Last weekend Fraley and I headed up to the Sierra for the Cal4Wheel “Winter Fun Fest” which is an annual trek thru the snow in the high country. The trails aren’t what you’d consider as technical when they don’t have snow on them – most of them are merely forest service roads that just aren’t maintained. It reminded me of trying to get thru some of the backroads in the Adirondaks in the winter – except for the bitter cold. The temps in the Sierras all weekend were pretty mild, even at 7K ft – it was generally in the range of 30-40 the whole weekend.
We arrived Friday nite, but didn’t plan to do the night trail run, so we just stopped by the fairgrounds to see if we could register and get our trail info for the next day. We signed up for the Avalanche Express run which sounded cool, but the Sierra hadn’t had fresh snow for a couple weeks, so we were not anticipating any sliding snow 🙂
The run started about 15 miles outside of Grass Valley, just at the edge of where the snow line was. We had close to a full run (20+ Jeeps). From there we went up to the Tahoe National Forest, around Yuba Gap. After airing down, we headed down the trail, which went around Lake Valley Reservoir. About 10 of the drivers opted for the extreme part of the trail and split off into the deeper snow on a mostly unbroken trail. I think they spent most of their time getting each other unstuck. Not a big deal on such a sunny clear day. The snow was pretty icy on top and dense, so it packed pretty well.
A bunch of folks stopped at the top of the trail for lunch while Fraley, I and others headed further down the trail into some deeper snow – and a couple of us (including me) got stuck in a few places – it was actually worse in the tracks than cutting new trail as the tracks got pretty deep and with the dense crusted snow on top, the middle of the tracks started to hang up the rigs going thru. All was good after a few tugs with the tow straps and we were on our way.
The kids of a few folks made a couple snow forts at the top of the trail, which Fraley had to try out for size:
We wandered back to the fairgrounds early in the afternoon and hung out for the silent auction (I bid on and won a couple things I brought home for Lisa – like a digital torque wrench – just what every girl wants 🙂
We didn’t win anything in the raffle (again), so we signed up for the deep snow run scheduled for Sunday morning early and went back to the hotel to get some sleep.
We awoke Sunday to cold rain in Grass Valley, hoping that it was snow up higher and not more rain (the trails would be a slushfest if it were raining).
We ran the same trail as on Saturday, but with the plan to go further into the fresh snow than we did on Saturday. It was snowing when we got onto the trail and just go worse (better?) as the day went on. The guy in front of us with the yellow Jeep pickup pulled aside to let others break trail since his rig was really heavy and he didn’t want to get stuck where noone else was big enough or positioned right to get him out. We managed to get at least a couple miles down the trail, which was further than folks had ever gotten on this particular trail at this time of year. We finally decided to turn around when the snow was starting to really come down (we still had like 30+ miles to get out of the Sierra and get below the snow line). The trail out was really slippery due to the new snow and took us longer than expected to get out, but everyone made it safely (tho there were a couple folks doing 180-360 spins on the trail 🙂
I-80 – this was not a good place to spin out. Almost noone on the highway had chains on yet and we saw several vehicles go off the road: