Outside with Charlie: Springtime is the right time

By From page B3 | April 17, 2012


Ski season is rapidly winding down. Most of the resorts will close between April 15 and April 22. Back country skiers will have a bit more time if they head to the high country. The recent snows have added to the snow pack, but this time of year typically sees a dwindling number of skiers of any kind heading to the mountains.

The reason is pretty simple. It costs a lot to keep a ski resort open. As fewer skiers hit the lifts, the days get progressively more expensive for the resorts.

Spring brings with it a few other things too. Longer, warmer days, baseball, the end of basketball, more time to golf, run, and cycle. Down in the valley, kayaks, canoes, and boats start to appear on the lakes while hikers head out on trails at lower elevations.

It’s a time of year known in the mountains as “shoulder season.” That is to say that the hordes of skiers have disappeared, and the summer visitors haven’t shown up yet. It’s quiet up there, time to regroup, and get ready for the next adventure.

This time of year, from about Pollock Pines down to Placerville and beyond, outdoor enthusiasts who don’t ski get to hike, walk, ride bikes and horses more often. Of course, in Pollock Pines, snow is still very much in the picture. It just doesn’t stick around quite as long, which makes for interesting planning for outdoor activities.

Mountain bike riders generally will have very good conditions in the forest. In between storms, the trails are pretty nice. All the way into Placerville, the lower foothills, the Georgetown Divide area, over into Grass Valley and Nevada City, mountain bikes are out in greater numbers.

As soon as the roads dry out, the skinny tired road bikes are out in force. The winter and early spring conditions can put a dedicated cyclist into withdrawal fits. Riding the stationary bike, while better than not riding, simply isn’t the same as being out on the road.

Spring riding anywhere in our area is just plain good. Riding on the paved trails or on a favorite route this time of year means less road dust, and certainly less heat to deal with. There aren’t as many cars in places like Apple Hill, which is about as nice a place to ride as there can be.

Hikers and backpackers have not so much territory to head out into right now, unless it’s on snowshoes. A good friend of mine, who is a back county wizard, says that he spends his time right now reading the trail books and getting ready for when he can get out there.

He goes over old, familiar routes, and looks for new ones. There are so many trails throughout the El Dorado National Forest, in the Tahoe Basin, and over on Highway 88, that it is quite impossible to set foot on all of them during one lifetime, even if all you do is hike. Going over the maps and guides now can give your hiking season a quick start when the forest is mostly clear of snow.

Not everyone enjoys heading out into the woods. Urban hikes can be just as interesting and just as much fun. While the allergy counts are up the farther down the hill you go, it’s still a great time to explore a city.

We are surrounded by wonderful places to explore, all with enough history to make your day educational as well as entertaining. Exploring the back alleys, side streets, and main streets of places like Placerville, El Dorado, Folsom, Sacramento, Lincoln, Grass Valley, Nevada City, Colfax, and too many more to mention in this short space, can be an extremely fun thing to do.

This is a more quiet, gentle time of year. Enjoy it. Get outside!

Charlie Ferris

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