Sunday, January 30, 2011

Snowshoeing at Clear Lake

Plans, as always, can be subject to change. I really hope to get up to Mirror Lake sometime, but it sounds like that may need to be in the off season. Instead we went to one of the places we've frequently gone, Clear Lake. I pulled in and the parking off the highway was blessedly empty. Unfortunately the snow was not fantastic, but we made do. The dogs were going berserk at that point. They realized something good was up and it was all I could do to get out and let Vegas out without her launching onto me from the back seat. That girl loves our adventures together!

Our arrival was right about 9:10 or so. It took me about 20 minutes to get Vegas geared up as well as my snowshoes on and pack situated. Then we were off! Fortunately the drizzle and mist we'd experienced on the drive up the mountain had stopped. I was not going to look forward to being rained on and we lucked out. Here is Vegas all outfitted like a Ruff Wear advertisement:
The trail we've usually taken goes straight, is reasonably easy, and heads down to the lake. For some reason - perhaps because the trail looked so much brighter and more inviting - I chose to head to the right yesterday. The dogs and I meandered for around a mile or so, enjoying the quiet (other than the crunch of my snowshoes), never seeing a soul. Vegas was romping around, goofing off, having a grand time.
Periodically we would stop to either catch our breath or just take in the silence. At one point I noticed the trickling sound of water. That took us on a short off road trip to a small stream running through the wood.
 Of course Vegas was interested in checking out the water but it took a few minutes for me to find the proper footing for her to get there and then she had lost interest. It was a pretty site, though, in the middle of the woods and a great spot to just enjoy the sound of nature. I also enjoy nature's water features and this was no exception. You can see in this last picture above how clear it was. While not deep, there was absolutely nothing to mar the clear water from surface to soil.

After the water detour, we kept on the same path. We came around a bend a short while later and I was facing a long upward slope. I kept wondering if this path would make its way to the lake or back around to the path we would have been on going straight. It took some time, but I finally caught a glimpse of the lake. At this point we were about five miles.
It was so pretty and so serene. We kept on trekking and I started to wonder if the route we were taking was a loop or what. In the meantime, I found a fallen log/stump and decided to play with my camera to see if I could use the timer feature to capture the dogs and me.
 Here's what I managed the first try.
 And in between that and me figuring out I had to set the timer with each shot....Miss Nosy had to check out what I was doing.
And lastly....not too bad.

Then we were off again. It wasn't too long before I started thinking about what choices I had to make. I knew I wasn't lost but I had to decide if I kept "exploring" or if I turned back the way we had come. A little while later and before I completely lost track of the lake, I decided we'd go off-roading again and follow the edge of the lake to the path I knew took us back to the highway and parking area.
You can see Vegas led the way and got to be the first tracks in the snow here. Interestingly enough, this snow was much nicer than what we had seen so far. It was more white (less debris fallen on it), it was softer and less crunchy, and it was a bit deeper. The stump cemetery area below is the edge of the lake and where we were headed. The terrain was okay down below but interspersed with damp, marshy ground with parts of the stream flowing through. It meant a bit of muck for Vegas' boots because I couldn't seem to convince her to jump over the small, mucky areas.
It's kind of interesting to note the difference in this year at the lake and the last time I was at the lake this time of year. In thinking back it might have been 2009 for this location, but it just so happened we walked across a significant portion of the lake before and that was most certainly not going to be the case yesterday. We made our way around the end of the lake, not quite as far as the trees you can see above on the left, but a good portion. There started to be less and less snow where I was walking and Leo was tuckering out, too. I got him situated in his front pack so that I didn't have to stop so frequently for him and so I could keep up the pace. I also had to take my snowshoes off at one point and after I did so and was getting my poles and shoes situated to carry, I realized Vegas had gone on "alert." It took me a minute or two to figure out what she was looking at. While I was busy removing my snowshoes, juggling Leo, and repacking myself to get back on the trail, she had noticed something very discreet going on down in the edge of the water. I had to sidestep 10 feet or so before I could even figure out what she had spotted. Down at the water's edge there was a few feet of ice then there was about three feet of water, and then the lake was iced/snowed over again. In the edge of the second section of ice was a hole around 14" in diameter.
 You can just barely see it. I still don't know what "it" was but you can see how curious Vegas was....
She ran all the way down to the lake without me. That girl never ventures so far but the thing in the water had her seriously intrigued. I couldn't get a feel for its size but it definitely was only popping its head up out of the hole in the ice. It did it a couple of times and Vegas made two runs down to the water's edge to watch and then return to me. Before I decided to give it up and keep on moving, I did look back the way we'd come and it had swum underwater some 30 yards or so back and then I did see a flipper or tail come out of the water as it played or whatever. It's going to bug me until I figure it out so I'll probably email the forest service or parks department to see if they have any idea.

We kept moving along the lake for a little while longer before I completely lost the snow and decided to head inland a bit. It wasn't but a few hundred feet before I found a campsite and followed the path from it down to the road campers would have come in on. At that point we were still seeing the lake as it wrapped around the area of land we were on and the snow finally got a little better again so I could put my shoes back on and stop carrying them. At this point we were around 7.0 miles and I was resigned to carrying Leo the rest of the way. Before too long we did make it out to one of the main paths and I quickly realized it was in the vicinity of our creek sojourn earlier. With an internal whoop and some verbal encouragement to Vegas, we kept on going. At this point I can admit, we were tired. Unfortunately it was a good mile back to the branch we had turned off from and another mile back to the truck. I've rarely been so glad to see my truck and the end of something, and not to say we didn't have fun, but it was quite a long journey. Nonetheless, we enjoyed the trip, got some much needed solitude, and so glorious pictures and memories, too.

We had drill team later that night, too, but I'll go over that tomorrow night. It's a work day and I am off to sleep.

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