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The U.P. snowshoe dance continues

Karen Wils photo Above, a snowshoe hare ready for the dance.

ESCANABA — Let the music play!

Let the sun set low across a winter’s worth of accumulated snow.

It is time for the snowshoes to dance.

Every bit of wild ground-every forest, swale, and hill has accepted four months of snow, sleet, wind, and sun.

Now it’s time for the ancient dance. It is a well-worn ritual that maybe your grandparents will recall.

The harnesses, the squeak of leather and sinew, the crust of the snow — hard packed or sticky wet — set the stage for the winter jig.

Many of us have lost touch with the feeling of having snowshoes or skis on our feet. Most of us spend our winters on the shoveled and plowed areas these days. But not too many years ago, Upper Peninsula snow was packed down with trails. Snowshoes, dog sleds and toboggans were popular means of transportation in the backwoods.

Wooden-framed snowshoes of many shapes and sizes kissed the surface of many snowdrifts through the U.P. over the years. Bear Paws, Beaver Tails, Alaskans, and Ojibwas are some of the types and styles of old time snowshoes.

Beneath the balsams, a ballet has played out for many generations.

When I was in high school, many years ago, the Upper Peninsula held the U.P. Winter Games. In these Olympic-style competitions, I won a few medals for snowshoeing. With light-weight insulated moccasins strapped onto my snowshoes, I danced along a few frozen miles of the U.P.

Today, there are many new modified types of aluminum snowshoes with easy to use harnesses and poles to make winter hiking a snap.

So the dance continues!

While the snowshoer treks through pines and cedars in the peaceful, pristine late winter sunshine, another dancer is ready to strut his stuff. The male snowshoe hare (varying hare) is there in the shadows of the frozen swamp dancing like a crazy March hare.

It is the mating season for these big fluffy-footed bunnies and their courtship choreography is an amazing thing to watch.

Today, not too many Yoopers know the difference between the rabbits and the hares, and not too many folks watch them in their natural habitat.

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Karen (Rose) Wils is a lifelong north Escanaba resident. Her folksy columns appear weekly in Lifestyles.

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