Snow day: A rare hiking treat in my hometown

Living in the Southern Plains, snow is not guaranteed. Usually we’re good for a few snowy days a year, but not lately. The past few years have been remarkably snow-free.

But there is a lot to be said for a good hike on a snowy day. When it snows here, I don’t hunker down. I get outside. There’s nothing quite so beautiful as a forest with a fresh coat of snow.

These photos were taken on a modest five-mile hike at Tulsa’s Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness Area over the weekend after a two-inch dusting overnight. By the time you read this, almost all of this snow will be gone. Hence the urgency to get out there and enjoy it.

The Cityplex Towers framed by snow-covered tree limbs.

Being in the middle of a city, you get a good mix of woodland and urban scenery. This view was a good example of that.

Moonscape, along the ridge at Turkey Mountain.

Sadly, I wasn’t up early enough for first tracks. But it was still pretty cool.

Snowy singletrack.

Not a lot of packed snow, and the trail was muddy and icy. But not too bad.

Leaving the ridge and looking south on the Powerline Trail

Snow and ice on the powerlines made a very audible buzzing sound. That was weird.

A natural arch.

Even though we’re in winter, fall is stubborn in these parts. Some plants refuse to lose their fall foliage, even when weighed down by snow.

Detail shot of frozen foliage.

I dig the optics of a winter close-up.

Anyway, nothing profound or earth-shattering here. Snow is somewhat of a novelty in my city. Although I grew up in snowy places as a kid, being away from its regularity has made it fascinating again.

Enjoy your winter, folks.

Bob Doucette

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Gear review: Kahtoola Microspikes

Extra traction for the snow.

Extra traction for the snow.

It’s not often I get to test snow gear out where I live, which is a real hindrance when I want to use such things in the high country. But every now and then, I get that chance.

A couple of decent days of snow in my part of the world gave me the opportunity to whip out a pair of Kahtoola Microspikes I own, which to this day have only been used for hiking purposes. But how would they do on a trail run? That’s what I wanted to find out. But let’s tackle the basics first.

SPECS

Microspikes are one of a variety of products out there designed to give you extra traction to what you already have on your boots or shoes. There are other products, ranging from screw-in spikes that go into the bottoms of your shoes to crampons, which are used in glacier walking and steep hiking and mountaineering ventures where snow and ice is involved. Crampons can be overkill in a lot of circumstances, and deeper snow can render screw-in spikes less effective. So that’s where Microspikes and products like them come in.

The basic design is a rubber upper that slips over your boot or shoe, with steel chains on the sole. The soles also have 10 to 12 1-centimeter spikes, depending on the size you require (10 spikes for extra small, 12 for small to extra large). Each pair weighs 12 to 15-1/2 ounces, again depending on your size. I wear a 10-1/2 shoe, so I wear the large size that comes in at 14.4 ounces per pair.

Microspikes are easy to put on your shoe — the flexibility of the rubber makes it to where no straps or tightening devices are needed, provided you get the right size. Each pair comes with a two-year warranty.

So how’d they do?

An easy fit over my shoes.

An easy fit over my shoes.

HIKING

My first test came during a late spring trip into the mountains where a lot of snow was present. The snow itself was soft in spots and deep enough for kickstepping. In terms of weight, I didn’t notice much in the way be being slowed , and because of the smaller size of the spikes, it was pretty easy to transition between snow and bare rock without losing too much traction. This would not have been the case with crampons.

On that note, getting that extra traction proved helpful, particularly as the snow softened throughout the day. That doesn’t mean there weren’t any slips (there were, mostly because of the softness of the snow), but compared to a plain boot, I’d say I stuck to those slick surfaces pretty well.

Overall, the Microspikes make a decent compromise when a bare boot is not going to cut it, but crampons prove to be more steel on your foot than you really need. Experience will dictate that.

TRAIL RUNNING

Let me start off by saying that the trail shoes I use for running have proved to be more than adequate traction for running in snow, even when inclines are involved. I tested my Salomon Sense Mantras in snowy conditions last winter and noticed minimal slipping. And considering how light they are, that’s a good thing.

But I realize that some people’s shoes just aren’t ready to tackle snow. So that’s where external traction comes into play.

I put mine on and headed out for a hilly, technical 4.4-mile trail run with about 3-4 inches of fresh snow. The conditions included anything from dense powder on less-traveled trails to packed powder on places that had seen some traffic.

The run started out with a climb of about 50 feet. It was moderately steep, so this was going to be a place where slipping was bound to occur. But that did not happen. The teeth of the spikes dug in and my feet gained excellent traction throughout that little uphill.

The same could be said of the downhills. I was somewhat conservative at first, but later tried to pick up the pace on any downward slopes and had no troubles with my footing. A great sign.

But there are a couple of things I noticed. First, I did have to readjust the Microspikes on my right foot near the toe, as they’d started to shift off-center. That only happened once, but you may experience times where you have to adjust the spikes so they give you optimal traction and the chains/spikes don’t get too loose underfoot.

Second, the weight on my feet was noticeable. I didn’t get any snow balling under my shoes, but that added 7.2 ounces on each foot makes a difference. So be prepared for that.

A look at the Mirospikes from the bottom.

A look at the Mirospikes from the bottom.

OVERALL

The Kahtoola Micropikes are a durable, rugged solution for the lighter-duty traction needs of hikers and trail runners who want to tackle the snow. You may get slowed a bit if you’re a runner, and be sure to weigh your traction needs when facing steep slopes that are snowy or icy — they’re good for overall traction, but are not a substitute for crampons when crampons are what you need. But less than that, they are great to have for any number of late fall, winter and early spring adventures in the snow.

Price: $64.95 per pair suggested retail.

Note: I purchased my pair with my own funds.

Bob Doucette

My idea of how to do a snow day

turksnow1

When most of the country went into the deep freeze, most of its people went indoors.

It’s a simple fact: People don’t like being cold. People don’t like getting wet, either, which is often a byproduct of dealing with snow. Sure, plenty of people ski, board and snowshoe, but even in states where these pastimes are common, most people stay inside and leave those snowy paths and runs to those more willing to face the chill.

For those of us in the flat lands, there just isn’t much allure to being out in the cold. No fun slopes, no big mountains, no wintry sylvan paths. Just cold air, biting winds, and slick, chilly white stuff on the ground. These are the ingredients for VH1 marathons, chili suppers and sitting on the couch with a good book or a movie.

It’s also the reason we tend to pack on the pounds during the winter. That, and three holidays that are heavy on rich food and drink. Sweater weather ain’t just about staying warm, right?

I also think people are missing out.

Things started getting pretty cool around here just before Thanksgiving. I did a marathon in temperatures that didn’t exceed 28 degrees.

Then this latest cold snap appeared. It brought freezing rain, sleet, then snow. Schools started cancelling classes, churches nixed services and even some Christmas parades went buh-bye. Heck, they even postponed a weekend slate of state football championship games.

And so it was that almost an entire state took one look outside, shrugged, and plopped down on the couch for a few days.

I can’t stay cooped up that long. A cold urban run one day, just as the snow started. Over the weekend, something else: Some time on the trails.

When I pulled into the trailhead parking lot, I was impressed to see two other cars there. Good on them. It was overcast, 19 degrees and still. No time to waste. I got going.

Other people had been on the trail, so much of it was hardpacked and icy. But my footing was good. Snow carpeted the forest floor and adorned the now-bare branches of blackjack oak that cover Turkey Mountain’s rocky slopes.

The quiet was what made an impression on me. Wildlife has hunkered down, conserving heat and energy. The only sound I heard was the crunching of snow and ice under my feet. I stopped every now and then just to soak it all in.

Those dark, twisted tree limbs contrasted starkly with the snow on the ground and the deepening gray of the late afternoon cloud cover. All was still. And then, movement.

A dog, with black fur and long legs was bounding down the trail like it knew where it was going. Not long after, a woman, bundled appropriately, yet not in a cumbersome way, motored down the trail, then turned to go down the trail from which I just came. Two running buddies quietly going about their business, and most decidedly not whiling away their time inside.

I saw one other runner (also with a dog) and a hiker (who, you guessed it, was out with his pooch) the entire time I was out there. Few in number, but I get these people.

The bracing cold, the crunchy snow, and the peace of a woodland cloaked in white is, as one friend described it, “magical.” It makes me a little jealous of the people who get snowy conditions more often than we do in the southern plains, though I know there are downsides.

It’s just in that moment, when you’re out there in the midst of a wintertime sensory feast, you don’t think of the downsides. The chill doesn’t bother you. Rather, the sights, the smells, and the silence feed your soul just a little. God paints in many colors, and sometimes even the muted and stark shades of winter are stunning when laid out on the canvass just so.

At that moment, you feel good. Thankful. Energized. Seeing your breath, embracing the cold, kicking up powder and, when the time is right, just taking a look around, you feel alive.

It’s impossible to replicate that from the couch.

Bob Doucette