By Tim Hauserman
It’s officially in between seasons. That time after the first snow, but before ski season kicks into gear.
About a week ago we had the first real snow of the season, waking up to about four inches of the white stuff in Tahoe City, with a bit more up top. A few days later, the temperatures warmed, melting the lower elevation snow and making it a nice time to get out and enjoy what the Sierra has to offer. The problem of course is where: Up high there is still enough remaining snow to put hiking and mountain biking out of the picture, but not enough to ski. The key is to stay low and south facing, where the combination of sun and the still warm ground give us a last bit of beautiful hiking.
On Sunday, I headed out on the Tahoe Rim Trail north from Tahoe City. It’s one of the lowest elevation trails around Tahoe and is located on a south facing slope. The TRT starts out with a series of steep switchbacks climbing quickly to glimpses of Lake Tahoe and downtown Tahoe City. In about 20 minutes you round a bend to take in a full panorama of Tahoe and the Truckee River. This is where it gets really good. Over the next two miles as you walk north you are right at the top of the Truckee River Canyon with frequent views of Tahoe and the Truckee River below. While in November you can hear the cars on Highway 89 far below, mid-summer the road sounds compete with the laughter of the river rafters.
While the lakeviews are spectacular, you also pass a number of huge Sugar pines, incense cedars and junipers dotting the edge of the ridge. Apparently they thrive in the roaring winds that attack this ridge during winter storms. In just an hour of brisk walking you reach an excellent lunch spot where Twin Peaks, the Truckee River and the mountains north of Squaw Valley all come into view from your spot next to ancient junipers.
This section of trail is an awesome way to spend a November day. But don’t dilly dally. Because before we know it, we will be skiing instead of hiking.