What does one do with a new pair of skis or snowshoes? You contact your friends with the same equipment and plan a day playing in the mountains.
With fresh snow down to 5,000 feet last week, I know a great area to get in condition for those slopes at Badger Pass or China Peak.
Drive on Highway 41 and just before arriving at the Yosemite south entrance, there will be a sign on the right which reads Snow Play Area. Follow this narrow road for almost a mile to the parking lot.
At the back of the parking area, snowshoe or ski through the trees until reaching an old forest road. For beginners or seasoned winter trekkers this old road will be a challenge, especially if its your first outing of the season.
The elevation gain is minimal and the distance of traveling is up to each individual. One can turn back at any point along this route, or continue to the green gate that introduces you to the back entrance into Yosemite National Park.
One advantage of traveling these old logging roads is the feeling of being one with nature. Normally if you depart early in the morning your tracks may be the first impressions in the snow that day.
The extreme silence is broken only by the sound of your ski’s or snowshoes penetrating the pure white surface of the trail, or the occasional chirping of a bird from a nearby branch of a tree.
Sometimes your attention can be disturbed by a strange sound from a tall pine tree partially hidden by the thick undergrowth of the forest. From its highest branches a clump of snow breaks loose and tumbles down. As this free-falling mass gains momentum it causes strange sounds before striking the ground. The final sound is a loud thud, but for an instant you may ask yourself what’s roaming around hidden in this thick foliage? Nature does have its surprises.
If you decide to trek to the green gate, pick up the brochure called Goat Meadow Cross-Country Ski Trails. This information can be acquired at the Yosemite Sierra Visitors Center on Highway 41 in Oakhurst.
There are a few junctions along this old road that can be confusing, so be prepared.
One junction leads to Fish Camp and another is called Goat Mountain Loop and Buffin Meadow Trail. The third junction to the left will lead to the green forest gate. If you decide to continue beyond the gate it will lead to Mariposa Grove.
Round trip to the gate and back to the Snow Play Area is four-plus miles or three-plus hours. Now if you decide to ski into Mariposa Grove, why not make a large loop and finish at the south entrance on Highway 41.
Two vehicles are needed, one at each trailhead. Only seasoned skiers with previous experience following this route should attempt this winter adventure.
The day I completed this trek I spent four hours snowshoeing to the gate and back. When I arrived back to the play area it was full of happy campers enjoying the snow and cooking on their barbeques.
The food sure smelled great considering all I had to eat today was an apple and a granola bar. No one asked me to join them, so Oakhurst and the first restaurant, here I come.
We still have fresh snow, so don’t stay at home and read about others having fun in Yosemite. Even if you just throw a few snow balls or take a little sled ride around the parking area, enjoy our winter wilderness while you can.