The smoke we were inundated with last week emanating from the King Fire is no longer an issue. The steady, very welcome, rains that fell over the weekend have cleared the air and moistened the ground. We even received a nice thin layer of snow on the mountain above the top of the Roundhouse Chair. I noted a number of locals wearing down jackets over the weekend, which made my feet itch to be inside a ski boot. Of course the sun came back out and the air has warmed bringing my mind back to fall. Bike and hiking trails should be in great condition after the weekend rains.
Yesterday, we ventured out to the top of old Highway 40 (Donner Summit) and hiked the Mt. Judah Loop Trail. This trail begins at the Pacific Crest Trail Head just west of the summit of Hwy. 40. The first section of the hike is over rather rocky granite switchbacks that include a number of granite stair steps. Later the trail smooths out and winds south through beautiful stands of fir and pine trees. The total hike is about 5.5 miles in length and climbs 1,700 feet to the top of Mt. Judah. We remained on the PCT until the trail to Mt. Judah turns off to the left.
This is a point just before you would have arrived at Roller Pass, the point where emigrants struggled to push their wagon over the Sierra before heading down to a fertile valley far to the west. I have often stood in Roller Pass trying to envision cresting the Sierra with my wagon, that I have struggled to get to this point from the mid-west portion of our country. We just do not know how easy we have it these days when traveling to and from Lake Tahoe in a few hours. Imagine having to push your car up and over granite boulders to get to Alpine Meadows. Of course, you would not have had to work quite as hard to get to Sugar Bowl.
Once you turn off the Pacific Crest Trail that heads on toward Squaw Valley and parts south, the vegetation changes from forest to open scree slopes with volcanic rock formations sticking up into the sky. We walked along the open ridge enjoying a cool breeze and fantastic views in all directions. The sky was clear allowing us views far out into the distance. We passed signs indicating the boundary of Sugar Bowl to the east of the ridge, and looked down some rather short, but steep, slopes that are accessible with a short hike from the top of the Judah Chair. The trail drops to a saddle at the base of Donner Peak and then heads west to rejoin the PCT after which we retraced out steps to the Trail Head. We were not rushing along the trail, but stopping to enjoy the view and take some photos which stretched the hike to just under 3 hours.
I would suggest getting out and taking this walk soon to make sure you have the opportunity to soak up the intense fall colors before winter arrives. By the way, there are a couple of small fixer uppers on the market in Alpine Meadows for anyone looking for a contractors special. These are creek frontage properties in the low $400,000 price range.
Enjoy your day.