Thursday, October 23, 2008

Crossing the Sierra Nevada, CA to NV

We camped at Calaveras Big Trees campground, just north of Arnold California. This is on Highway 4. In the morning, we did some of the easy walks. That is the three senses walk (which I tried by following my hand along the guide rope, and then stopping at the braille sections to open my eyes), the grove overlook walk, and the north grove walk. I love the smell of the pine trees, and kept stopping to crush some of the leaves in my fingers.
Every now and then, something would fall past my eyes, but when I tried to see what it was, I convinced myself that it was just a bit of falling twig, or the seed from a pine tree. However, just as we arrived back at the car, what I thought wasn't happening, actually was: It was snow! Oh my god! We were not prepared for snow.
In any case, based upon the reassurances of the people in the visitors centre ("this is just a fluke"), we hopped in the car and drove east, planning to cross the Sierra Nevada by going through Eberts pass. We drove past Alpine lake, and you could see clear across to the otherside. It was beautiful.
As we climbed higher and higher though, it began to snow again, and visibility dropped to about 30metres. All the vehicles that were going the other way were 4wd type, and they had quite a bit of snow and ice crusted on their windscreen. It got to the point that when we passed a car, by the time we got to the next snow patch on the road, we could not see their tracks.
Around the Mosquito Lake trailhead, L made an executive decision to turn back. We had not yet reached Ebert's pass, and from what he remembered, it turned into more of a corkscrew on the descent that the ascent. We were in a 2wd car, and we weren't carrying chains. And as I had muttered to myself earlier: the last time that I had driven in the snow, I had my old AWD, and I had chains then!
So we retreated from the ascent, and drove back down to the campground, and camped for another night. Dinner was had at "Giant Burger" in Arnold, and, I have to say, the giant burger wasn't really so giant. L claims that during the middle of the night he heard someone hop into their vehicle and turn on the engine to try and warm up. In the morning the puddles of water on the picnic table had all frozen into ice! This was at an altitude of approx 4500 feet (1100 m).
We found out from a ranger that it was lucky indeed that we had turned back. The road through Ebert's pass was now closed, and would not open again until the snow melted.
Our 'crossing of the Sierra Nevada' turned into a full-scale retreat. We backtracked through to Angel's Camp, and then had to take Highway 88 through Carson Pass to Carson City and Nevada. I hopped out every now and then during the drive to take a picture of the snow covered mountains, and marvel at how cold it was. The mountains, already a beautiful place, had been made even more so by that cold front and the resulting snow, which had caused us to retreat.