What does one do with a new pair of snowshoes? First find a buddy with the same equipment and then plan a trek into the wilderness. With our snow level below 5,000 feet, there are a few choices of trailheads. I chose the Snow Park Area just before the south entrance to Yosemite National Park.
Almost a week has passed since the series of storms have graced this area of Yosemite. Snow conditions are ideal, and now is the time to depart for the mountains. Less than an hour from Oakhurst on highway 41 I arrived at the Snow Park Area. With all this new snow, I’m sure happy I own a four-wheel drive and slip-on chains.
Keep in mind your walking skills change after adding snowshoes to this experience. One must step with a wider stance and lift his or her leg higher with each step. When turning around don’t step on your opposite shoe and do not walk backwards. Ski poles are a necessity they aid in balancing. Now that I have you confused, let’s start snowshoeing.
After the first hundred yards, coordination improves and one can focus on the surrounding scenery. The pine and cedar tree branches were sagging from the recent snowfall. Sharing this experience was total silence with only the sounds of the thin crust of ice collapsing under my snowshoes. Then occasionally silence was broken by a bird chirping from the branches of a distant pine tree.
Excitement begins to build when fresh animal tracks appear in the virgin snow. Deer, rabbit, ground squirrel and coyote were the only tracks today. Maybe the bears are in hibernation with this colder than average winter season.
My destination was the back forestry gate into Yosemite National Park.
While snow shoeing this old forestry road here were a few choices of direction. One intersecting road leads to Fish Camp, which could be an excellent day loop. Another is called the Goat Mountain Loop and Buffin Meadow Trail. Both of these trails are over night on snowshoes, but on skies these trails could be a long day trek. Information for these trails are featured in a brochure called; “Goat Meadow Cross Country Ski Trails” available at the Oakhurst Visitors Center on Highway 41.
The snow conditions are ideal and increased in depth as I continued toward the gate. Most of the morning I followed day old tracks from two cross-country skiers. They continued past the gate and probably completed the loop into the park at the parking area at Mariposa Grove. The snow depth at the gate was over two feet which caused my shoes to sink deeper into the snow. I believe it’s time to turn around and start back to the play area. Who knows what surprises lie beyond this gate?
When I arrived back at the Snow Play Area I encountered a crowd of people. A few hours before the parking area was vacant. Now I’m facing over 20 vehicles with people and barbecues cooking and people sledding, throwing snow balls and just having a good time.
The Snow Play Area is living up to its name. Bring your family and make a day of enjoying our surrounding mountains.