We all have firsts in life right. Well this last weekend was Sierra Rec Publisher, Charlie Pankey, first time snowshoeing. This is an account of the trip, the adventure and elements of snowshoeing that make it an addictive Winter REC option in the Sierra.
Merry Christmas to me- Snowshoes given to me by my parents. I have spoken with friends for the past two winters who have told me that I need to take up snowshoeing, as I love hiking so much and the the Sierra’s just provide a different world to see in the winter. So when I opened my snowshoes for Christmas, my mind was already planning hundreds of possible hikes with in hours of my home.
Realizing, I had not even a clue about how to wear a snowshoe or how to walk in one, I decided my first trip needed to be a bit safe, flat and around other people, just in case. So I headed up HWY 88 to Hope Valley located in Alpine County about 17 miles from South Lake Tahoe.
Hope Valley has several locations that are great for snowshoeing and cross country skiing. I choose to go to the West end of the valley to the winter park and turn off to Blue Lakes. This area is home to one of the Snowmobile adventure companies during winter, but provides a huge meadow area to walk and ski in , sledding opportunities for the kids and easy access to more back country area just up the road.
First order of business was getting the snowshoe on my foot. This snowshoe is a Chinook brand, has straps on the toe, mid foot and around the heal, so setting my boot in and strapping in was really easy. Couple adjustments were made in the first few steps to get the right placement and tightness. Well walking was next, and if you have never tried Snowshoeing, I can tell you it is just like walking, have to lift your needs a bit but it is really just one foot in front of the other. Well at least for this novice, that is how it seemed.
But here is why this will become one of my favorite Sierra Winter Recreational activities.
Snowshoeing allows you to get off the trail, off the road and explore the outdoors very similar to hiking. It is in these times that a person can capture new sights, find secrets in the forest and simply see more than most in a state of solitude, that is provided in the Forest. Winter is so quiet hiking, not event the chipmunks are chattering while you walk. Snowshoeing, at least today is even quiet as the snow gave way under my shoe.
Winter recreation also allows you to see the same place in a different way. This valley I have played in before with the dogs. It is filled with gopher holes, wild flowers and grasses. The wind in the summer makes its own music in the surrounding trees and grasses as it whips through here. The river is quite here in the summer and birds, and small animals can be found all over your trip here. But in the winter the snow covers the grass and the gopher holes, The river is filled with ice dams and actually is noisier as it flows through the ice and various dams. The animals are far fewer but the tracks are much clearer as you can see coyote tracks, and rabbit tracks as you wander the valley floor.
I was not sure how far I would go today, being my first time out. But I can tell you time flew as I wandered along the meadow for a bit then followed the river up the road towards Blue Lakes. Because of several fenced areas or Ice Buildup in some areas, I had easy access to the road that took me further up the road, and then I would drop back into the woods and follow the river some more. on my way back I decided to walk through the camp ground which was pretty cool place to walk also, the snow was deeper here and I don’t know but there was something cool about being in the campground with no one there, but the little creatures that left all the tracks and you. I am hooked, this trip ended up being a little over 3 hours long for my first time. My legs were tired and I got a blister because I wore the wrong socks and my feet got wetter than expected.
My favorite thing about the hike was seeing how different the river was with the ice dams and Ice flow that was over the summer banks and would just take over parts of the forest. These are the things that most of us just never see. We never venture off the beaten path to see what mysteries the forest are hiding. In Hope Valley it is the Ice and water flow.
Winter recreation in The Sierra Mountains is filled with opportunity. From Snowmobiles to downhill skiing, cross country skiing to snowshoeing. The beauty of the Sierra in winter is really something you just have to experience and see for yourself. Winter Recreation has its own set of equipment, and as I know is often more expensive to enjoy then in the summer, but if you have the opportunity to rent some snowshoes this winter, take the opportunity and explore the Forest. And maybe we will see you out there on our next trip… really soon.
Here are a few of the photos that we captured on this trip hope you enjoy.