray, mauve, lavender, beige: The many subtle colors of an aspen trunk.

It’s not a proper hike without at least one treeface!

Treeface on aspen trunk with branch protruding from one so-called eye.

Oww, my eye!!!

Have a wonderful week.

Robert Burns Day and Happy Birthday, Nevis!

Robert Burns' birthday is celebrated worldwide on January 25, and we celebrate Nevis' birthday today also.

The birthday boy is quite the dignified wee Scot.

Today is Robert Burns Day, the day set aside to celebrate Scotland’s first national poet by drinking whiskey, eating haggis, and reciting Burns’ poems while wearing a kilt (for the gents, ladies wear regular evening gowns).

Nevis was whelped on January 20, 2012, close enough to Burns Day to celebrate them together. Nevis is definitely down with the eating haggis part of the festivities, lol!

In honor of these two great Scots, here is a little excerpt from Burns’ poem, The Twa Dogs: A Tale, which describes his own dog, Luath:

The tither was a ploughman’s collie—
A rhyming, ranting, raving billie,
Wha for his friend an’ comrade had him,
And in freak had Luath ca’d him,
After some dog in Highland Sang,
Was made lang syne,—Lord knows how lang.

He was a gash an’ faithfu’ tyke,
As ever lap a sheugh or dyke.
His honest, sonsie, baws’nt face
Aye gat him friends in ilka place;
His breast was white, his touzie back
Weel clad wi’ coat o’ glossy black;
His gawsie tail, wi’ upward curl,
Hung owre his hurdie’s wi’ a swirl.

You can read the rest at Burns Country, dedicated to all things Robert Burns, including an online anthology of the poet’s works with links to the translations of the Scottish dialect that Burns used.

Happy Birthday to Nevis, my own gash and faithful tyke!

On my walk: Snowshoeing at Aspen Vista Trail

Snowshoeing in the Santa Fe National Forest in New Mexico with 2 Scottish terriers.

Off-piste fun with the Scottish Terrorists!

Last week, the Wrenaissance Man and I went snowshoeing at Aspen Vista Trail in the Santa Fe National Forest. We were surprised to discover very little new snow on the mountain, since we had been getting frequent and heavy snow showers over the first half of the week out in the “flat” lands outside of town.

View of off-piste snowshoe trail in the Santa Fe National Forest, NM.

Heading uphill into the aspen forest in search of fresh powder.

We had some great fun going off-piste up through the forest along side Tesuque Creek. The Scottish Terrorists were having a ball running along side us, poking their noses into snowbanks to snuffle out the hidden tunnels of mice and voles. Corrie eventually got too cold and wet, so we carried her back down to the trail in the Wrenaissance Man’s day pack. By the time we returned to the main trail, she was ready to run again.

Ponderosa pine forest in the Santa Fe National Forest.

We could hear Tesuque Creek running under the blanket of snow as we hiked along the trail made by snowboarders and skiers.

Aspen Vista Trail is the last trailhead before the Santa Fe Ski Basin. It is very broad and easy hiking because the trail is also a utility/fire road for NPS vehicles. The Big Tesuque Creek Trail below connects with Aspen Vista about 10 minutes walk uphill from the Aspen Vista trailhead. During the winter, it’s a popular outing for cross-country skiers and snowshoers in the Santa Fe area.

Snowshoeing is a great way to get some intense cardio in during the snowy winter months. The great thing is that if you hike or cross-country ski, you probably already own most of the gear. Here are some tips on what to wear and what to carry with you.

On your back, thin, light layers you can pull on and off:

  • A light- to mid-weight, wicking base layer, top and bottom. Ladies, you’ll want to add a medium- or high-impact sports bra.
  • A light- to mid-weight insulation layer on top, like fleece or wool.
  • Light-weight, water-resistant, (insulated optional) pants.
  • An insulated, water-resistant top layer. I like a fleece-lined, wind-stopper vest.
  • Hat and mittens/gloves.
  • Light- to mid-weight wool socks for cross-country skiing. Thor-Lo and Smartwool are good choices.
  • Either hiking/cross-country ski boots with gaiters, or waterproof, insulated winter boots with traction soles.

In your bag, depending on how long you plan to be out:

  • Water
  • Map and/or GPS
  • Snacks
  • Lightweight down jacket, in case the weather changes or you stop for lunch
  • Lip balm, sunblock, kleenex, a zip bag for trash/waste

Modern snowshoes come in several styles. Snow Shoe Magazine has a good guide for beginners. REI also offers a thorough buyer’s guide with video. Basically, the shape of the snowshoe will vary depending on the type of activity you will be doing out on the mountain. There are very small, narrow snowshoes for trail runners, broad and stumpy styles for the average hiker or snowboarder, and very long snowshoes designed for the backcountry and steep terrain.

There are two basic styles of binding: fixed-rotation and pivot-rotation. Before you invest in a pair of snowshoes, I recommend renting a pair at a local ski center and trying them out to see which design works for you. After researching, we decided to get the following snowshoe models at REI, where we purchase most of our outdoor gear:

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