Tony Krizan

Through the woods and over the snow

Clouds starting to close in bringing in more snow.
Clouds starting to close in bringing in more snow. Special to the Sierra Star

A few years ago, I wrote about accepting a daily weather report for mountain hiking without confronting a second source. The weather report stated possible snow flurries scheduled for that evening. If I depart early morning, I can complete my three-hour hike before noon. This future storm should not interfere with my adventure. My personal reason for this hike is to establish a new pathway through a wilderness area of Goat Mountain.

I ventured into this area twice only to retreat because of rough terrain. With each adventure those game trails and abandoned dead end logging roads became more familiar. Today will be my third attempt to establish a proven pathway into this area. The previous snow storm from a few days ago has almost disappeared and should not affect this morning’s adventure.

I departed from the parking area at the forestry road off road 223 at 7:30 a.m. I followed the first logging road as it skirted around the lower portion of Goat Mountain. Eventually it climbed in elevation and stopped at a remote canyon and seasonal stream. From this point on will be unfamiliar trekking. On the opposite side of this canyon was a game trail that hopefully followed toward the summit. Also a bonus was waiting at this location. I found my largest Sugar Pine Cone which measured twenty three and a quarter inches. The stem added to its length another three inches.

While following this game trail up the canyon, fallen trees and thick underbrush delayed my forward progress. After 30 minutes directly in front of me was another abandoned logging road. Most of these roads have been forgotten over time and today are overgrown by thick ground cover and 30 year old pine trees. Shortly this road terminated and for safety reasons I set my first trail marker. Now to follow another game trail hopping it will lead me to my destination. To my delight not more than 40 minutes of bush whacking, above me was the pathway to the summit.

The views of Deadwood and Bass Lake could be seen through the trees from this heavily forested summit. Overhead the dark clouds were forming early and my distant views were starting to diminish. For safety reasons I set my compass to Deadwood Mountain just in case if the snow storm would arrive early and confuse me on my descent.

Before departing the summit it started to rain and sleet. I put on my rain gear and started following my markers back to the trailhead. My game plan was working beautifully until I decided to take a short cut because of the increasing snow fall. Somehow I missed the second logging road and my marker. Not all is lost, I’ll just double back and locate my previous marker and continue my descent. I located my marker and proceeded down the mountain. At this point in time the snowflakes were getting larger and the ground cover became more of a challenge. Just when I felt relieved that my trailhead would soon be in sight; the logging road came to a dead end. Looking overhead the cloud cover had also eliminated all visual references. Another 30 minutes was spent searching for my avenue to the trailhead. With the increased snowfall it had eliminated all traces of my footprints. Now I’ll have to put plan two into place and follow my compass to locate road 223.

One positive visual moment this early snow fall shared was identifying those inhabitants living in this area. I’m speaking of their tracks. Normally deer, coyote, skunk and raccoon are the common dwellers. Today during my descent one of our major predators passed through this area maybe only 20 minutes before me. I’m speaking of a cougar or mountain Lion. His tracks led across a small clearing and into a thick forested area. Luckily we were traveling in opposite directions. But I kept looking over my shoulder during my descent. Then I thought to myself; was he in this area earlier this morning when I pass through? More bush whacking but within a half hour I found the highway and only a short distance to my trailhead.

This three hour adventure took over five hours to complete. I cannot blame the weather station’s report; I should have searched for a second opinion before starting today’s adventure.

Every hike is a learning experience and sometimes we cannot control its outcome. Nature has a sneaky way of challenging ones skills and if one is lucky, we’ll survive to come back another day.