Just two weeks ago we were skiing out on Van Norden after what looks like the last significant snow storm of the winter. This week spring has sprung and the lake is clear of ice and ready to kayak. This has not happened in March in all the 30 years that we have been coming to the summit. I would highly recommend that if you’ve never kayaked this lake, that you get out soon and do a paddle. Not only will the melt water be gone very early this year, but if the Truckee Donner Land Trust goes ahead and drains the lake, this will be the last year that there is a Lake Van Norden. If you haven’t paddled out into the middle of the lake and just taken in the spectacular surrounding summit peaks, you have really missed a special treat.
We expect that the summer schedule is going to be about a month and half early this year. That will probably mean that the water will stop flowing down the Yuba at the end of June rather than the end of July. No telling what the wild flowers will be doing out in the Summit Valley. This year is going to be a new adventure. We wouldn’t be surprised if the Camas Lilies bloom and are gone by the middle of May.
Here is a little peek (pun intended) of our first kayak trip out on the lake this week. This should give you an idea of what to expect if you venture out there.
This picture of Van Norden Meadow may look like it was taken during the spring melt, but it was actually taken the day before this post. Where you would expect to see 6-8 ft of snow blanketing the meadow, only small patches of the white stuff can be found. This is a dramatic example of just how dry this winter has been. Ski resorts are closed, ski races cancelled and winter events are taking in place in shorts weather. While we still have March and April left, this weeks picture suggests a very dry summer for the Summit this year. Of course the “white” knuckle question is whether this drought will eventually break in the next year or two or is the new winter due to climate change. Only time will tell.
The winter started out pretty well on the Summit this year and for a while it looked like winter was going to return to its snowy ways. Unfortunately, after the storms just before Christmas, the dreaded Pacific high pressure moved in to make January one of the driest on record. Then the rains came in February and there was so much water flowing that Royal Gorge had to close down for almost two weeks.
What is a skier to do when you are having a lemon of a winter? Make lemonade of course. With that in mind we looked on the bright side of the closure of Royal Gorge as an opportunity to get out with the whole family and do a little back country ski up to one of our favorite overlooks in the Donner Summit area, Palisade Overlook. Thanks to a couple of inches of snow that fell at the end of the rain storm, there was enough coverage to get out the back country skies and head up the Palisade hill. Anyone that has been up there knows that it really is quite a hill, but the view at the top certainly makes it worth the climb. The snow was actually perfect with the warm weather softening it up enough to give good grip for climbing.
Between the sunny weather and the good snow we had a great ski, and the scenery did not disappoint.