Sunday, March 27, 2011

Lake Tahoe Snowshoe

Whenever Erik and I make the long drive to CA or AZ to visit either of our parents, we like to plan a hike somewhere along the way to break up the drive.  In Christmas of 2009 we stopped in Bryce Canyon NP on our way to AZ for a few days to snowshoe Fairyland Loop and Navaho Loop trails.  It was such a blast and a great way to kick off the holidays! So we wanted to start making a snowshoe adventure a Christmas tradition.  In 2010 we decided to spend a few days in South Lake Tahoe on our way to see E's parents in CA.

We found a smokin' deal on a hotel in South Lake Tahoe called the Ambassador Motor Lodge.  It was very old but very clean and nice, it had a lot of charm, and was a fun place to come back to after long day on the trail.

The main goal of our trip was to hike Mt. Tallac, the main peak that towers over South Lake Tahoe and all the ski resorts in the area.  Unfortunately, the avalanche danger was extremely high while we were there, so rather than risking it, we adjusted our plans to do some other hikes in the area.

On day one we hiked to the Angora Lookout. It is a forest service fire lookout post that is closed for the winter, but provides a very scenic snowshoe.  It overlooks Fallen Leaf Lake and Lake Tahoe wilderness areas.  As you can see the snow was falling pretty heavily all day, so we knew the visibility would be poor, but we came all this way.  We weren't going to sit around the hotel all day so we hiked anyway. 

The trail was gorgeous, quiet, and we had a great time making our way to the lookout.  It looked as though only a cross country skier had been on the trail all day, and the snow was coming down so fast, their tracks were barely visible.  He took turns breaking trail along the way.

We made it to the top But didn't have much scenery to enjoy since the visibility was about 100 feet. Supposedly the view behind me was a glacial valley with Fallen Leaf Lake and other Mt. Tallac behind it.  Sadly, this was the view.  We stayed positive though, even though there was no visibility, the hike itself was very physically challenging so at least we got in a great workout for the day. . . right?

After the Angora Lake Lookout hike, I wanted to see Lake Tahoe since the poor visibility hadn't allowed us to see its shore even when driving close to it.  So on our way back to the hotel we pulled out the snowshoes again and traversed across the forest services Historic Camp Richardson to the lake's shore.  Once again we were a little disappointed with the view.  Still, it was a fun day.

On Day two we decided to snowshoe up the scenic highway 89, which circles around Emerald Bay.  The highway is incredible beautiful with majestic views, and luckily, because there is so much snow on it in the winter time, they close it to traffic.  The unplowed roads make an amazing snowshoe adventure. 
 We were so happy to drive to the start of our hike and suddenly have the clouds clear and the sun came out!   The view across the take was breathtaking, we were stoked that at least one day of our adventure would have great visibility.

So we workout our way up the closed highway, noting the mile maker sign and enjoying the solitude.

We went all the way to the Inspiration Point Overlook, a common place for cars to stop and look back over Emerald Bay, the most photographed part of Lake Tahoe.  It was cool to have the entire place to ourselves. 

After Inspiration Point, we worked our way back down the highway and turned into Emerald bay State Park (which was also closed for the winter) because we wanted to snowshoe down to the Lake's shore.

After the few more miles trek down to the shore, we sat by the shore and ate our lunch before the return trip to the car.  Wonderful day!

It was such a fun Christmas adventure. Going in the winter allowed for no crowds or traffic, we had perfect solitude on the trails each day.  We vowed to come back and climb Mt. Tallac since it was the main goal of the trip and we didn't get to due to high avalanche danger.  We also decided we want to come back in the summer one day when we have kids.  The camping spots in Emerald Bay State Park and Historic Camp Richardson both looked like a great place to bring a family. 

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