Winter has finally arrived and now to set aside time to enjoy our mountain snow. If down-hill skiing is a little too adventurous, why not try cross-country skiing or even slow your pace a little and try snowshoeing. This was my introduction story in the Sierra Star Newspaper in February 2008.
Now here we are in January of 2015 and what happened to our winter snow? In 2008 I was searching my maps for a local area to enjoy without driving for three hours just to snowshoe two hours. Then I discovered a gentle but lengthy snow covered route on the south side of Yosemite National Park. At that time Clem Bingham and I decided we’ll need two vehicles for this adventure. One parked at the snow play area located on Highway 41 just before the South Gate entrance into the park, and the second vehicle to be parked at the south gate to Mariposa Grove.
During this stormy month of February (2008), the snow had accumulated to almost three feet which should be perfect for snowshoeing. As we forged our way along the old logging road, ski tracks of a lonesome skier was first to penetrate this untouched smooth surface. We followed those tracks hoping to identify this brave adventurer, but the skier changed direction when we arrived at the junction road to Fish Camp. Now it is 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, then disappear 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 boundary gate. Once we squeezed around the gate the snow conditions under the tree cover was much easier to maneuver being frozen from the night time temperature. The areas of snow accumulation 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 fifty yards and ten to twelve feet from ground level to offer visual guides along this abandoned 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 duplicated themselves as 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 welcomed the sight of single ski tracks that 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.
Our finial faze of this adventure was to forged our way along the snow covered road which would lead us to the Yosemite south park entrance where our second vehicle is parked.
Today we spent nearly five hours of snowshoeing back roads, cross-country trails in and outside the park. Personally I was looking forward to duplicating this adventure once again this year. But this is only January and maybe once again we’ll have extra accumulation of snow in February and I’ll keep you updated on the beauty of our Sierra Nevada Mountains.