the West Shore
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Sugar Pine Point State Park offers approximately 20 kilometers of cross-country trails, 10k of which are groomed. Beginners love the blue trail - it's very flat and well maintained. The red trail is a bit more challenging, climbing westward, crossing General Creek, and returning via an easy descent through Olympic Meadows. Two other trails, on the Ehrman Mansion side of Sugar Pine Point State Park, afford great lakeside skiing, but depend on skiers to break trail since there is no grooming on that side. The park provides all this for a $5.00 per car day use fee. It's the best deal around! Winter camping is also available.
For those who prefer to make their own tracks, Meeks Bay Trail, Miller Lake Trail, Blackwood Canyon and Paige Meadows await:
Blackwood Canyon is the easiest of these. It's the most accessible, being part of the California Sno-Park program. For a $3.00 day fee or $20.00 season pass (good at all sno-parks), you get a plowed parking lot right off highway 89. The trail at Blackwood Canyon is actually a snowed-over 2 lane road that ascends very gently 2.5 miles to the bridge across Blackwood Creek. This is the place to in-line skate during the summer season. From the creek, the road climbs to Barker Pass, another 4.5 miles, with a pretty rigorous climb. For many, to the bridge and back is plenty.
Meeks Bay trail is flat and easy for about 2 miles, then it becomes a steady climb to Lake Genevive, requiring both ski and map reading skills. Prior to the lake is the Desolation Wilderness boundry. For some historical background on the Meek's Bay area, check out Carol Van Etten's Magulu Watah.
Paige Meadows and Miller Lake trails are a lot easier to find by asking someone at a ski shop. There can be problems with parking, so find out about this too.
If you are of the telemark persuasion, several peaks rise above you on the West Shore:
Mt. Tallac (9,735') is the tallest, and a pretty rugged climb. From the Spring Creek tract, you can sometimes go straight up to the big snowfield by kicking steps in firm snow. Often, the longer ridge route works better. Count on 3 to 4 hours for this hill.
For Tallac and these other climbs, you should, of course, have a compass, the appropriate topo map, and the ability to use them.
The climb to Rubicon Peak (9,183') is less demanding and much shorter. The trick is finding the trailhead. Again, ask at a ski shop. This conical peak is a special place to sit atop, with grand views and an awesome drop off the east side. Figure about 2 hours to summit, if both the snow and your body are firm.
Ellis Peak (8740') is a quick one hour climb, from the top of the Quad Chair at Ski Homewood. Ski Patrol controls access and closes the route if conditions are deemed unsafe. Since a lift ticket is necessary, consider a morning climb and an afternoon enjoying well-groomed lift skiing with incredible views of Lake Tahoe.
By Tom Coolidge.