(Two day trip report. Second half found here.)
SNOW!? I kid you not, it does exist. Here, in Northern California. It does exist! Good thing I brought snowshoes…
Set out from Davis pre-dawn. Pulled over on Ice House near the Wright’s Lake Road junction to eat my almond croissant (all time favorite from Village Bakery) and a fat tired, red pickup drives by. And brakes. And stops. And reverses. Two guys in their sixties look over at me. I roll down my window, smiling.
“You alright? Know where you’re going?”
“I’m fine thank you! All good here. Snack break!”
“Ok! Take it easy!”
And they waved and drove off. What nice guys! And then I saw the plastic testicles hanging from their trailer hitch.
After evaluating the amount of snow at 6400′ (check my snow prediction), I made my executive decision: take snowshoes and ski poles, leave crampons, ice axe, shovel. All in all, a fine choice.
Made good time hiking the 4.5ish miles from my car (parked at the turn off to the Loon Lake boat ramp parking lot — lot is gated out at the main road in the winter) along the south side of the lake, past Dragon’s Lair, to the Pleasant Lake Arm trail spur. I boot packed this entire stretch, as the trail was firm snow/ice, well packed down by previous hikers. However, because of intermittent dirt sections and granite crumble due to patchy snow, the snowshoes stayed strapped to my pack.
Observations from the first leg:
Dang, it’s windy! Hella trees have fallen since November.
There sure are a ton of animal tracks in the fresh snow…
Boy howdy! Pleasant Lake Arm is nearly frozen over!
Hiking south east on the Rubicon Trail treated me with blue skies, a stiff breeze, and a set of post-holing boot tracks to follow. Clearly, someone had hiked in and out, without snowshoes. I geared up. A couple more miles from the Pleasant Lake Arm spur to the south end of Buck Island Lake became known as the snowshoe on, snowshoe off section of the day. South east facing slopes were bare and everything else was covered in the white stuff. Spider Lake and Buck Island Lake were both completely frozen. Looking at those perfectly iced Sierra lakes, I added a new goal to my list: back country ice skating in the Sierras.
Observation from second leg of hike:
There really are A TON of all kinds of animal tracks. Of every size, everywhere….deer, black bear, mountain lion, chipmunk…
After another mile and a half to the south side of half-frozen Rockbound Lake, I lunched at a stream crossing, filled up H20, and cut south west off the trail.
A mile and a half and nearly a thousand vertical feet of snow-covered manzanita and huckleberry oak bushes later, I started scouting for a protected campsite. The wind was fierce. The sun dropped behind the east ridge of Tells Peak at 4pm as I layered up and set up for the evening. The evening! Ha! It’s 4 o’clock!
Immediately after the rosey tint on Dick’s and Jack’s summits faded, I sat on a granite boulder and watched the almost full moon rise up and out of the Tahoe Basin.
Ah, snow camping. Goodnight, moon.
(continued in Cross Country Salute)