Laura and Lee's Snowy Sierra Days

mtns and rock
The Snowy Sierras
In the days before and the days after New Years Day 2005, the eastern Sierra experienced a series of snowstorms, leaving them with near-record snowfall. My parents had 10' fall at their house, which is more snow than I ever remember them having.

Anyway...they had all of that lovely seemed a shame to not be able to get up there to enjoy it! At the last minute Walt, Barb, Lee and I all determined that we could all get away for a few days the last weekend in January - and if we didn't go then, the four of us weren't going to be able to get up there together this winter, given our various schedules.

Thursday, January 27

Ritter Range
(l to r) Mammoth Mtn, the Minarets, Mt. Ritter, Mt. Banner
Barb and I worked a half day, Walt and Barb arrived at our house just before 1:00, we finished packing the car and were on the road by 1:15.

It was getting dark by the time we got to where we could see much of the Sierra Nevada range, but we could still see there was a lot of white on the mountains. We stopped in the busy metropolis of Olancha (NOT!) and had dinner at the Ranch House Cafe. The food is really good, the prices are reasonable, and the portions are HUGE. Barb and Lee both had the Indian Fry Bread which was covered with beef, beans, lettuce, cheese, avocado, tomato, and sour was enormous. The "beef" was actually a small steak that had been cut into pieces - and it was a *good* steak. They said they could have split one order of the Fry Bread.

We arrrived in Bishop just after 8:00 and went to Vons to stock up on essentials for the weekend - like root beer, ice cream, chocolate, doughnuts, and cream. :-) Also picked up some other stuff like chicken and lettuce and cereal, too.

As we climbed the last 2500' up to where my parents live the temperature kept dropping and dropping (45 in Bishop but down to 29 by the time we arrived), and we started seeing a LOT more snow along the side of the road, though the roads were completely clear.

We unloaded the car, visited with my parents for a while and went to bed.

Friday, January 28

We got up to see a little bit of sun , but that quickly changed - a small storm was in the forecast. By 9:00 it had completely clouded over (Mountains? What mountains?) and was snowing lightly - yippee!!!!

Dad had to drive to the June Mountain ski resort to lead a nature tour, so he needed their four wheel drive SUV...but Mom had a physical therapy appointment in Mammoth and *also* needed a four wheel drive vehicle to get there...but that was no problem and we volunteered to drive her - we could go and play in the snow while she was getting therapized.

Barb and Laura
Check out the natural frost job!
Poor Lee had a work project that had gotten dropped on him just a couple days before we left and he needed to work on that, so he stayed home. Walt, Barb, and I put our snowshoes and gloves, hats, etc. in the car and took off to Mammoth with Mom. Normally it's only about 20 minutes but with the snow on the road it took us close to 40.

It was snowing quite a bit heavier in Mammoth than at the house (which is normal), but it was still nice - not too cold, and, most importantly, not windy! After we dropped Mom off we went over to the Visitor Center and parked and put on our snowshoes. Barb and Walt both had new snowshoes, and I had borrowed Mom's. We figured out how to get them on and went off on one of the paths. We'd only gone a couple hundred yards when we ran into some cross-country skiers - who turned out to be people that work in Barb's division! Honestly, you just can't get away from work sometimes! :-)

We had a lovely tramp through the snowy woods - it was so peaceful in the lightly falling snow. Skiing (and snowshoeing!) in lightly falling snow is one of my very favorite things. There was about 6-8" of fresh snow on the ground already - on top of oh, 4-5 feet that was already there.

I hadn't snowshoed since I was a kid, and then it was on snowshoes that were about a foot wide and 3' long. They were made of aluminum and fiberglass and were heavy and awkward, and not very easy to put on. The more modern snowshoes that I was using were made of heavy plastic and were 8-10" wide and 18" long. So while I had to walk in a little wider stance than I normally would it wasn't too bad. And they had steel "teeth" on the edges and under the ball of my foot to provide traction. I found that they were very easy to get around on - I could go places that I wouldn't try on skis. No special equipment required - they strap on to any kind of winter footwear. And no training needed either - if you can walk, you can snowshoe! :-)

We were out about an hour and a half and then picked Mom up and went to the grocery store so she could pick up a few things, and we could get some things we'd forgotten. Some of Vons' fresh soups for lunch sounded REALLY good about then, too!

It was still snowing a bit at the house when we got home, though the sun was peeking through a little bit.

After lunch and resting, reading, napping, and generally relaxing, we went out and did some snowshoeing just in the hills at the back of the house. Lee had mostly finished his work and was able to go with us this time. It was still snowing a little bit. Walt got a little bit exuberant on his snowshoes. :-) We climbed some hills and got some nice views of the valley - couldn't see much of the mountains because they were still in clouds, though. Walt had his GPS watch whereas I was using my sense of direction to lead us around...and we didn't always agree. :-) But we still managed to get back to the house before it got dark. :-)

Dad was taking care of a neighbor's cats while she was away for the weekend so Lee and I went down to help, and got to meet most of them...they were happy to have some attention! (This is Redford - he's a BIG cat!)

Walt made chicken fajitas for dinner - mmmmmm. For dessert we had a fruit tart that we'd bought at Vons the night before - it actually had a chocolate custard in it, which was a bit surprising - still tasted really good, though. Between our snowshoeing and the altitude we were pretty tired and I think we all went to bed around 9:00.

Saturday, January 29

We woke up to blue sky and sunshine - and about 3" of new snow! No reason to drive anywhere today - not with all that snow in our backyard!

untracked snow
Untracked Snow!
Mom made french toast out of cinnamon pullapart bread from Schat's bakery - it was yummy. After our rather leisurely breakfast we got our gear on and went out cross-country skiing. Or Lee, Barb, and I went skiing - Walt decided to snowshoe instead. We're not used to having 3+ feet of snow to ski on there - it was great!!! Normally we have to stick to skiing on snow-covered dirt roads to avoid all the sagebrush and rocks, but most of that was covered in snow, and we had these huge untracked valleys that we could ski in. Seemed a shame to spoil that pristine snow - but we didn't let that stop us. :-)

The weather was *perfect* - it was only about 26 when we left the house but the sun was out and we were pretty comfortable in pants, long-sleeve shirt, light jacket, and gloves. Since Walt was snowshoeing and not skiing he was working a bit harder than the rest of us and he had on short sleeves!

Skiing on a perfect High Sierra Day

I finally had a chance to really try out the new cross-country skis Lee got me for Christmas a year ago - the only other time I'd used them was on very icy snow - not a very good test. I had great fun on them this time - they don't climb quite as well as my old ones, but I have more control than with my old skis - "control" being a relative term when you're talking about cross-country skis. :-) I still refuse to go down hills that I would scoff at on downhill skis, but I have a lot more confidence in my ability to (sort of) turn and even stop on my new skis.

We went about 4 miles in 2 hours - not exactly a blistering pace, but we stopped a lot to take pictures. Walt and I both had our GPS watches this time...though we still disagreed about how to get back. :-) We had a great time.

Lee examines the ski route Oops
Walt demonstrates his snowrunning technique ...Which gives you a nice case of snowbutt. :-)
Snow, rock, and tree
Barb and Walt

More relaxing and napping in the afternoon (are you detecting a theme here? If you're not, you should be!), and about 4:00 we went out for another snowshoe tramp. This time we went a different direction and went down to the creek and back - a mile and a half or so.

Chester and Joey
Chester and Joey
Dad had been off at a board meeting all afternoon so Lee and I stopped in to take care of the cats after we got back from snowshoeing. They were very happy to see us, especially Chester, who had become my special friend. We had a nice visit with them.

Mom made two huge pizzas for dinner - and we only had a couple of pieces left! We had brownies and ice cream for dessert, and Lee showed us the slide show of our adventures that he'd been working on for most of the day - he had digital photos from his camera, mine, and Barb's that he'd put together and set to music.

Sunday, January 30

Another perfect High Sierra winter day!

This time Dad joined us on our snow tour...he and Walt snowshoed and the rest of us skiied. We found a series of hills and small valleys that hadn't been tracked up yet - it's a dirty job but someone has to do it. :-) And we found hills to climb and slopes to ski down - I must say it's a lot easier to climb slopes on snowshoes than on skis! But it's a lot faster to come down on skis. :-)

Speaking of fast...I normally use my GPS watch for running, and it has a "pace alert" feature that allows me to set thresholds for a pace that's "too fast" and "too slow". If the alert is enabled it beeps at me if I'm going too fast (or slow). The first time I went down vey much of a hill on my skis my watch started beeping at me like crazy - I looked down and the display says "SLOW DOWN!" I cracked up. Guess I was going faster than 6.5 mph. :-)

On top of one of the hills we saw the neighborhood coyote - Mom and Dad had seen him behind their house the day before after we left to go skiing...and he was sniffing our tracks. Hmmm....Fortunately he had headed off in the *opposite* direction. This time he loped off though the snow upon seeing us...and didn't seem too concerned.

Oh, and I found an Arch of the Day! :-)

We were out for our usual 2+ hours again, and came back ready for some lunch! We had leftover fajitas, pizza, and soup, and then adjourned to our usual afternoon activities. :-) Well, except for Lee, who still had work he had to finish, so he worked on that for several hours.

Barb, Walt, and I went out for a short snowshoe tramp in the late afternoon, and then got cleaned up for dinner - we had reservations at "The Restaurant at Convict Lake" ( that evening. We were celebrating Lee's and my 18th anniversary, which was the next day.

Mom and Dad had eaten at the restaurant but we hadn't - it's an excellent Country French restaurant that's kind of out in the middle of nowhere - it's about 8 miles outside of Mammoth, the nearest town. Interesting story...the people at the table behind us told their waiter how they found the restaurant...they asked a woman at one of the sporting goods stores in Mammoth: "Where would your boyfriend have to take you if he were *really* trying to make something up to you?" :-) I guess she didn't even think twice about it before answering.

We were seated next to the fireplace which felt very good - it was already below freezing outside when we arrived. We all really enjoyed our entrees - Walt and Dad had the pistachio-crusted seared ahi, Barb had the Beef Wellington, Mom had the sirloin steak with stilton cheese, I had the chicken in cheese and sourdough, and Lee had the blue-nose snapper with lobster pesto. We had fresh sourdough bread right of the oven, too. Lee commented that he didn't remember when he'd ever seen such clean plates - I think I was the only one who didn't finish everything, and even I came pretty close!

For dessert Barb and I had the Belgian Chocolate Genache[sic] with mixed berry coulis, and Walt and Lee had the Bananas Foster. That was quite a production - our waitress wheeled out a cart and made it at our table - LOTS of butter, brown sugar, and sliced bananas that she cooked for a while, then added rum and set it aflame - with some cinnamon thrown in to add spark. Then she served it with ice cream and toasted almonds in two very large bowls. Lee didn't finish his (though he ate all the bananas) but Walt had help from Barb and my parents. It was a wonderful dinner.

After we got home we watched Princess Diaries 2, which none of us had seen - it was a very sweet movie and we enjoyed it. Lee didn't have time to do a slide show for us, but he did a quick run-through of everyone's un-edited photos so that we could see them at least.

Monday, January 31

Happy Anniversary to us!

But time to head was nice having the extra day to play, and even nicer to have all that snow right at the house!

We got packed and left about 8:45, with the usual stop at Schat's in Bishop to stock up on cheese bread and coconut macaroons.

Final Thoughts

We are *so* glad we decided to go on this trip! I think this is the fastest the four of us have ever planned a trip together - we first talked about it on Saturday night and then left Thursday afternoon! Luckily everything worked out ok for us with work and cat/dog care and all - well, except for Lee having to work for 8-10 hours over the weekend.

I'm not sure how the weather could have been better - we had a nice snowy day on Friday and then two beautiful days on Saturday and Sunday to enjoy it. Ok, one thing that could have been would have been nice if we'd had 6-8 inches of new snow instead of only 3 inches... :-)

Snowshoeing was great fun - for just wandering around I think I prefer it to skiing - there's a lot less equipment and fuss involved.

There's not often enough snow at my parents' house for us to just go out the door and ski. And even when there is snow there's usually not that much and we are constrained as to where we can go. We loved not having to go anywhere to play in the snow! And having so much snow meant that we had much more of a winter playground available to us!

Other Links

Back to Tigger's Vacation Page
Back to Tigger's Snow Tracks
Back to Laura and Lee's Vacation Page

This page has been viewed times.

Text and photographs copyright © 2005 by Laura Gilbreath. Coyote photograph copyright © 2005 by Jim Gilbreath. Feel free to link to this document, but you may not redistribute it in any form without the express written consent of the copyright holder.

Laura Gilbreath lgil at lgil dot net
Last updated 2/24/05