Snowshoeing Sequoia

Before my close encounter with the sherminator Sunday afternoon, we were wandering around the Giant Forest museum, our first stop in the park. Stephanie asked if it was possible for us to squeeze into a ranger-led snowshoeing tour, something she’d remembered reading on the website before we left.

I figured we wouldn’t have a chance on a holiday weekend at the last minute. Come to think of it, I didn’t even know what snowshoeing was. Turns out they had room for us in the 2 o’clock tour—which started in…25 minutes! Plus there was no cost and they provided the snowshoes. Score!

So we hopped back in the car and headed a few miles down the road, when it started to rain. By the time we parked it really seemed to be drizzling heavy, so we got out with our jackets and hoods on and asked the woman standing by the car full of snowshoes if the tour was till on. She was game, (it might not be so bad under the trees I thought) so we figured, why not?

Here are our Michigan-style, beaver-tail snowshoes.
Displaying our Michigan beaver-tail snowshoes

Here we are, all suited up. Next time, gaiters (and waterproof boots).
Justin and Stephanie in snowshoes

So for the next two hours we wandered around the woods learning about the snow, the environment, animal tracks, and hibernation. We didn’t cover that much actual ground, but I did get a good feel for moving around in snowshoes, which I quite liked. Kind of brought a whole new sensation to hiking.

We were told that the snow had been light in Sequoia so far this year, apparently only 50-60% of the average, but being that the Sierra Nevadas receive the most snowfall in the US, there was still a few feet of snow on the ground.

Marble Fork of the Kaweah River in Sequoia National Park

Afterwards, we started thinking about staying in the park overnight and renting snowshoes so we could go out on our own. The sprinkling rain turned into a light dusting of snow, but the roads were still dry and the temperature was mild. We didn’t have chains (because we didn’t need them getting up to the park) but if the weather changed, we could get stuck here.

After my spiritual experience with General Sherman, we went over to the Wuksachi Lodge to see about staying the night. Managed to get a deluxe room at a standard price, made a reservation at the lodge restaurant, and went back to the room to chill. Dinner was mahi-mahi and duck and a bottle of Sauvignon blanc. Not our typical Motel 6 camping experience.

Headache the next morning! Oof. No new snow had accumulated, but the sun and sky were poking through the clouds more than we’d seen the day before. We got all packed up with snacks for later (trail mix, whole wheat saltines, and easy cheese), checked out, and rented two pairs of modern plastic and metal snowshoes.

Suited up in modern snowshoes

We’d heard good things the day before about the Tokopah Valley Trail along the Marble Fork of the Kaweah River. It ended after 1.7 miles at the Tokopah Falls, which were partially frozen over this time of year.

Tokopah Valley Trailhead at Sequoia National Park

The scenery was really beautiful, with a slowly descending high fog that partially obscured the not-so-distant mountain peaks. We started trucking along, crossing paths with only three other people (but no bears) the whole time.

Marble Fork of the Kaweah River

After about an hour and a half, snowshoeing amongst large boulders on the side of a mountain, with snow falling around us, we made it to the falls. Of course the falls just looked like water rushing between rocks and snow covered ice, but just to the right of the falls was this incredible blue ice formation, so I will show you that instead.

Blue ice formation to the right of Tokopah Falls in Sequoia National Park

After the aforementioned lunch of crackers and easy cheese, we headed back down the trail. By this point my toes were wet and cold, Stephanie’s feet were sore, but we muscled along. It was easier going down than up. By the time we made it back to the trailhead, the thick fog had completely descended, so we were quite happy to be done and out and able to change our socks.

Thick fog along the Tokopah Valley Trail at Sequoia National Park

Stephanie has some more pictures (and her version of the trip in French) here: Des raquettes?…non, pas de tennis!