NEGAUNEE - Unless they're a snowshoe hare, most people don't have oversized feet that will carry them across deep snow without sinking up to their waists. They do have the option, though, of strapping on snowshoes to get them where they want to go.
People can go to a local sporting goods store to pick up a nice pair - or they can make their own. If the latter option sounds too difficult, consider allowing someone to help you. To that end, the Michigan Iron Industry Museum will present a snowshoe-lacing workshop from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 7.
Participants will be able to lace their own pair of traditional snowshoes. Taught will be the technique for lacing the Green Mountain Bearpaw (short, oval-shaped) or Ojibwa (pointed tail and toe, nesting-shaped) style of snowshoe.
Theresa Neal, an interpreter at Tahquamenon Falls State Park, helps this boy create a snowshoe at a 2011 workshop at the park. (Photo courtesy of Theresa Neal)
"Snowshoeing has a long history as a mode of transportation in the snowy Upper Peninsula," museum historian Troy Henderson said in a news release. "This workshop celebrates that history and encourages participants to explore our winter landscape."
Those who make their own snowshoes are welcome to try them out on site as the museum, now open year-round, has a new network of trails on the grounds which, Henderson said, would be a good place for snowshoeing.
The museum is one of 11 nationally accredited museums administered by the Michigan Historical Center, a Michigan Department of Natural Resources agency. It might well be one of the most scenic as it overlooks the site of the Carp River Forge, a pioneer industrial site listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A large forested tract also surrounds the museum.
The museum is open in winter from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays and the first Saturday of each month.
Henderson said other DNR staff had put on similar workshops, so that gave him the idea of holding a local snowshoeing event.
"It'd be a good winter activity," he said.
Lacing snowshoes shouldn't be too intimidating for people not confident in their manual-dexterity skills as a repetitive pattern takes over, according to Henderson, who will help teach the workshop.
"Once, when you kind of get a feel of how you do it, it goes a lot easier," Henderson said.
The workshop leader will be Theresa Neal, interpreter at Tahquamenon Falls State Park.
Neal said participants will receive one-on-one instruction when they need it, plus they will get booklets with pictures to help them along.
Neal is knowledgeable about the sport, having been snowshoeing for 10 years. She said it's one way to get exercise in winter.
There's at least one other benefit that comes with this active outdoor pursuit.
"You're never cold when you're snowshoeing," Neal said.
And unlike snowmobiling, she noted, snowshoeing is quiet.
"You can actually hear the birds," she said.
Gretchen Preston of Harvey, who has been snowshoeing for 40 years, agreed the serenity is a definite attribute.
"I love that quiet, peaceful exercise, being deep in the woods," Preston said.
She said she wants to be able to see nature - in nature - and snowshoeing allows her to accomplish that.
"The other thing I like about snowshoeing, it's hard to fall down," Preston said. "On skis, it's easy to fall down."
The workshop fee is $175 per person and includes all materials, which include frames, lacings and bindings, and a $25 non-refundable reservation fee. The reservation fee is due at the time of registration, while the remaining $150 is not due until the day of the workshop.
Space is limited and reservations are required. The registration deadline is Monday, Nov. 25, with the form found at www.michigan.gov/ironindustrymuseum.
For more information about the class or reservations, contact Henderson at 906-475-7857 or hendersont7 @michigan.gov.
The museum entrance is located on U.S. 41 East, one mile west of Junction M-35. Admission is free, but donations are welcome.
Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.