Snowy snowshoe in Ward Creek State Park

By Tim Hauserman

When the snow was coming in strong and driving didn’t seem like a smart move this past Sunday, we opted to stay close to home and head for a snowshoe into Ward Creek State Park. The undeveloped park is just about a half mile from Sunnyside Lodge, and makes an excellent place to spend an hour tromping across the snow.

 In the summer, Ward Creek Park’s short and easy network of trails are popular with dog walkers and those looking for a place for a short leg stretch. Mountain bikers also use the park as a quick unwind or a starting point for the grueling climb up to Stanford Rock. In the spring, the boardwalk area provides a showcase of wildflowers in the meadow. Once the deep snows of winter arrive, however, the trails disappear and the gentle slopes become a quiet and peaceful place to explore via snowshoe.

We began our trip from the snowy parking lot of Tahoe Lake School, which is temporarily located at the Rideout Center next to the park. You should steer clear of the school when it is in session, but on a snow day or weekend it would work fine.

As we tromped our way through deep snow we discovered three highlights to this snowshoe:

While I’ve always loved the huge trees that call the park home, in the winter they become even more beautiful. We found enormous incense cedars, sugar pines and Jeffrey pines all covered in thick coatings of white. When all the brush and smaller plants lie buried under the snow, it is the trees that come into full glory. It’s always astounding to think that these trees have been growing here for hundreds of years.

At the edge of the park lies Ward Creek, which quietly flowed under hefty bridges of snow. Small trees, covered in wispy white looked like grandma’s white lace on the edge of the stream.  And then the best part of all was the quiet. There is nothing quite as quiet as a Sierra forest in a big snow storm. The thick blanket of snow insulates the ground, and there was no one else crazy enough to be out wandering around in the woods on this snowy day making noise. The only sound was the soft plodding of our shoes through the powder.