With the recent snowfall in the Sierra, the forest floor is covered with the white, fluffy gold we enjoy as snow.
Snow, white, fluffy, slippery. That's what we have in the mountains right now, from about 4,000 feet up, and the higher you go, the deeper it gets.
We won't know what kind of winter it's been until spring arrives, but at least it's been a great start. The cold fronts that have been making teeth chatter for the last couple of weeks has kept the snow that's fallen from melting off and leaving large mud puddles all over the place
One of the more affordable ways to get out into the forest, either deep into the back country, or just around the local snow park area, is to rent snow shoes. They aren't that expensive to buy, but you are better off renting just to find out if you actually like walking on snow.
The learning curve for being a successful snowshoer is fairly shallow, which is to say that if you are able to walk reasonably well, you will probably be able to snow shoe. It's not a given, because they are a bit bigger than your average boot, and if you are prone to having trouble with tripping on dry ground, it may take a day or two on the snow to figure it out. Not to worry, you'll get it.
The first thing to know is that there are several different types of snowshoes. What we have today is different from what Snowshoe Thompson had. They are different from what we had just 5 years ago too. It's an industry that never sleeps.
Snowshoes come in different sizes, are gender or weight specific. There are snowshoes that have a heel lift bar that pops up when you are going up a hill.
They all have a serrated set of teeth somewhere on the bottom of the snowshoe, and on the pivot point under the front of you boot. These keep you from sliding around too much. When the snow turns icy these teeth really come in handy.
Some snowshoes are for general light touring. Others are for more extended trips. Still others are for the competitive crowd.
Most of them these days are very strong and lightweight. Integrated tightening systems make putting them on and taking them off fairly easy.
Where you decide to snowshoe makes a difference in the snowshoe you might want to buy, and the gear you'll need to take with you.
If your choice, and it would be an excellent choice for your first time out, is along the shore of Lake Tahoe, around Camp Richardson, then your gear choices need to fit that close in experience.
Besides the snowshoes, you'll need a set of cross country ski poles, the appropriate clothing for the day, enough water for your time along the shore and a snack or lunch. Sunscreen, a good hat, and your camera, ready to go, should be part of your day too.
The reason you don't need as much gear is that the trip up and down the beach, or through the Tallac Historic Estates, keeps you in touch with civilization. Not to worry, there will probably be others out along the lake shore too.
If, after a preliminary trip or two, you decide you really do like snowshoes, you may want to explore a bit of the back country.
This takes more planning, more water, more gear and more food, especially chocolate.
Heading into the back country means that you've checked the weather predictions, avalanche conditions, and current weather conditions. You've left your cotton clothes at home, and have packed well for you outing.
There are several places in Lake Tahoe that offer the same.
Since you will be out of sight and maybe out of touch with the rest of the world for a few hours, take more than enough water and food for the day, just in case your day gets extended a bit.
You'll need layers of clothing to accommodate the early, mid-day, and late day temperatures. First aide supplies, sunglasses, sunscreen, hat are necessary too.
Go with a buddy and always let someone who isn't with you know when you left, where you are going, and when you expect to be back.
Know where you are, and know how to get back to your car. Constant awareness of the weather and time can be life savers, and that's not just an idle saying. It's a reality.
Keep in mind that the basics for snowshoes don't require lessons. Walking and common sense are about the extent of the what you need.
Where ever you decide to trot about the snow on your snowshoes, remember to take your time, take lots of pictures, and eat lots of chocolate.
Stay tuned for the next article here, which will be on cross country skiing.