It's bound to snow soon, so when it does, be ready to enjoy it. If down-hill skiing is a little too physical and adventurous for you, I suggest you try a little cross-country skiing or for even a slower pace, snowshoeing this winter.
A few years ago I was searching my maps for an area to enjoy two hours of snowshoeing without driving three hours. I discovered a gentle but lengthy route on the south side of Yosemite National Park.
My hiking buddy Clem Bingham and I decided we would need two vehicles to complete this adventure. We'll depart at the Snow Play Area located south of Highway 41 just before Yosemite's gate. The second vehicle parked at the south gate to Mariposa Grove.
During this stormy month of February the snow had accumulated to almost three feet which should be perfect for snowshoeing. As we forged our way along the old logging road we realized someone had ventured along this same route the previous day. We saw the tracks of one cross-country skier and separate tracks of a lone snowshoe traveler.
Those identifying marks turned around only 45 minutes into the trek but the skier lasted until the junction road to Fish Camp.
Now it was our turn to break a trail through the virgin snow. Around us the native pine and cedar trees branches are drooping from the added weight of the recent snow fall. Occasionally a lone deer and bob cat tracks would cross our path leading into the dense foliage of the forest.
Thirty minutes later we arrived at the back gate after experiencing snow drifts close to three feet. Only the top rail was exposed of this four foot gate. Once we maneuvered around the gate the snow conditions under the tree cover was still frozen. The areas exposed to the sunlight were softer, which offered less support, so our snowshoes sank deeper into the blanket of white.
Many years ago the forestry installed snow tree markers every 50 yards and 10 to 12 feet from ground level to offer visual guides along this forgotten logging road. Today, some of those markers were only shoulder high.
One unexpected obstacle was crossing Big Creek. I thought the creek would be frozen, but the latest storm created an eight foot wall of snow on both creek banks. Sliding down to the frozen stream was not a problem, but climbing the snow bank on the opposite side took some planning. Snowshoes can serve many purposes ... today they are shovels to form steps.
After our handy work of a snow staircase we were on our way toward Mariposa Grove. Even though we experienced snow drifts around eight feet, our snowshoes performed flawlessly.
After two hours of forging a new trail through virgin snow, the welcome sight of lone ski tracks gave us security of knowing we traveled the correct path into Mariposa Grove. Now to venture around the grove and gaze at those giant Sequoia Trees displaying their winter dress of white. No, I didn't forget my camera on this memorable outing.
During our return we forged our way along the snow covered road which would lead us to the south park entrance where our vehicle is parked.
Today we spent nearly five hours of snowshoeing back roads, cross-country trails in and outside the park. Personally, my fondest memories will be the comparison of hiking this pathway both during the summer and winter seasons.
Keep in mind that Yosemite has many trails to challenge your skills. Take advantage of this special place and become one with nature. See you on the trails?