Leaving Tracks – A Maine Tradition, by Brian Theriault and his Dad Edmond, will answer all your questions and lots of others you haven’t thought to ask.
Part biography (Brian grew up in Fort Kent), part pep talk about the value of traditional snowshoes, and part instructional with detailed drawings explaining how to make your own snowshoes, this book will entertain and inform you, and maybe even inspire you to make a pair.
Linda and I took up cross country skiing when our kids joined the high school ski team, but when the kids moved on to college, we went quickly back to snowshoes. They are more our speed, especially considering I have to stop and examine every animal track along the way.
We’ve got a nice trail that wends its way through our woodlot and along Hopkins Stream. I try to snowshoe there at least twice a week. I will confess that we have the modern new-fangled snowshoes, purchased at LL Bean, but I also have several pairs of traditional snowshoes, and the Theriaults have inspired me to strap them back on this winter.
It was particularly helpful to get their advice on how to care for my traditional snowshoes, which I have ignored in recent years.
“Snowshoes will last two lifetimes and more, if you take care of them,” write the Theriaults. “Storing the snowshoes is one of the keys to keeping them in good shape. Rawhide is very strong when dry, but will rot if kept damp for long periods of time. Keep your snowshoes dry as much as you can. It is even better to have a second pair, alternating between them, to allow them sufficient time to dry.”
Additional advice is to keep them out of reach of mice and other animals and covered “with an environmental-friendly varnish.”
I also loved this piece of advice: “You need to keep bear grease on leather bindings to keep the leather lubricated and in good shape.”
Guess you’ll need a friend who hunts bears!
My Dad shot a bear the year I was born, 1948, and used the bear oil every year after, on his boots (and maybe on his snowshoes, I don’t know). After Dad passed away a month ago, I found his last jar of bear oil, half full. I guess that stuff never spoils! And now I have a use for it.
I thought I knew a lot about snowshoes, but I learned a great deal from the Theriaults. And even better, I really enjoyed their personal story, including the history of how they learned to make snowshoes, and how they are continuing the tradition by teaching others.
The self-published book is available in bookstores and online, including at Amazon in both print and Kindle versions.
If you want an autographed copy, contact Brian Theriault, PO Box 242, Fort Kent, ME 04744.