Going “Posthole”

By , January 18, 2010

Most of the time, our hike out to the road isn’t a big deal. At other times, like on Saturday, it’s an ordeal!

The whole trip didn’t bode well to begin with. Aly had been invited to a birthday party that began in the afternoon and lasted until 7:30 in the evening. Because of the day’s tides, we needed to either go in around 11:00 am, or she would have to arrive a couple hours late. Because we didn’t have any pressing errands, we decided to haul laundry out to wash at the laundromat in town. We didn’t relish this plan, but it’s the kind of compromise we often face living on the homestead.

Unfortunately, we’d reached a critical point in the ongoing thaw. Snow still lay deep on the trail, but steady, heavy rain degraded its firmness. We needed snowshoes to avoid postholing, even though conditions were very poor for snowshoeing.

If you need the term “postholing” explained, you’re fortunate indeed, or perhaps a resident of the deep south. Postholing is the attempt to walk through deep snow, when your feet punch through the snow so you sink.

Our snowshoes kept us from punching through, but the wet snow soaked our bindings, causing them to stretch and loosen. Dragging through the heavy snow, we lost shoes repeatedly, and made slow progress over the ridge. This delayed crossing the bay, but our tide level estimate had also been completely altered by weather conditions. Heavy melt and rain runoff flooded the creek, and a hard south wind sped the tidal inflow. We changed into our hip waders at the trailhead, and left our snowshoes behind.

We didn’t need the waders to cross the creek, as it turned out. We hiked high enough that we reached the part of the creek that was still frozen. We walked across on the ice without getting our feet wet.

Unfortunately, about a hundred yards of deep snow lay between us and the road. We had to cross it without snowshoes. We managed to cover ground well at first, as we crossed the frozen edge of the tide, but as we approached the road, we began to posthole. Before long, I sank up to my crotch, and couldn’t touch bottom! At this point the hip waders helped considerably.

The problem with postholing is that you can’t spread your legs far enough to keep the snow displaced by one leg from entrapping the other leg. I carried my snow boots with me, so I slipped one on each hand, and “walked” out on all fours, in essence.

I had taken the lead, so Michelle and Aly had little choice but to come behind me. There was a slight chance that they could get past the deep spot on the snow I’d compacted. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen, and they had to wallow through just like I had. Aly carried a sled for the party, and managed to use it as a platform and pull her legs out. Exhausted, all I could do was stand and watch them struggle. Wading back in to help would be useless.

That was the trip out. The trip home, in the dark, loaded with laundry and groceries, through snow that had absorbed another full day’s rain, is simply too dark to tell. We finally dragged through the cabin door at 9:15, soaked, exhausted, and noticeably short on good humor.

Aly had a great time at the party; we got our clothes washed, and visited with friends in town, but all in all, we’d have been better off staying home! A neighbor once said that he’d do almost anything to avoid postholing. I’m inclined to agree.

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