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Stories from the valley

The Trail Less Traveled

Contributed by Carl Gwyn

Spring is upon us, with the views of green hills and beautiful wildflowers bringing a welcome relief from the winter months. However, spring is the best time for trekking into the isolation of the remaining snowfields while the longer days and warmer weather make for spectacular experiences for both cross-country skiers and snowshoers.

A common destination for such trips is Carson Pass. With an elevation of 8,632 feet and 15 to 20 feet of snow on the ground, there are many opportunities for snow-based outings. Most visitors park at the Carson Pass Sno-Park and head up to Lake Winnemucca (a delightful trek I’ll be highlighting in an upcoming post). For those willing to take the less travelled route to nearby Meiss Meadows, a wonderful experience awaits you.

The trailhead is located at the Meiss Meadows Sno-Park, number eight on the linked map, which is about a quarter of a mile west of the Carson Pass Sno-Park on Highway 88. Look for tracks leading from the parking area. If there are none, head north, maintaining about the same elevation as you round the mountainside.

Look for the col (the notch in the ridge above you), where you will head. Expect some gentle climbing until you reach the saddle, at an elevation of 8,800 feet, where you will enjoy magnificent views of Elephants Back, Round Top, and The Sisters. Looking north, you can see Meiss Meadow and Lake Tahoe in the distance.

Continue down into the valley, where a huge meadow will open before you. During your trek across the meadow, you’ll come to the historic Meiss family cabin and barn, completed in 1880 and used by the Meiss family for their summer residence as they oversaw the high-pasture grazing of their cattle. The tops of the cabin and barn are still visible above the 12 to 15 feet of snow in the meadow.

At this point, you’ll have come about 3.5 miles from the trailhead and can decide to go on to Showers Lake (another 2 miles), explore that area of the meadow, or to head back. The return trip offers many opportunities for cross-country skiers to execute downhill turns on the large open areas.

A future trip could include a climb to the top of Red Lakes Peak, yielding a commanding view of the area. This would be a wonderful area to explore, with lots of offerings for all levels of adventurers, and is an area often overlooked by visitors.