For a few years now I’ve been intrigued by the Verdi Peak Trail in the North Tahoe area. It’s a featured mountain bike ride on Tahoe Basin recreational trail maps, and it climbs from ~5600 feet at Boca Reservoir to a lookout tower on Verdi Peak at 8444 feet elevation. The round-trip distance is 27 miles, and the views from the top are said to be fantastic. I think my fascination is rooted in a love to climb – whether to the high point on a trail or to the top of a tower or cathedral – and an appreciation of views, especially panoramic views, of beautiful scenery.
I decided to try hiking the lower section as kind of an exploration. I was aware that there had been several inches of spring snowfall 3 days earlier, and that it was very early in the hiking season following a phenomenal snow season. I set out to cover 8-10 miles round trip. I decided to turn around when the first of the following occurred: I’d gone ~4.5 miles or ~1:45 hours, reached the 7000 foot elevation, or encountered too much snow on the trail to continue. And I would try to find an easily identifiable landmark to use as my turnaround point. I was also acutely aware that more snow was forecast for later in the day, and I wanted to make sure I was off the trail in plenty of time.
I carried my hiking poles, though it turned out that I only used them for balance when traversing a couple of very short snow areas that covered the trail. My rule of thumb with snow on the trail is that, if I can see the trail emerge at the other side of the snow, I’ll continue. Otherwise I’m likely to get off-trail, which I generally don’t intend, so I turn around.
This trail is really like an unimproved road, rather than a single-track type of trail. The hike was technically straightforward, though I determined that I cannot drive partway up to have a higher starting point for a future hike. In any case, a couple of miles up the trail, approaching an intersection with an OHV trail, I was startled see what looked like the shell top of a pickup conversion. At first I thought the vehicle must be in a depression. And why was there a rock on top of it? I soon realized that it was just the shell top – though its purpose for being there remains a mystery.
As I continued up the trail I was passed by a couple of dirt bikes, which returned traveling downhill only a few minutes later. I soon encountered the first small snow pile crossing the trail and surmised that they had turned around there. This snow pile was only a few yards long so it was easy for me to cross and continue. It turned out that I achieved my turnaround criteria almost simultaneously, as I crested a steady climb that eased going around a curve with a distinctive rock pile at the side of the trail. (I had passed 7000 feet during this climb.) As I rounded the curve I had a great view of Verdi Peak, and shortly after that there was a long snow field covering the trail.
Shortly after I started back down there were nice views both of Stampede Reservoir and of Boca Reservoir with Northstar ski runs in the background.
I made it back to my car without incident, but shortly thereafter it started to snow lightly – about an hour and a half sooner than the weather forecast – and a reminder of how finicky mountain weather can be. On my way home I took care of a couple of errands, since the snow was light and was not sticking to the roads at all. By the time I got home there was a little accumulation on the ground, and I was struck by my neighbor’s daffodils. They seemed to be bowing their heads as if to pray for no more snow this season! Within a few hours about 6 inches of snow had fallen.