Guest Commentary: Spooner Lake a scenic, leisurely outing
Special to Lake Tahoe Action
To find a trail close to home that my wife and I can actually hike is no small thing. Being surrounded by steep mountain ranges means having to do some climbing. For the average area hiker, this is no great feat. But for those with disabilities, trails that are handicapped-friendly seem hard to come by.
Applying our local knowledge of the region, and after doing some Internet research, we decided to give the Spooner Lake Trail Loop a try.
Located just below Spooner Summit and less than a mile west of U.S. Highway 50 off Nevada State Route 28, Spooner Lake is a scenic and quaint alpine destination that attracts year-round recreation: hiking, mountain biking, fishing, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
The trailhead is accessed through Spooner Lake State Park, the entrance to which requires a $10 day-use fee. Spooner Lake is nestled about one-tenth of a mile below the picnic area. The trail begins just a few steps east of the parking lot. Hikers will need to negotiate a moderate down slope. This can be tricky for handicapped visitors, but it is doable. I traversed the path with my four-wheeled Rollator walker. Lightly applying the hand brakes, I reached the bottom of the grade without trouble. I just took my time, and it helped to have my wife along side of me, too.
A place like Spooner Lake shouldn’t be rushed anyway. There is mountainous beauty and historical points of interest all around the park. If you move too fast along the trail, you can easily miss the more delicate scenery and inconspicuous details.
For instance, there was the diminutive gold-mantled ground squirrel perched on a tree stump that my wife spied as we began the loop trail. Then there were the bright red snow plants we encountered on the shoreline trail. Sometimes tucked underneath canopies of bitter brush and sage, these flowering plants add a splash of whimsical color to the forest floor. Other bunches of tiny wildflowers, in their colorful splendor, brighten the ground off the trail like a painter’s palette.
Historical features at Spooner Lake include the construction of flumes during the mid-19th century that fed water to Virginia City and the Comstock and moved logs down the mountain into Carson City. Large boulders along the lake shore still show depressions in the rock where Native tribes passing through the area created mutates and mortars for grinding nuts and seeds.
The landscape is dominated by heavy conifer coverage, including numerous mature Jeffrey pines, which tower into the sky and sport trunks as wide as my wing span. But there are also stands of fir and aspen trees dotting the trail around the lake, too.
Trail terrain is a mix of packed dirt and gravel on the path away from shore. Along the shoreline the trail has a more loamy quality to it — soft, sandy soil that can make travel with an assistive device more challenging. However, I hiked the trail just fine with my walker. The most significant issue for me was maneuvering around a few rocks and stones in the middle of the path.
Be sure to wear walking shoes or hiking boots with adequate tread for better traction. This will help negotiate the softer parts of the trail, and areas where there are mild dips and climbs. For the most part, the trail loop is flat and easy to traverse, even for handicapped hikers.
Pleasant features for the handicapped are benches placed neatly and strategically along the loop trail. These rest areas provide handicapped hikers a place to regenerate and regain their strength for completing the two-mile long loop around Spooner Lake.
Binoculars and a camera are recommended accessories, so you can capture glimpses of wildlife along the loop. Besides squirrels, we encountered a diversity of birds, including waterfowl, mountain chickadees, Steller’s jays and northern flickers, which we heard plying their trade on trees.
Even though Spooner Lake is a relatively short and easy hike, you should always pack bottled water and a snack, especially the handicapped, who may require the extra nourishment. After all, a short trek for some can be a day-long excursion for others.
The loop trail took my wife and I about two hours to hike. We rested, took our time and enjoyed all of the sights and sounds that Spooner Lake had to offer. Disabled or not, my wife and I would rather be hiking. Thanks to the trail around Spooner Lake, we can enjoy the outdoors as much as anyone else.
Brett and Lisa Fisher are Carson City residents. They welcome leads on handicapped-friendly recreation around the Eastern Sierra and Lake Tahoe regions. If you have ideas or suggestions, please email them at email@example.com.
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