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Little snow – you can still hike

Sam Bauman
Nevada Appeal Columnist

It takes no expert to report that there’s not much snow up there, but some of the Tahoe resorts are turning the bull wheels and riders and skiers on sporting.

Right now no one is close to being fully open; Heavenly for instance, has one run open ” Comet, which is reached via the Gondola, then the Tamarack lift, then over to the Comet run. Well, we are suffering from climate warming, although this isn’t much different than last year.

Mt. Rose has been running the Ponderosa beginner lift for a couple of weeks and while it’s hardly challenging, it’s good enough that you don’t need your rock skis. Boreal also is in limited operations, but that’s about it. Best way to find out if your favorite is open is to go to the Web; all mountain resorts are there and if they’re open you can be sure they will be reporting so Dec. 12 seems to be the target date for most resorts now.

No snow on the horizon either, so you might as well be checking some of the hiking trails. That’s what I did this week; it was back to old faithful Dead Man’s Creek on East Lake Boulevard about opposite Washoe State Park. I’ve hiked this trail at least 20 times with visitors who sought an easy hike and this time to my surprise I found a trail that I hadn’t noticed before, or had thought it was the old trail up to the gazebo.

This one starts about 200 yards up the main trail a few feet past the trail marker for Wild Rose on a park information sign. It’s off to the right and you can see one of the nature trail markers from the main trail. Since there are park markers there I figure it is an official trail, so I followed it until it became clear that it was heading right back to the parking lot. That makes it a super-easy trek, just right for a visitor who doesn’t really want to work at it.

About 15 feet farther up the main trail is the exit to the old, steeper trail, again on the right. I don’t think the rangers maintain this trail anymore ” it’s too close to the animal habitat around the creek bed. But it’s still walk-able and is shorter than the official trail. And steeper, with a lot of raised steps. So until the rangers block it, it’s a faster way to the gazebo. Said gazebo, built by a Boy Scout going for his Eagle ranking, is a bit off center now and rocks in moderate winds. Still, it’s a fine place to gaze on Washoe Lake, which looks like it is going to last the winter, shrunken as it is.

The thing about such as Deadman’s Creek is that there is always something new and interesting. In this case it was the new trail, but then there was also the air show taking place just to the east of the gazebo, up along the top ridge near Duck Hill. At first it looked like a big bird lazily looping around, but then it became apparent that it was a hang glider, riding the northwest winds effortlessly. After about 10 minutes the first hang glider was joined by a second, and together they soared and spiraled, dancing in a dance in the sky.

All on wind power, no carbon footprint involved. I watched them for at least 20 minutes before heading down the old trail, where I noted another new-old trail cutting across the main trail, leading up to the high ridge. Somehow I’d never noticed it before. Then below at the switchback of the main trail there is another trail, not new but heading up to a wildlife observation point along the ridge.

I’ve been up there, and there is a mountain dirt road there that serves as a launching spot for hang gliders; para-gliders often take off from the Mt. Rose-Slide Mountain road. Once down the trail the hang gliders were not visible until I spotted one gradually working its way down to Washoe State Park for a landing. Donna and Steve Silva, both park rangers, encourage this use of the park because they themselves are active in the Experimental Aircraft Association.

Needless to say, I envied those riders in the sky, but not enough to give it a try.

ABOUT THE KNEE

Readers of this column are familiar with the saga of my new right knee, replaced May 28 at Carson Medical campus by Dr. Micheal Edmunds of the Tahoe Fracture Clinic. The knee was damaged in a lawn-sale fall while conducting visiting Euopeans around. A ski cut the knee down to the bone, and the Tahoe Hospital people sewed the knee up and said X-rays found no problem. So much for X-rays; three years later arthroscopic surgery repaired the damage, but Doc Edmunds predicted a new knee in a few years. Three years later I got my new knee, with the promise that I would be able to ski this season.

After the usual physical therapy and continual exercise, I began hiking again. But it wasn’t until last Friday that I stepped into my Rossignals and caught the Ponderosa lift at Mt. Rose. I had a date to ski with Rose’s staff trainer Rusty Crook, but I thought I’d try it in private just in case I couldn’t make a decent turn.

It was just a beginner run with one minor steep pitch, but after a half dozen runs I had both knees working and looking for a challenge. I ran into Rusty and as usual he challenged me to ski well. So now I’m looking for some solid blues and maybe a black or two. No bumps, not yet. But for those of you considering getting a new knee, do it. Some pain, yes, but there’s also a lot of pleasure out there.

MT. ROSE SENIORS PROGRAM

For several years Rusty has been holding senior clinics in conjunction with a free continental breakfast during the week. Seniors could tie that in with inexpensive lift tickets (free for those 80 and over). But the Forest Service, which owns much of Mt. Rose’s land, ruled no more freebies for those 80s folk (the Forest Service gets a cut of all lift tickets at Rose). So now super seniors ski for $17 and all seniors of all levels can join the clinic and breakfast for $10. And that’s a real deal ” ski with last year’s Best Instructor in the West, break bread with him in the morning and do it all on the cheap. These clinics start right after the holidays.