We can night hike or we can try to find the trail but we probably shouldn’t try both at the same time. That was the final reasoning when Michael and I decided to turn around after the footprints we’d been following over deepening snow disappeared. This was only my third time hiking in the snow and we’d decided to overnight at a local lake. The summer the trail is a popular, well maintained climb over a ridge to a lake with well beaten campsites. At just four miles day hikers outnumber overnighters. If that’s not enough, it’s popularity can be expressed by the fact that we’d seen 8ish people despite the three slushy bonus miles we’d had to walk to the trailhead due to fallen trees blocking the forest service road. I’d been up a fork off the same trail in the early winter (my first snow hike) and the trail had still been well defined. Given it’s popularity, I’d assumed Mason lake would be a beginner friendly introduction to winter camping even in mid March. Apparently no one had been up there for some time.
While I’d been hoping for my first snow camping experience as a chance to press the limits of my comfort before entering the Sierras this summer where rouge snowstorms can ambush hikers year round, I wound up getting a chance to practice a rare skill. The best wilderness survival skill is to not need wilderness survival skills.
I still haven’t made my mind up on hiking with umbrellas. This one got destroyed by low hanging branches. Still, my pack was heavy and it was nice to have a breeze without getting rained on.