Hiking to Loves Falls in the Snow
Over the span of the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, we were traveling and visiting family, so we haven't been out and about in Tahoe for a few months. We've also been getting gobs of snow in Tahoe so, outside of work, we've been busy keeping up with snow removal. It's snowed some amount nearly every day during January – sometimes just 5 or 6 inches, other times over 2 feet.
Throughout the series of snowstorms, the large conifer trees around our house have been coated with thick, heavy snow and have very regularly been dropping intense "snow bombs" on our roof, decks, and driveway for weeks, triggering one of our cats to army-crawl for cover on the loudest days. So, we've been having a snowy winter.
This was the first weekend in a while where we actually had time (and energy) to get out and do something. I wasn't sure what to expect with weather and temperatures, especially this time of year and at lower elevation. (Full disclosure: I never know how to appropriately dress for winter outdoor activities. I grew up in the Frozen Tundra, so anytime I was outside in the winter, after questioning why, it became clear that no amount of layers ever seemed to be enough to keep me warm, but then once I started moving, I would immediately feel overdressed, puffy, and sweaty.)
Being the planner that I am, I grabbed numerous different types of layers – extra shirts, extra pants, extra socks, etc., and stuffed them into a bag to bring in the back of the Jeep, just in case I underestimated and needed a wardrobe change. I also brought snowboots, snowpants, and handwarmers. We had planned on bringing our snowshoes, too, but ultimately, my husband decided he didn't think we'd actually need them based on the snow depth prediction in GAIA and the fact that this would be at lower elevation.
So, we got in the Jeep and headed to Downieville, CA, enjoying the snow-tunneled, wintry, riverside scenery along the route. The road surfaces were a mix of wet, icy, snowy, and dry pavement, so we had to "look alive."
Once we reached Downieville, we stopped for a bite to eat along the river. From there, we headed back out on the highway to take a few photos along the frigid and crisp flowing North Yuba River.
After making a few stops, we continued on the winding highway to where it intersects the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), which is where we began the snowy adventure down to Loves Falls.
Last year, we hiked to Loves Falls during hiking season twice, once in April during peak waterfall season, and once in July when my husband's aunt and uncle came to visit. But hiking it while snow-covered (and sans snowshoes) is a whole different experience.
Because this trail to Loves Falls is part of the PCT, we assumed the route, albeit snowy, would have some evidence of foot traffic. Well, we were wrong. It was "fresh tracks" all the way and we had to make "educated guesses" all along as to where the actual trail lay.
While trudging through sections with 3+ feet of snow, we made a "wrong turn" and found ourselves ever-so-cautiously traversing a stretch of elevated culvert piping, and about halfway across it, I saw the even more sketchy snow-covered section ahead of us, with a huge drop-off below, and I made the executive decision to turn around and choose a different route. So, we back-tracked and hoofed it up the steep hill to see if we could spot evidence of the trail higher up.
Post-holing and slipping and sliding uphill, we found what we suspected was the trail, so we continued our trudging. A short distance down the "trail," I noticed the trees starting to get thicker and I began questioning whether we were still on track. So, I stopped and turned around to confer with my husband before proceeding. Just then, a few wisps of snow fell from above, and before I could recognize what was happening, I was hit hard, square on top of my head.
While this doesn't seem like much in the photo, having a rather solid, wet "snow bomb" unexpectedly dumped on your head from a tree 50 feet above is not only alarming but it actually hurt. I shook it off, both literally and figuratively, and kept moving, breaking trail as I went, eager to get to the destination.
We could hear the water rushing in the near distance and as soon as I recognized the familiar footbridge, I was pretty excited and maybe slightly relieved.
The bridge, though, had accumulated a few feet of drifted, untouched snow on it, just begging to be disrupted.
Loves Falls was flowing, though not any more significantly than when we visited last April. With all the snow we're getting this year, however, I imagine spring melt at Loves Falls will be quite impressive.
(This shot is for Chad and Shannon.)
After we had our fill of the falls, we started our trudging trek back out. At least this time we had a broken trail and our tracks to guide us.
Perhaps a reward for all our hard breaking-trail work, on the drive home, we were rewarded with a brilliant Tahoe sunset.
All in all, it was a pleasant winter outing and we certainly enjoyed spending time outside and getting some fresh air. We probably would have fared better with snowshoes on this trek, and changing from hiking pants and boots to snowboots and snowpants would have served me well. And perhaps a helmet. But who knew?
Loves Falls winter hike