This afternoon I talked my friend Leanna into snowshoeing back out to Inkpot Lake with me – some students had told me they’d seen signs of Black-backed Woodpecker activity out there, and I was skeptical but I wanted to check it out. We took snowshoes instead of skis this time to make bushwhacking around on the boggy lakeshore easier.
Being a pair of naturalist nerds, we spent the whole hike out stopping to examine the tracks and scat we found along the trail. (Click any image to bring up a slideshow with captions.)
More fisher tracks.
Ruffed Grouse again – you can see the impressions of the wings where it took flight.
Snowshoe hare tracks.
No clue. Maybe a raccoon latrine?
Ruffed Grouse tracks, with scat in lower left.
Coyote (or possible wolf?) scat.
Did we find any signs of Black-backed Woodpeckers? Did we have any other interesting wildlife encounters at the lake? Come back Friday to find out. (Spoiler alert: the answer is yes.)
If you’ve never lived in the North Woods or a similar climate, it would be understandable if when you hear the word “snowshoes” you picture the old-school kind with wooden frames and latticework, the kind you might see in movies about mountain men or something. So, my dad suggested I should snap a photo of the snowshoes I use for work.
Not quite what you imagined? Modern snowshoes come in a variety of shapes and sizes, depending on personal preference and their intended use. Snowshoes for bushwhacking in deep snow are going to look quite different from snowshoes for racing (yes, competitive snowshoe racing is a thing!). These are basic, all-purpose shoes, made of rubberized plastic with bindings that strap across the top of your feet and behind your heel.
Underneath there are metal crampons that give them better traction than any hiking boot. Not only can you walk across slippery patches without fear, you can walk straight up and down pretty steep slopes. You just have to stomp your feet with each step to drive the teeth in! The binding part rotates up and down freely of the deck of the snowshoe so that you can walk fairly naturally.
In these, no real skill is required: if you can walk, you can snowshoe. We don’t really need them to hike on well-packed trails (although we put kids in them anyway just for the experience). In the deep snow back in the woods, they’re genuinely helpful, and we do have some deep drifts despite the mild winter.