Friday, January 27, 2017


We are snowbound. The latest leaves are shaken from the oaks and alders; the snow-laden pines, with drooping boughs, look like barbed arrows aimed at the sky, and the fern-tangles and meadows are spread with a smooth cloth of snow. --John Muir

The plan was simple. Drive to a regional park and snowshoe around the lake to view the waterfall above the lake. We had done the same hike many times before, but this time the snow levels in the foothills had dropped as low as Camino, California along Highway 50, making Sly Park and Lake Jenkinson a winter wonderland.

Scottish poet, William Sharp wrote, 'There is nothing in the world more beautiful than the forest clothed to its very hollows in snow. It is the still ecstasy of nature...every intricacy of twig, is clad with radiance." Those words described our trip down the highway through the snow covered fores. Each turn of the road our eyes were greeted with dazzling displays of nature reserved only for snow globes and holiday movies.

"A what a difference it makes by covering it with a layer of white." my wife Debbie said as we approached the gates to the park.

But sometimes even the best of plans are melted away. At the park's gate we were met with a reception of park closed and no parking signs. The narrowly plowed road around the edge of the lake didn't even leave an inch of parking space to pull in our pickup. I likened it to finding a river access for my kayak. Great view of the water, but no place to stop to put in. Our trip around the lake would have to wait for springtime and our snowshoe adventure would take place higher up.
But Nature is not in a hurry. With God 'a thousand years is as a day.' Suppose you could have been a spirit in one of the past periods of the creation of the world, and that the Archangel Gabriel had taken you to a place' where you could see the earth as it was then covered miles deep with snow and ice, the air still full of swirling snowflakes that seemed to be burying the world forever. --John Muir

Further up Highway 50, we turned left off the highway and over the South Fork of the American River and up Ice House Road, leading to the Crystal Basin Recreation Area. It's the home to many of mountain reservoirs in the western Sierra including one of my favorite's Loon Lake. But, we wouldn't get that far. Our afternoon was getting away from us and we stopped at the first place we could find. It was a cleared away spot to an un-plowed work trail leading to the river. It offered a spectacular view of the snow cover glistening mountains and the canyon below.

“When you go to the mountains, you see them and you admire them," said mountain climber Edmund Hillary. "In a sense, they give you a challenge, and you try to express that challenge by climbing them.”

It was a quick lesson on how to walk again, once we strapped on our snowshoes. Step a little wider and pick up those knees. No dragging my feet, Debbie reminds me,  like I customarily do while out for a stroll.

"Snowshoeing you kind of have to be more centered," said British journalist Laura Clark,  You have to be able to rock from side to side more. Instead of just going forward, it's a little bit of a sideways step to it. You've got these big things on your feet."

Along the ridge, there is the soft silence of nature without the clamor of our urban world filling the winter air. The wind dances across the canopy of trees as we catch sight of a bounding deer leaping through the snow. Looking almost effortless, it flies across the snow kicking up a frosty froth. The only sounds we hear come from the squeaky crunch of our snowshoes and the warm heave of our breaths as we trudge through the deep snow.
"That's the trouble of snowshoeing. You have to keep looking down at snowshoes or you'll fall over." Debbie said to me as we stop and looked over the canyon. All around us the mountains and the pines were textured in white. They never looked so magnificent. Looking out she paused like the view had taken her breath away and then said, "And then you miss all the beauty around you."

The glorious crystal sediment was everywhere. From wall to wall of our beautiful temple, from meadow to sky was one finished unit of beauty, one star of equal ray, one glowing sun, weighed in the celestial balances and found perfect.--John Muir