It's not enough to do just one outdoor activity in this town, where each season opens up multiple recreational opportunities.
And, since each sport requires entire assemblages of gear, some people build garages or sheds solely dedicated to outdoors equipment. It's easy to make fun of Bendites for this indulgence.
So when Laura Kantor, of Bend, suggested I try snowshoe running with her in the national forest, I thought to myself, “Why not just ski? I have cross-country skis and know plenty of places to go play in the snow.
“Or, if I want to run, the lower-elevation trails are great, too. And I have multiple winter running traction accessories."
Is there really room in my life for another winter outing niche? And another pile of gear?
Well, if you love the rhythm of running, and you love getting out in the woods, running-specific snowshoes have a place. They're smaller, narrower and lighter than regular snowshoes. They're ideal for jogging on packed-snow paths. They add a new flavor to one's outdoor recreation repertoire.
Kantor invited me to join her weekly snowshoe running group for its seasonal kickoff Saturday morning, from the common-use corridor at Mt. Bachelor Nordic Center to the turnoff to Todd Lake and down the Cascades Lakes.
Kantor, 43, who works from home as a part-time music typesetter, started the informal group last year, when about a half-dozen people would join her for a weekly tromp through woods.
On this season's inaugural venture, I joined a group of 18 runners, most of whom had never run on snowshoes before. The group provided a supportive environment in which to try something new.
For Jill Duncan, of Bend, the outing was about “making peace with winter," she said.
For Stephanie Krause, of Bend, who has been running for about five years, it was a way to revive the activity, to make it new and fresh.
Both women enjoyed the experience, in large part because their self-generated body heat kept them warm despite the biting wind and flurries of flakes.
Kantor was first introduced to snowshoe running two years ago, and for someone newly dedicated to exercise, she said, “It got me excited to run in the winter."
Here's where I must digress for a moment. I met Kantor when I wrote a story about her a year ago. She told me then that she had been more interested in academic and musical pursuits all her life — not physical activity. The first time she ever exercised was in 2005, as an adult who had grown overweight, unhealthy and unhappy. In her 30s at the time, her knees hurt and she needed blood pressure medication. Going to the gym terrified her; it was not her scene. She started with a few exhausting minutes on a treadmill. The following years were a story of slow and steady progress, with chapters of exercise, dramatic weight loss, building strength and endurance, discovering confidence and happiness, braving new experiences.
She became inspirational to others.
Anne Ferrell, of Bend, and Caryl Hosler, of Sisters, who were among snowshoe runners on Saturday, said they met Kantor through a running group at Fleet Feet. Kantor coached a “No Boundaries" beginner training program for those new to running or walking.
Kantor, Ferrell said, is positive and encouraging, a “mother hen" for those who are new to getting out there, who might be afraid.
“She'll cry with us," said Hosler, in reference to the “good" kind of emotional breakthrough crying, not when someone falls down and gets hurt.
Which, for the record, no one did on Saturday.
Most of the joggers appeared to catch on in no time and found the snowshoes surprisingly easy. There was not a hint of competition or intimidation in this group. The more experienced runners kept an eye on the back of the pack, as the runners spread out along the road according to their varying paces. Some walked.
Hosler, a veteran snowshoe runner, stayed in the back with one woman who had worn hiking boots, assuming they'd protect her feet better than running shoes. After the outing, she said the boots were a bad idea, lacking the snug comfort and appropriate support of a running shoe.
A quick conversation about gear and supplies: Some wore special winter Gore-Tex running shoes, but most of us did not. I wore light, airy running shoes despite the 16-degree temperature, with the warmest socks I had and some ankle gaiters to keep the snow out. Everyone I talked to said their body heat kept their feet plenty warm.
Generally speaking, a runner should dress in layers and start off a little chilly. You'll quickly heat up if you keep moving. Layers of moisture-wicking wear is advised. Snowshoes will flip a bit of snow up your backside, so wear pants that to repel that. Most of us wore heavy-duty winter running tights.
Don't expect to run at the same pace or distance that you run on dry land. Take it easy and enjoy your surroundings.
Some people ran by themselves. Many paired or tripled up into social groups. There's a funny and wonderful thing that happens in group runs (or hikes or skis or bike rides, etc.). When strangers — especially women — start sweating and suffering together, they often end up discussing personal things. Maybe this is where some people find their social outlet. Or maybe it's just a way to distract from the ache in your legs. The group had a smaller proportion of men, and they were warm and friendly, too, but at least with me, we bonded more over sports-related conversations.
Kantor led us to the Todd Lake turnoff, which made it about a 2.6-mile round-trip outing from the Mt. Bachelor parking lot. When I do this again, I'll head from that point up Forest Road 370 to Todd Lake and beyond. I actually thought to myself, “Next time," which is when I realized I was enjoying snowshoe running. It serves a unique purpose in Central Oregon's world of recreation.