The first snows of this autumn-winter season have decorated the slopes in the Crystal Basin and Tahoe areas, hopefully the start of a very good snow season. The trails in the high country have taken on a new dimension.
There isn’t a great deal of snow but there’s enough to cover the ground.
It’s still possible to hike in the Crystal Basin area, Hope Valley, the Carson Pass corridor and the Tahoe Basin.
Here are some of the changes that you’ll encounter if you head up the hill to get outside:
The daylight hours start earlier and the sun sets earlier so it’s cold when the sun comes up and cold or colder when it sets.
Unless you have the proper gear to keep warm, it’s probable that your start time for a hike will be later than it was just a couple of weeks ago.
Enjoy another cup of coffee and bagel while you wait to leave.
The time you have to spend on the trails is shorter so you really have to be flexible when it comes to destinations. Keep a close eye on when sunlight starts to disappear. As you head out on the trail, either by foot or by mountain bike, pay attention to the light.
During autumn your round trip, hiking or biking, that lasted until evening won’t be the same; you simply won’t have the time.
Have a working headlight, flashlight, or preferably both because misjudging your hike time by as little as an hour can put you into a very different landscape, one that is difficult to see.
Plan ahead. Know when to turn around and head back. If you don’t reach your destination, that’s OK. At least you were out there and you always have another day.
No matter what, you will need to provide for staying warm. When the sun starts to sink the temperature sinks with it and can be a dramatic drop.
The key is to dress in layers to regulate your temperature much more efficiently. A windproof shell over a thermal jacket over a good base (long underwear actually) means you can shed layers as you start getting hot. It also means that you can put a layer back on when things start to cool down. Leave anything cotton at home. Cotton’s great for a lot of things but going into the woods isn’t one of them. Your hiking duds have a lot to do with how you fare should something go wrong.
If you do decide to head out on an autumn hike, expect to be amazed.
The seasons all come with their own special experiences, light, colors and smells. Take your camera with you, batteries charged, ready to go. Check the memory card. You’ll need a lot of room. Keep in mind that from now until the winter solstice there will be just a bit less daylight each day. Plan your day well and build some memories.