More signs it was a big winter

May...or July?

It may be the last day of July, but given the amount of snow I encountered in two totally different places this weekend, it’s clear that the winter of 2010/11 is still having repercussions.  Typically at this time of year the wildflowers are peaking and trails are mostly melted out.  This year, not so much.

On Saturday, my friend C and I decided to see if one of the higher elevation sections of the Tahoe Rim Trail between Star Lake and Freel Pass was clear enough to ride.  It’s a section of trail that allows you to connect some terrific longer mountain bike rides, either to Armstrong Pass, Saxon Creek (Mr. Toads), or the Big Meadow trail head.  Usually this time of year, there’s few if any patches of snow.

We learned firsthand that this is not a typical year, what with snow patches that started less than a quarter mile from Star Lake.  Patches large enough to require some maneuvering to get a leg up, say nothing for a mountain bike.  Oddly enough we saw few footprints on the snow, and no tire tracks.  Highly unusual for this time of year, but perhaps indicative that it’s not as well traveled a mountain bike trail as, say, Mr. Toad’s.  No matter, for there were still ample trail options, and we decided to descend to High Meadow and then down the Cold Creek trail.  The Forest Service is building single track from High Meadow to Star Lake, but it’s not accessible just yet, so if you do ride down from there as we did, be prepared for some steep and rocky fire road action, interspersed with some fun (read: deeper than normal) stream crossings.   But the newly redone Cold Creek trail more than makes up for the wet feet.

This morning N and I headed to the Mokelumne Wilderness at Carson Pass to get the dog out and check out the snow to wildflowers ratio.

Round Top Carson Pass Snow

Wishing he'd brought the skis

From our starting point at Carson Pass, the hike to Winnemucca Lake isn’t long – 4 miles round trip – but offers great bang for the buck with the proliferation of wildflowers, and is usually very popular at this time of year for that very reason.  The flowers were blooming (though probably won’t peak for few weeks), but despite that, there was still quite a bit of snow.  Definitely enough to ski on, were you so inclined.  We didn’t continue on to Round Top lake, but based on the hikers we saw further on, the trail looked to be more snow than not.  Which means a) that backcountry skiing is still very much on out there right now and b) that the wildflowers up there should peak around Labor Day.

Wildflowers & Snow capped mountains

Skiable lines & summer wildflowers

Oh, and that ratio of snow to flowers? Probably 50-50 right now.

Winter may be over, but La Nina is still having her last laugh.  Which should make for great trail conditions well into October. As well as an extended wildflower season.

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