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I’ve certainly enjoyed the late season hiking in Lakes Basin this winter due to the lack of snow, but I was overjoyed to awaken yesterday to a few inches of snow on the ground in the valley and a heavy white layer on Mills Peak and the trees leading up to it.

This morning I decided to go exploring to see what’s still accessible. Gold Lake Highway is now closed so we parked in the staging area parking lot conveniently located at the road closure point. There’s a pretty little trail that runs about a mile from the parking lot through the forest and comes out on the Gray Eagle Lodge road.

It’s a fun trail on skis when there’s more snow, but today it was totally enjoyable in hiking boots. There’s a slight elevation gain, which is much more noticeable on skis or snowshoes. On foot, it’s a gentle climb, suitable for any level hiker. This is also a great summer trail because it’s short with lots of shade – perfect for families with young kids or people who lack the stamina for longer hikes. Come on out and get your winter wonderland fix and check out this little slice of nature’s beauty.

Update: 1/21/18 This trail was one of the last ones built by the Forest Service about a decade ago before budget cuts took the USFS out of the trail creation and maintenance business. We’re fortunate to have the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship in our backyard to maintain the myriad trails that wind through Plumas and Sierra counties and build new ones for us to enjoy.

On yesterday’s hike we found a fairly large downed tree that was easy to climb over in boots, but would be very challenging in snowshoes and impossible on skis. I happened to run into Greg Williams, the brain and heart behind SBTS, last night and asked him if he could take care of the downed tree sometime. I received these pictures from him today after he and his son had taken care of the tree. Now that’s some amazing trail maintenance response time! If you enjoy hiking or mountain biking in this area, please check out the work of Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship and consider supporting their efforts.

 

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Holiday Greetings to all from the Lost Sierra. It’s a gorgeous Christmas day, made that much better by a walk in the snow by a lake. There is just something about large bodies of water that draw me like a gravitational pull, and today Gold Lake did the pulling.

After being under the weather I was desperate for some fresh air and my dog needed a good romp so off we went with another friend and her dog. It’s unusual for Gold Lake Highway to be open and dry this time of year, but it makes easy access to the high country. We drove to the Gold Lake Campground road once again for a lovely walk. The snow is about 5 inches deep with a light, crunchy layer on top. Someone had driven down the campground road making the walking very easy going.

We wandered down the road and back through the campground to the dam where my friend’s Golden decided that no water is too cold for her. My dog, after barely tolerating the Santa hat, was having no part of that cold water.

The patterns of snow and ice on the lake were fascinating, and with the light haze of cloud cover, the lake had a silvery reflective glow that was stunning. It was as if the lake had been covered with frosting that had been whipped up and then partially melted. Every angle offered a unique perspective.

While it had been cool at the start of the hike, the temperature climbed into the forties and the clouds steadily cleared leaving us plenty warm and sun-drenched by the time we wandered back up the road to the car. What a spectacular way to spend Christmas day.

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The snow has been falling in the Lost Sierra in fits and starts. Way back in September Lakes Basin got 4-5 inches, which was not necessarily a welcome weather change for my friends who were camping at Gold Lake. October also delivered a couple small, early-season snow drops, but the weather warmed up between them so there has been little accumulation and Gold Lake Highway has remained open. However, last week’s snowfall and this week’s cold temps may change that trend.

It’s lovely to be able to get up to Lakes Basin this late in the season. There’s still great hiking to be had and the beauty factor is off the charts! The light covering of snow completely transforms the area and makes it feel like you’re discovering familiar terrain for the very first time. Even roads that you typically drive on become beautiful forest walks, like today’s walk on the Gold Lake campground road. Some of the lower elevation hikes are still hikable such as the Graeagle Creek and Smith Lake trails. The few inches of snow create a bit more of a workout, but hey, that’s one of the reasons we all go hiking, right?

Take advantage of the mild late season and get some wintertime hiking in. You’ll be happy you did.

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The holiday season officially starts in our little corner of the Lost Sierra on the first weekend in December. There is nothing sweeter than the community spirit evident at the two holiday celebrations; one in Portola, the other in Graeagle.

Festivities kick off Friday night with Portola’s Light Parade and Christmas Fair. Despite the chilly evening, Commercial Street was lined with families eager to see this year’s line-up of illuminated parade entrants. They weren’t disappointed as once again the local businesses and organizations created a festive atmosphere with their brightly lit vehicles and holiday-themed floats.

The central bonfire was a popular spot to warm up between shopping at the old-fashioned Christmas fair booths, watching the parade, checking raffle tickets to see if you’d won one of the dozens of donated gift baskets and waiting for the tree to be lit. Christmas music flowed throughout the evening and a warm, neighborly time was had by all.

On Saturday the festivities move to Graeagle. The businesses in the little red shops that line highway 89 are open for early Christmas shopping, each one offering some type of treat for shoppers, either a signature beverage or snack. It’s a very festive shopping experience with a couple hundred of your closest friends!

Santa always makes a visit and the horse-drawn sleigh delights kids of all ages as it makes its way through town. Due to the loss of half of the team of horses that have drawn the sleigh for many years, this year’s sleigh was pulled by a tractor decorated for the holiday. Adults like me seemed to be much more disappointed than the kids who didn’t seem to mind at all.

The bonfire was again a big draw as everyone gathered on the lawn to listen to music by Danny Horton and cross their fingers in hopes they’d win the gift basket full of Graeagle Bucks and treats as they awaited the tree lighting. Nature provided an amazing complement to the man-made visuals with a nearly full moon rising through the trees as the huge pine tree came alive with colored lights.

If you’re looking for festivities that bring out the true spirit of the holidays, make a note to be in the Lost Sierra the first weekend of December next year.

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We in the Lost Sierra know that the Historic Longboard Revival Race Series provides some of the greatest family-friendly winter entertainment available. But as of today the event is no longer our little secret.

The cover of the September 21st issue of Powder Magazine features a photo of the women winners of the World Championship Longboard Revival Series Race held in March, 2017 at the Johnsville Ski Bowl and the issue contains a great article about the event.

Written by David Page with photography from David Reddick, the 8-page article covers last March’s World Championship race and much of the history and lore behind the races. It’s a great read with terrific photography including some historic photos you may not have seen before. Grab a copy from the newsstands or subscribe HERE.

The 2018 Historic Longboard Revival Race Series will be held the third Sunday in January, February and March of 2018. Learn more about this crazy backwoods fun at Plumas Ski Club’s website.



Left: 2nd place Sarah Johnstone
Middle: 1st place Jessica Nelson
Right: 3rd place Austyn Harrington

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