Explore Tahoe: This winter definitely the time to pick up snowshoeing
We all know the saying, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!” which can be applied to all the snow we have been blessed with this past month.
We needed a good winter and it appears we got it, no matter what happens the next three months. But dealing with all the snow, while trying to go about daily business, can become tiresome.
I can’t keep up with all the ice, the snow banks along my driveway are over my head and every little errand becomes a battle of the elements. As if that weren’t enough, I am a creature who needs the sun, much like a lizard.
So what to do? Besides go skiing, which is certainly phenomenal right now. I know people who hit the slopes every day but I don’t have time for that. My solution is to conquer the snow in a small way by stomping through it, with snowshoes, of course.
Snowshoeing requires only a minimal investment in equipment and can be done for short periods of time or all day, if you’re feeling ambitious.
It can be extremely strenuous, when struggling uphill and/or in deep snow, or relatively easy on a well-formed trail in flatter terrain.
The hike I go on is the same winter and summer, out my back door and head up the hill, with a mixture of up and down and level stretches for resting. Round trip is 1.25 miles, but most often, I do the loop more than once up to about four miles. When I’m on snowshoes, one loop is usually enough.
The big storm two weeks ago put down at least two feet in one night at my house. Knowing I would be coming back to hours of snow removal, I nevertheless set off on snowshoes to see how far I could get.
The answer is: not very far! After that storm, it took me four attempts to go the distance of a little over a mile. Once the trail is broken, it’s easy. I head out early morning and again in the evening, working to improve the trail with each pass.
Trekking poles are helpful in keeping your balance, especially if you find yourself in a place where you are breaking trail. Slogging through deep snow is hard work, so make sure you are physically prepared.
Fortunately, there is no need to build your own trail — there are places to go to snowshoe along formed trails, such as the Mountain Sports Center at Camp Richardson in South Lake Tahoe, where you’ll find easy trails along the shore of Lake Tahoe.
A trail pass is $12 but if you don’t have your own gear, pony up an addition $7 and get snowshoes to use for the day. Here you can also cross country ski or go sledding, equipment available in the store.
For a long walk on an easy trail, try Echo Lakes trail, 8 miles round trip with only 400 feet elevation gain. To get there, take Highway 50 West from South Lake Tahoe through Meyers and turn right onto Johnson Pass Road and park near the Echo Chalet. You could easily spend the day out there so pack a lunch and dress in layers.
The beauty of being out in nature on snowshoes is many-fold. There are the trees, covered with snow and views of the lake. If you pick the right spot, you’ll find the quiet of the forest with only the sound of your shoes crunching on the snow.
Since you’re moving slowly through the terrain, you have time to smell the fresh air and be on the lookout for birds, squirrels, and mountain cottontails.
Given our unusual lack of sunlight, and the mountains of snow, it will do your spirit good to get out and do a bit of conquering, even if you make your way to a groomed trail.
For those who enjoy outdoor activities in a group, consider joining one of the natural history snowshoe hikes coming up in February, sponsored by Tahoe Institute for Natural Science (TINS) taking place during the Alpenglow Mountain Festival, February 25th and 26th.
The hike on February 25th takes place at Page Meadows in Tahoe City, led by Will Richardson of TINS.
A second hike on February 26th takes place at Tahoe Meadows to Chickadee Ridge, led by Sarah Hockensmith of TINS. Visit tinsweb.org or alpenglowsports.com for more details and to register by February 1 for either hike.
Plan on about three hours for these guided hikes. Bring water and snacks, wear warm clothing, thick socks, and mittens or gloves and your own snowshoes.
Toree Warfield is an avid nature lover, and writes this column to teach and stimulate interest in the marvels that surround us. Visit saveourplanetearth.com to read columns and to find links to bird song recordings, additional photos and other content.