By: Tim Mena •

We set off on foot from Boreal ridge headed north to Round Valley.  Our destination was the Peter Grubb hut - one of five back country huts maintained by the Sierra Club. It was a perfect California mountain bluebird day. We followed the ever elusive blue metal trail maker tags high in the tress. It was a low snow season so the tags were a good 7 feet higher than expected. Soon we lost sight of the trail markers and followed the recognizable features on the topo map along a few GPS waypoints.

There was a stillness in the woods that only a calm winter day could bring. This was soon interrupted by a jovial bounding coon headed straight for us. Close behind was her telemarking owner. Nelly (the hound) gave us the once over and quickly moved on to more rewarding scents. 

As we approached the top of Castle ridge we were greeted with gale force gusts and pelted with shrapnel of ice and and blown snow. We retreated down the ridge into Round Valley toward the hut.

We finally spotted the granite and cedar shingle clad hut. In normal snow fall years visitors would enter through the loft at the snow level, but with the California drought we had to climb the ladder up to the entrance. The hut was empty, except for the fragrant smell of cedar being baked in the high sierra sun. There was evidence of two other visitors - overnight packs and sleeping bags strewn about.

Later that night our cabin mates returned from their day of back country skiing.

We melted snow together, ate our dehydrated food pouches, and stoked the fire while sharing stories of Snowshoe Thompson, a local legend. A Paul Bunyan of the Sierras, Thompson was a mail carrier in the mid 1800's who was known to carry 80lb loads while skiing over the mountains. For 20 winters he skied on his heavy handmade  oak skies saving lives along the way, while only carrying a loaf of bread and a wool coat. I imagine him being equal parts Paul Bunyan, John Muir and Hugh Glass.

These tales made us all feel like a bunch of snow sissies, cloaked in down, drinking from titanium mugs, and eating pasta primavera with a spork. 

As dawn came we packed up and headed to the top of Castle peak. With a view of the Tahoe basin and the northern Sierra Nevadas our only company was the howling wind and a few contrails.

Thanks again California for being so hospitable.