Snowshoeing is easy to learn, and it opens the winter wilderness to hikers willing to do a little extra work. I thought it would be a great way for Jinelle and me to spend a day in the snow. We drove into the Boreal Ridge parking lot around nine-thirty, and it was freezing cold. The goal for the day was to hike along the Castle Pass trail and see what sort of views we could find. Jinelle had never been beyond the ski resort boundaries in the winter, and snowshoeing seemed like the best way to experience that. I figured today wouldn’t involve anything too strenuous, but I knew she’d have a good time.
We walked out to the beginning of the trail, which is a paved road in the summer, and there we strapped on our snowshoes and headed out. The air was cold. It was probably in the teens for most of the day. We walked at a leisurely pace, stopping frequently to snack or to take pictures of the clouds over Castle Peak. Our snowshoes crunched over the icy crust of the trail. It had snowed the night before, so there was a dusting of powder over the frozen base.
We climbed one steep section that took us from the forested valley onto the ridge between Andesite Ridge and Castle Peak. Atop the ridge the views turned alpine. To the south, we could see peaks as far as the Desolation Wilderness. We could see runs down the Northstar-at-Tahoe ski resort and Boreal Ridge where we had started. In the distant southeast, the Carson Range peeked out above the horizon. We stopped here to eat our lunch. A skier skinned up to where we had stopped and took the opportunity to stop and chat. We took each others’ pictures, then he headed back down, taking hard turns against the ice.
After lunch we hiked back down the ridge, then up toward Andesite. After a few hundred feet, Jinelle stopped to relax and make snow angels, but I kept going up to the summit. The ridge was windblown and corniced to the East, so I stuck well to the center. The last thirty or forty vertical feet were steep, and the snow that had fallen the night before had not adhered to the base. Even with my rather aggressive snowshoes, I still slipped back for every step I took forward. I summited, took pictures of the views, then headed back down to Jinelle.
On the way back we took a detour toward the meadows at the base of Castle Valley. The trail was a little more rough and undulating than the main one, but it gave Jinelle a greater appreciation for what those snowshoes are capable of. We got back to the car at two-thirty, about four-and-a-half hours after we started. We took longer than I normally would, but it was only because we were enjoying the scenery so much. Jinelle had an even better time than she had expected, and I enjoyed a peaceful day in the snow country. It’s great to take people into a wilderness setting like that for the first time, to show them the quiet of a winter forest, to show them how easy it is to adventure.
We packed up the trunk and drove into Truckee. We walked around town, checked out some of the shops, then had ourselves some hot cocoa at one of the cafes. We closed our adventure with some beer and burgers at Fifty-Fifty Brewery, one of my favorite spots in Tahoe. On the way home we passed Castle Peak again, and I couldn’t help but think about coming back in a few weeks to ski it. The snow season’s not even half way over yet.