Winter is not a time for hibernation. Not for us. Instead, it is a time to get outside and take advantage of the cold and the snow. For Las Vegans the place to do this is the Spring Mountains which are a mountain oasis jutting up like an island out of the sea of the Mojave. This island-like environment, isolated much like the Galapagos in the Pacific, creates a unique home for several species of plants and animals, such as the Palmer’s chipmunk, that can be found nowhere else except here. But more importantly, at least to me, this distinct geography means that those of us living in the valley can have the temperature soar to over 110 in the summer and in the winter drive a little over a half hour from our home and be skiing, snowboarding, sledding, or snow shoeing. This is why Debi and I had decided to spend the weekend at the Resort on Mt. Charleston.
That night we stayed at the resort and it had proven I am getting to old to party like that. When the morning came I woke up feeling as if I were in a fraternity again. That all to familiar feeling of a nasty hangover. The pounding head. The weak stomach. The desire to pull the covers over my head and spend the day sleeping it off. But we had plans to go snow shoeing that afternoon and we weren’t going to miss out on it. So after sleeping as late as we could I pulled back the curtain and coiled back like a vampire being exposed to the morning sun. After taking a few minutes to adjust to being in the world of the living again, we made our way downstairs to the hotel restaurant, A Cut Above.
Our table was next to a large window looked out onto the snow-covered mountain side. After the caffeine from the coffee started to kick in, I began to appreciate the view we had from our seats. I ordered the appropriately named Whole Mountain Skillet which did resemble a mountain of eggs, bacon, sausage, peppers and some other items I’m sure I have forgotten jumbled all together and piled over a layer of potatoes. It was way too much food for a morning after drinking, but breakfast was included in the package deal we had, and hell if I wasn’t going to get my money’s worth. After breakfast, we checked out of the resort and made the short drive to the Lee Canyon side of the mountain. As soon as we walked outside the cool mountain air started to revive me and bring me back to life. It was turning into a nice way to start a day of recovering from our excesses. When we got to the Lee Canyon side, the road was lined with parked cars. This is a great escape for locals and there were plenty of people who had the same idea as us and were taking advantage of a nice Saturday afternoon.
Debi had been snow shoeing once before, but for me I was a snow shoeing virgin. Since we were both just beginners we thought we would take one of the free hikes offered by the Park Service that are guided by a ranger. They even provided the snow shoes. They were not the kind that look likde giant tennis rackets strapped to your feet. They are modern, aluminum, light weight, and surprisingly easy to adjust to walking in.
Despite the fact it had not been a good year for snowfall, but there was still enough for hiking at the meeting site at the Bristlecone Trailhead since it is at over 8,000 feet in elevation. It didn’t take long trekking through the snow to realize this wasn’t going to be easy hung over. We both agreed that next time we would snow shoe and then party that night instead of the other way around. Another thing that quickly became apparent was how this could be very enjoyable. Despite the fact we were with a group of strangers hiking alongside an empty campground and not back country camping, it was still new and intriguing to me. In the distance there was the distinct cracking and popping of a campfire and the smell of smoke mixing with the aroma of burgers cooking over an open flame. Pushing further up the hill, we left the campground and quickly became isolated in the forest. Here the smells and sounds changed. The silence was only broken by the crunching of the snow as it packed down beneath our shoes and the puffing as we tried to catch our breath after only moderate exertion. The combination of elevation, a life time of neglecting my physical conditioning, and a lingering hangover made it difficult. We stopped to catch our breath and the only sound remaining was the cold wind blowing through the pines as the bright greens trees slowly danced back and forth in against the blue skies. The clean air and the bright sunshine turned the sky a deep blue not seen in the city. I could really get into this. With the quickly setting winter sun and the shadows growing longer, it was time for us to end our hike and head back down the hill.