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  • Sarah

What to Expect from Snowshoeing

My first experience snowshoeing was 100 times better than I could have imagined. Growing up in the south, I never had the chance to get out in some REAL snow and walk around for hours on snowshoes. This trip to California changed everything!

I went to visit my brother in San Francisco this weekend. The day before I flew out from Austin, he asked if I was okay with heading up to Nevada City, CA with a couple of his friends to do some cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. I was up for it! I got in Wednesday first thing in the morning and met up with him at work halfway through the day.

Wednesday and Thursday, I trailed my bro as he made his rounds with the best-behaved dogs I’ve met. He walks anywhere between 12 and 15 miles per day taking these amazing pups around San Fran - what a perfect gig.

Friday around midday we met up with my brother's friends and then began the trip up to Nevada City. San Francisco was on the cusp of “ski week." In addition to Christmas and Spring breaks, schools in San Francisco have a week where children are freed from the shackles of class and encouraged to get out there and ski…We left town early to avoid the mass exodus to the Sierras. The 2.5 hour trip ended up taking us around 4.5 hours, but that was great time considering the normal Friday afternoon traffic out of town.

We rented an Airbnb in cozy Nevada City. An old gold mining town, Nevada City feels like the Pacific Northwest with the crispness of Colorado and the relaxed, bohemian vibe you think of when you imagine California. We spent two nights in town and got to enjoy many of the highlights of the place.

Our first night we went to Sushi Q, which felt like a typical sushi joint. We went to Three Forks Brewery after dinner, where we had a beer, slowed down considerably, and then walked home to chill out and wrap up a good day.

Day 2 we started out with a hearty breakfast at South Pine Café. Our plan for day 2 was to go snowshoeing somewhere in Tahoe National Forest, close to Nevada City. We picked up some snowshoes at Mountain Recreation and then headed to a super cute and California-esque co-op grocery store called BriarPatch Food Co-op. We got some snacks, beer, and hydration – we were ready!

When we left Nevada City, I was awake and there was just a tiny bit of snow on shady parts of the street. Soon after leaving town, I woke up and saw that there were AT LEAST SIX FEET of snow surrounding us as we drove on a perfectly maintained road. We had an idea of where we were going to go, and after just a little uncertainty we finally found the road that took us there…

This is the road that led us into the Sierra wilderness.

After what seemed like 3 miles of driving on snow-packed road (in an AWD station wagon), we stopped, got out, and suited up. I added my fleece-lined pants for extra comfort, and I’m so glad I did. My bro handed me some hand warmers, which were new to me and a COMPLETE game-changer. I was so incredibly comfortable on this trip. We started out on the Spaulding Lake Trail.

We got onto a trail that looked like only one person had used it, and we were off. The snow was dry and fluffy, and there was a ton of it. The trees were heavy with snow, leaning over under the weight of the load. Peaceful and beautiful, our hike was our own! We didn’t run into anyone else along the way.

I came down with strep the day I arrived in San Fran, BUT this hike did me some major good - it almost felt effortless walking in the snowshoes on this super light, fluffy snow.

As we headed up the trail, we shoed along an aqueduct carrying water from reservoir to reservoir. Soon we soon saw huge pipes that ran across the trail, sounding off the water being transferred through. As we walked by, the sound morphed from high to low pitches, sometimes sounding like a busy highway and others sounding like a bathtub being filled. The big pipe left us as we hiked further, but it met back up with us at our destination – Lake Spaulding.

One amazing part of this trek was the series of pipes (for irrigation or human consumption?) that criss-crossed our path. The sounds coming from these pipes was mesmerizing, as water was definitely funneling through.They also made for some fun obstacles.

We were the only ones on this trail - we only saw other folks when we were nearly back to the car.

Such a beautiful place!

Nearly two miles into our trip, we saw the sprawling, frozen lake ahead of us. We stopped to take it in and have a beer. The clouds had moved in since the morning, and it started lightly snowing. What a great day! I hadn’t ever enjoyed a snow activity so much. The crew and those hand warmers really made the difference.

Lake Spaulding in all its glory! This is where we started our return trip - we stood here for a few minutes, had a celebratory brewski, and once the snow started up we decided to head back. The pipes were just howling right here - what an amazing spot!

Our location on the AllTrails app once we hit the turnaround point at Lake Spaulding.

We turned around and made our way back to the car. The return trip was as lovely as the first leg, and I was ready for a hot meal and a tasty bevy.

We piled back into the car and hit the road with food on our minds. We made it to Ol Republic, a dimly lit, very warm and welcoming pub. It was a perfect respite from the chill, which had finally caught up with me. Our server took one look at me and suggested a hot buttered rum – never had a drink sounded so GOOD. It was buttery, rummy, and I loved it.

We spent the rest of the afternoon at Ol Republic, talking with some locals and family that showed up. The food was great, in-house-brewed beer very good, and the atmosphere top notch. Next time I’m in this area, I’ll definitely be back.

We left first thing the next morning, heading back to San Fran to miss the traffic and make my flight that afternoon. This was a wonderful trip, and I WILL be back to Nevada City!

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