Snowshoeing in the Sierras:
Finding peace in a new sport with an old friend.
Convincing my friends across the country to make the trek to visit me in Reno-Tahoe is a lot easier when the skies are blue and the ground is covered in white, fluffy snow. Rewind to last year in February 2018: my best friend Nicole traveled to the Great Basin for the first time, and to say she was in awe of the landscape is an understatement. Having my adventure buddy around again meant we were about to catch up on some long-overdue outdoor fun!
Both Nicole and I were born and raised in New Jersey, but we grew up with an outrageous enthusiasm for the outdoors. We also share a love of learning new things and have a friendship that allows us to push the limits we set for ourselves. One thing that always brings us together is hiking. While there are technically no mountains in NJ, a mere two-hour drive will transport you to the luscious deciduous forest of the Appalachian Mountains. We’ve hiked in countless different conditions and seasons to peaks over 4,600 feet, but alas, snowshoeing was a first for both of us on this day.
Cue the sizzle of the coffee maker and the bright morning sun. The comforts of the cabin welcomed our early rise as we were terribly excited to try snowshoeing for the first time. If you’ve ever been intimidated to try something new, remember no one has ever gotten anywhere by sitting around. Grab a trusted friend who’s willing to put up with your crazy antics and head out the door! It won’t be long before your heart is racing from the joy you sparked in the little kid living inside of you.
We parked at the trailhead of Elephant’s Back located in the Mokelumne Wilderness off the Carson Pass and set out for our adventure. Amid constant laughter, a little envy of the backcountry skiers, and fidgeting with our gear, we were able to tune into the hike and enjoy the beauty offered all around us. The silence in the backcountry during the winter is incomparable to anything else. The only sounds you’ll notice are the subtle waves of your breath and the crunch of each step, with maybe the exception of thoughts trickling through your mind like the drops of melting snow from massive Sugar Pines.
With all new endeavors comes a learning curve, like finding out two miles into the trail that one of my snowshoe straps was loose or having to de-layer my outfit because I thought it would be colder. But, none the less I managed to get the hang of snowshoeing pretty quickly, as did Nicole. It’s a very welcoming sport and if you haven’t tried it, for any reason, I suggest you do at least once. Although I could pick up some cross-country skis or a snowboard, hiking has become an intimate pursuit that has sparked my interest more times over than any other sport I’ve done. Something happens within when you become in tune with each step. Each breath. It leads you to a place of calm, and in that place, peace lives.
Snowshoeing might not be for the adrenaline junkies out there, but when it comes down to seeking glorious views of the Sierra Nevada, you won’t regret waking up early to catch the skies open up over the massive mountains. Our hike proved this as we made our way to the peak of Elephant’s Back. With 360 degree views of Blue Lake, Round Top Peak, Lake Winnemucca, Woods Lake, and Caples Lake, you’re bound to be inspired by the landscape around you.
Standing 9,585 feet above sea level, surrounded by the bluest skies and snow-capped mountains with my best friend is a fond memory of mine now. Reaching the peak of Elephant’s Back was just the icing on the cake of our time spent together before Nicole had to leave for home. Some hikes are harder than others, mentally or physically, but having my adventure buddy to push me along was pure gold. Experiencing a place that brings me so much joy with someone I’m close with deepened our bond and created a story worth sharing.
If I haven’t convinced you to try snowshoeing, that’s okay, but I do hope you take away something from my story. Whether that’s finding a friend who’s willing to take risks with you or maybe just trying something new, I hope you create stories to share with your friends and family. I hope you capture moments in deep powder and sunny days. And I hope you’ve been inspired just enough to get yourself into the mountains as often as you can to see what all the fuss is about!
Contributing Photographer: Nicole Haines
Contributing Photographer Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org