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Frostbite

03/12/05 12:00AM By Alan Boye
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(HOST) On a recent walk, commentator Alan Boye got a little more excitement than he bargained for.


(BOYE) The walk started off innocently enough: four of us on snow shoes high in the wilderness of Grotton State Park. As we trudged up a hill from the South Branch of the Wells River, sunshine darted in and out of high, thin clouds, but none of us were fooled. It was cold, unseasonably cold. I zipped my jacket higher against the wind.

We planned to explore the upper reaches of the basin by following a series of small beaver ponds. We stayed on the trail for about a mile, and then left it to cross the first snow-covered clearing. We came to another open space and then another.

For a while, we didn't have a care in the world. When it came my turn to break trail, I worked to avoid as much of the scrappy underbrush as I could.

"Head a bit to your left," I heard someone say from behind me. Just as I turned, I felt the snow beneath my left foot give way. An instant later, my other foot punched through the ice and I was in water up to my knees. I didn't panic, but I knew instantly I was in trouble. I used the tip of my ski pole as an ice axe and slowly pulled myself onto the solid, snow-covered ground.

We were three miles from the warmth of the car and we needed to get back there, fast. While I fumbled to get one boot off, one of my friends was working on the other. The liners of my boots turned instantly to solid blocks of ice. Two of my companions rubbed my bare feet, while the third dug through a backpack to find an extra pair of socks. It took a while to chip the thick ice off my snowshoes. I put my boots back on, minus the liners, strapped them into the snow shoes and then we were off.

I took up the rear, and we set a course straight through the woods towards the car. It helped to keep moving, but I was losing feeling in some of my toes. I borrowed a pair of mittens and wore them as bulky socks for the rest of the way back.

Once we reached the car, I inspected my toes. The mittens did the trick. I wasn't going to have much frostbite.

"When you just go for a walk in the woods, but then something happens and you have to make it back," one of my friends said, "then you know it was an adventure." Maybe, but I had had just about enough adventure for one day.

This is Alan Boye just walking the hills of Vermont.

Alan Boye teaches at Lyndon State College. He spoke from our studio in Norwich.
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