December 21, 2014 – Winter solstice 2014, The mountains around the Sierra from Mammoth to Mt. Shasta finally cleared up after a week of snow storms. The Tahoe Basin with its variety of ski resorts all open, provided skiers multiple options for a day on the hill and the throngs of skiers could not have be more jazzed.
It is hard at times when you are not a downhill enthusiast to be excited about winter storms that supply our mountains with the much needed snow pack. I love to look at the slopes, but have never found the love for the speed and skill set for downhill skiing. So as a winter pulls in I see the trails I love to hike get covered up by this fresh blanket of snow and the lakes I love to visit freeze over. So what is a REC enthusiast to do during winter? Plenty!
The Sierra Mountains are tremendous at supplying recreational opportunities to its guests year round. Winter at times can even add a beauty that even summer can’t provide. So I went out on the first day of Winter to see what types of winter Recreation people were engaging in this early in the season.
Alpine County, based on the Eastern Slopes of the Sierra, promotes that when you visit it will likely be you and the wilderness for much of your visit. But you would have never guessed that on the first day of winter 2014. The first thing I found, when I finally found snow just below Sorensen’s resort, was crowds of cars lining the road for winter recreation. There were Snowmobile trailers, Cross country skiers, Snowshoe explorers, sled dogs, families playing in the snow with pets.
My destination for this day was to drive through Hope Valley and head up to Red Lake, just below Carson Pass. I was wondering if the snow had gotten deep enough to close off the back country road that linked HWY 88 and Red Lake to the Blue Lakes. And I knew if conditions were right I could find lots of snowmobiles launching here along with possible Ice Fishers on Red Lake.
The snow was deep enough and the road to blue lakes (Forestdalle RD) had its traditional berm in place, Snowmobile trailers and vehicles lined the small road up to the lake & I knew instantly I had come to a local favorite place for winter recreation in Apline Country and The Central Sierra region. Besides the snowmobiles, I saw Ice Fishing on the lake, Individuals with Snowshoes, and people like me with their dogs enjoying the snow.[mapsmarker marker=”2″]
Red Lake is one of those places in The Sierra that far too many people just drive by and never stop to explore. A man made Lake it sits at the base of The Carson Pass, in the summer time its green water is a very interesting view in comparisons to the sparkling blue waters of Caples or Silver lake just down the road. Yet there is a bit of history here at this lake that needs a little exploring. On the South Side of the Lake is a trail that goes up the edge of the lake and climbs up to Carson Pass. The significance of this trail is that it is where the wagon trains and original settlers and explorers came through this part of the Sierra. It would take them several days to get their wagons and supplies up this pass, and as you walk up this trail along the lake you get an idea at times how hard it must have been to travel the Sierra in the early exploring years.
I brought the Dogs out today so our first order of business was to Hike up this back side road/trail and let the dogs get a little winded. Wish I would have had snowshoes with me today as the snow was about knee deep and very wet. Needless we made it up past the lake and the dogs really enjoyed their romp in the fresh snow of the Sierra. When we made it back down we decided to check out the Ice fishing and walked around the dam to the creek on the North side of the lake.
I was able to speak with the Ice Fishing team out on the lake. Fish were being caught and they figured the ice was about 4″ thick at this time already. They seem to be having a good time as the fish were flopping around on the ice next to them and a very large bird started circling the lake. The light was such that I could never get a good look at what type of bird, but its wing span was impressive.
The creek on the North side of the lake had multiple animal paths coming and going. This is obviously the local watering hole for the animals still in the area for winter. Was surprised to see a bear print as i figured they would be in hibernation by now.
The Snowmobile teams started getting back to their trucks about 1pm, seems like most had made it about 5 miles back into the back country on Forestdale Road which runs all the way to Blue Lakes just below Elephants Back. I have been back here in the Early summer and there is a great meadow and open hill side that Snowmobile driver are sure to have fun with.
All along HWY 88 from Hope Valley to Red Lake Snow Shoe adventurers and cross country skiers were out making new tracks. Even saw a guy and his sled dogs out getting a little exercise. the Snowshoe and cross country skiers have and easy time finding access points along the highway as most of teh fence line is either taken down for winter or it is broken because most fence posts had no wire stopping anyone for crossing. There are several great meadows in this region to explore. I didn’t make it up to Kirkwood on this trip, but assume that the snow is great there for snow shoeing and cross country skiing as well.
Once we were wet enough and the dogs looked like they had enough, we headed back down to Hope Valley, where we discovered that Snowmobile tours are already out riding, and it looked like early season has been good for reservations.