We started at the Round Lake Trailhead, and found that the old snow, which would have been too heavy and sticky for comfortable skiing, was easy to negotiate in snowshoes. The dog had a harder time of it, but his enthusiasm was up to the challenge.
This was my first time snowshoeing, and the day was perfect. The late afternoon sun shone through the tall pines onto the snow, the high blue sky above giving us the best of what a Sierra winter can offer. It was strange to see landmarks and trails I'd hiked last summer covered in snow--I'd never been up here in winter before, when it's normally only accessible on snowmobiles. I marveled at how it all looked both new and familiar. Because of the snowshoes, we could wander over areas that, in summer, would be blocked by dense stands of manzanita bushes, meaning our route meandered over ground on which I'd never actually set foot. At one point we crested a hill to see Long Lake spread out before us, glittering blue among the black and white of snow-covered rock.
Hiking on, we crossed creeks and little open spaces that in summer would be scattered with wildflowers, buried now beneath their blanket of snow. There was no one else but us, the only sounds the crunch of snowshoes, the occasional birdcall, and the sighing of the wind in the treetops. When we spoke, our words were brief and quiet, as if we were reluctant to disturb the serenity of the mountain air.
The shadows had begun to lengthen around us when we reached Round Lake at last, three miles from the trailhead. We looked down at the partially-frozen water cupped in its bowl of stone and smiled in wonder. As we turned and pointed our snowshoes toward the trailhead to begin the return trek, I thought to myself that this might be the only time in my life that I have the privilege of seeing sights like these in late November, and I felt gladness warming my body in the chilling air.
The glow of the sun on the snow and trees turned the world to gold, and our shadows, stretching out before us, guided us toward home.
*Originally written by Kira Bohm.