The Auburn Winter Festival’s annual snowshoe race will be held Saturday in Auburn, but, participants won’t want to follow Steve Reed.

“My trail name is “Path Loser,” the 77-year-old Auburn resident said. “I’m always walking in the wrong direction.”

Reed knows the trail system where the Frozen 5K and Winter Duathlon will be held well. He snowshoes on the trails twice a week in search of animal tracks, species of birds and types of trees. Most of the birds stay on the edges of the fields, Reed said. “They are afraid.”

Birds deeper in the woods have a better chance of being chased by a predator, he said.

“I don’t chase anymore,” Reed said of the term used to describe those who go above and beyond looking for rare birds.

“In 1999, I traveled across the country to find as many birds as I could,” he said. After seeing 400 species , he had to turn back and head back home.

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“I ran out of money in August,” Reed said. “I started my trip by camping but after getting walloped by a big storm, I started staying in flea bag motels.”

“I think I got a $12 room in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, but the money ran out quick,” he said.

He now spends his time closer to home.

Between the snowshoe trails at the Auburn Nordic Ski Association, the trails at Thorncrag Bird Sanctuary and the trails of Woodbury Nature Sanctuary on the Monmouth/Litchfield line, Reed has plenty of birds, trees and animal tracks to find closer to home.

“I’m not going to sit at home and watch Hawaii Five-O reruns,” he Reed.

Association President Bruce Condit said one retired school teacher from Auburn cut the four miles of snowshoe trails pretty much himself.

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“Amos (Woodward) retired from teaching and had some time on his hands,” Condit said. “We would see Amos head into the woods with loppers and a hand saw and we would not see him for hours. He pretty much single-handily cut those trails in one fall all by himself.”

Peter Elias of Auburn added a trail along Lapham Brook and volunteers show up during fall workdays to keep the trails in good shape. A couple of Edward Little High School students built a few bridges from felled hemlock trees, Condit said.

The snowshoe trails cross Nordic ski trails on occasion and Reed is mindful of stepping on the ski trails only when he needs to cross.

“I figure we (snowshoers) are guests, because the ski trails were here first,” he said.

Plenty of guests will be on the association trails during Saturday’s Lost Valley Frozen 5K and Winter Duathlon. The 5K snowshoe race will wind through the trails between Lost Valley and Perkins Ridge Road. A 5K snowshoe combined with a 5K cross country ski is also an option. Proceeds from the event will benefit the association to help maintain the snowshoe and ski trails.

Reed won’t race Saturday. At 77, Reed tries to make life a little easier. He has boots permanently fastened to his snowshoes. “That way I don’t have to fiddle with the straps,” he Reed.

Reed once lost his sense of direction and ended up at the base of Lost Valley, a downhill ski area where Saturday’s snowshoe race will start and end.

Faced with a climb to get back to his car, Reed remembered a life lesson.

“I learned when mountain climbing,” he said. “Never look up where you need to go. Always look down where you have already been. That way, you feel better about it.”


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