Had enough of winter? Don't head to the beach just yet. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks still have plenty of snow for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing — about 6 feet right now in the Wuksachi Village area — but it might not last long.
About 4.5 hours from L.A., Sequoia is a perfect weekend getaway for skinny-ski types. I headed up a few weekends ago and arrived during a mini-sleet storm. Carrying chains was required, and even though the road was wet but clear, with temps in the 40s, some drivers were chaining up. This made the last few miles to Wuksachi agonizingly slow. Note to lowland warm-weather drivers: You don't need chains simply because the pavement is wet!
Wuksachi Lodge was tough to find...there was a sign somewhere, apparently buried in snow. The head-high snow lining the serpentine walkways reminded us of the climactic maze scene in "The Shining" — especially at night, when walking from room to restaurant.
A few miles south of the lodge, we snowshoed in the fog on trails near the Sherman Tree (left). Even in winter, the world's largest living tree does not disappoint. The snow was perfect snowman consistency and our snowshoes allowed us to go off-trail without sinking hip-deep in the white stuff. The usual throngs of people were lighter than in summer, but some seemed unaware that they'd entered a winter setting, judging by the number of sandaled feet we saw.
We woke the next morning to bluebird skies. Plans to cross-country ski on groomed trails at Montecito-Sequoia Lodge were dashed, however, since heavy snow closed Generals Highway just north of Wuksachi (it has since reopened). So after my partner rented skis, boots and poles at the lodge (note to average-footed male skiers: They inexplicably don't rent boots under Size 9.5), we headed instead to the Giant Forest area and skied the trail three miles (a drivable road in summer) toward Moro Rock.
Melting snow dripped from the trees like a winter rain forest. Although ungroomed, tracks from previous skiers made the going easy, it fogged up again, and by the time we got to the rock, visibility was poor to nil. Climbing the route to the rock (photo below) is discouraged in winter and pointless anyway in fog.
If you go to Sequoia for winter pursuits, do it before the snow dwindles in mid- to late April. Also, that's just about the time that construction on Generals Highway from the Foothills entrance to Lodgepole is set to begin (despite the March 8 start date listed on Sequoia's website). And bring a waterproof hat for the dripping trees.
Photos by Julie Sheer