The 2005 snow field trip was originally planned for January 22 – to be rescheduled the following weekend if the there was no fresh snow or if a storm was forecast for that day. Although the Sierras received several feet of snow during January, none had fallen during the week leading up to the 22nd.
The following week, several light (by Sierra standards) storms had dumped up to 2 feet of fresh snow. On Saturday, January 29th, 3 club members and one associate met at 6am and caravanned two vehicles to the Sierra-at-Tahoe ski resort on U.S. Highway 50, just west of Echo Summit. After 3½ hours of traffic-free driving (and one gasoline stop) we arrived at Sierra-at-Tahoe. We joined skiers and snowboarders in our 15-minute wait to park our cars. The weather was clear, cool and calm – a perfect day awaited us.
Sierra-at-Tahoe is in the El Dorado National Forest at 6,800’ elevation. It averages 420 inches of snow per year, typical of the Sierra Nevada mountain range at this elevation. On this day, the snow was about 7 feet deep – 5’ of hard packed “Sierra Cement” and 2’ of fresh snow. The snowshoe trail at Sierra was well-packed and the 3 hikers that didn’t wear snowshoes had no trouble while on the trail. My showshoes did come in handy for venturing off the trail where the powder was deep.
The forest was gorgeous, the trees had a full load of new snow, many had icicles (evidence of warm air between the previous week’s storms) and smaller trees were partially buried. We got our fill of snow scenes – something that we miss in the Bay Area. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect – there was no wind, there were just enough puffy white clouds to make the sky interesting and the temperature stayed just below freezing (no trees were dripping on us!)
After 4 hours of shooting, we hiked back to the lodge for a late 2pm lunch. Tired and with several rolls of film or memory cards full, we called it a day and headed home. We stopped in the town of Kyburz to photograph the American River and further down the road discovered a small waterfall of snowmelt. This waterfall was not particularly large, but offered an exceptional vantage point. Two of us shot scenes here until our hands were too cold to shoot any more.
© 2005 D.J.Herzstein