Winter Fun: Bigfootin’ and other outdoor activities

Winter Fun: Bigfootin’ and other outdoor activities
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When your kids get a raging case of cabin fever one of the best solutions is to get outdoors and revel in winter weather. Snowshoeing is one option – it’s as old as the Native American hunters and trappers and as current as activities in and around Genesee County.

Pack a knapsack with granola, mixed nuts, hand-warmers, hot cocoa, fresh juice or water. Then take the kids out to For-Mar Nature Preserve and Arboretum, the place with abundant trails and an indoor museum to amuse the children when they get cold.  You can try snowshoeing through the forest and along the river, or point out the deer, cardinals and maybe a fox along its seven miles of well-marked trails.

It won’t take your kids long to learn the graceful art of snowshoeing. Shutterstock image

“Cross-country skiing takes a little bit of practice and skill. Snowshoeing – anybody can put them on and immediately have fun,” says For-Mar guide Rosemary Thiebaut.

It’s free with identification to rent any one of their 25 pairs of snow shoes.

“We have some people that come out on a regular basis, so there’s always a snow shoeing or a skiing trail. We don’t groom trails out here so it’s really more nature at its best,” Thiebaut said.

You could also clomp through Kearsley Park downtown or even along your backyard or neighborhood sidewalks after a fresh snowfall.

Snowshoes are large conveyances made of plastic, wood or aluminum that strap to your feet and let you leave tracks as large as Big Foot’s. Modern snowshoes have a solid decking with a lightweight frame and teeth to grip the snow and ice.

Although snowshoes are used mainly for recreation today, they were once considered a necessary form of conveyance. Shutterstock image

People for centuries used these to hunt, trap and visit neighbors. If you had balance and traction, you could go places in nature and discover the wonderment all around. The ability to walk over the snow without sinking more than a few inches, allowed people to travel further, faster than they could in any other way.

If your family is new to the sport remind everyone to lift their feet higher than when walking and to keep their feet a shoulder’s width apart, so the snowshoes don’t catch on each other.

Experts at the Appalachian Mountain Club recommend that newcomers start on packed snow, which is easier to navigate than deep snow.

“Once the kids are confident, try the fluffier stuff,” they recommend.

To make your adventures feel even more authentic, you can find a raccoon-tail hat and pretend you are early American trappers.  But dress smart. Avoid cotton clothes that could turn quickly from sweaty to cold or freezing. Layer-up in polyester or thermals and a heavy coat.

You can also rent or purchase snow shoes at Shoemakers Ski Shop or Play it Again Sports in Flint, along with ski poles to help keep you upright. The “Play” store has cross country/snow shoe poles for $10 used. You can check Amazon.com for cute, kid styles or serious exercise snow shoes and poles for as little as $21. Just avoid “Big-Footing” on top of the cross-country ski trails that require smooth tracks.

Midland’s Chippewa Nature Center is a favorite among those new to snowshoeing, as well as much more experienced aficionados. Photo courtesy of the Chippewa Nature Center

Don’t forget Midland’s Chippewa Nature Center, which loans snowshoes on a first come, first served basis. Call 989.631.0830 to reserve a pair. The Center may add guided snowshoe hikes this season since a number of scheduled events were cancelled due to dangerous arctic temperatures. Check their website for details.

Many of Michigan’s state parks also offer both lessons and snowshoe rental. Sometimes you might even find veteran hikers glad to lend assistance on a sunny, snow day. Just remember to keep your feet warm by wearing boots – not tennis shoes, which absorb moisture.

On these snowy, blustery days you can have fun sledding the local hills (see 810 KIDS! Tons of Fun listing). You can cross-country ski at the nearest state parks and rent skis for the family.  The whole family can ice skate at the UM-Flint Ice Rink – or build snow people in the backyard. You’ll be surprised by all the fun you can have outdoors.

This article was written for the online newsletter 810 KIDS! To subscribe, click here. Copyright 2019 Michigan Fitness Foundation. This institution is an equal opportunity provider.

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