Etymology Story


Matthew and I awoke in our motel room shortly after 6a. Well, actually I woke up and in a cheerful yet annoying way announced, "Rise and shine! It's a beautiful day!" Mostly Matthew just groaned and wished I'd go away. It really was a nice day (to my surprise), as I looked out the window and discovered the overcast skies from the day before had disappeared, nothing but blue sky over the city of Reno. We ate cold cereal with milk in the hotel room, then packed everything in the Accord and headed back to California. Our destination was Mt. Lola, round 2 in this season's quest to bag this SPS peak and Nevada County (that's Nevada County in California - I know, confusing) Highpoint. Our last outing found us ill-prepared route-wise, four miles off-route, then cold, biting winds that froze us to the bone and wore out our exhausted bodies as we got within a mile and a half of the summit. It had been a lot of work breaking trail through a lot of fresh snow.

This time we had several factors working in our favor. We knew the shortest route to the summit, the weather was better, the snow more consolidated, and our route up would likely be snow-mobile packed. We got to the Little Truckee River OSV (that's Off-Snow Vehicles, Forest Service code for snowmobiles) staging area off SR89 shortly before 8a, about an hour after our planned start (we were a bit more tired the previous night than we had expected to be). The cloudless sky had all but disappeared, the weather being far more unsettled over the Sierra than it had been over Reno. With our snowshoes strapped to our packs, we headed out. The area around the Little Truckee River has many miles of groomed roads for snowmobiles, and many hundreds of square miles of ungroomed areas for them to roam around in. Aside from the small private inholdings, there are almost no restrictions on where these vehicles can go. If one knows that going in, it becomes a far more enjoyable experience. Rather than loathing the loss of a serene wilderness experience, one can take solice in the fact that the snowmobiles actually provide nice tracks to make good time on whether on foot, snowshoes, or skis. For the first hour we hiked along the well-packed roads, we heard none of the machines - it was still too early for most of them. It was fortuitous that we had been this way the last time, otherwise it would not have been obvious from the topo map to know which way to turn. Our route was up Cold Stream Canyon, what we believed to be the shortest route to Mt. Lola, but there are a variety of minor roads and trails along the south side of the Little Truckee River. We began climbing the south side of the river valley, following what seemed to be the most-tracked route used by the snowmobiles. Of course the snowmobiles aren't all as determined as we were to head in a particular direction, and there is a bit of trail confusion as the tracks converge and diverge at their whim. We followed in our intended direction until we were left with a single snowmobile track, which alas, also gave out as the driver did an eye-loop and returned the way he'd come. We'd either followed the wrong track up, or we were the first to (attempt to) reach Cold Stream Canyon via this route. I didn't believe the latter, but I didn't want to return a half mile or so to try a different track. We could see around the corner into Cold Stream Canyon, so we knew we were on the right route, or at least on the right hillside. We struck off on our own.

This turned out to be some of the toughest going all day. Making fresh tracks in heavy snow on a north-facing slope was tough. As we forged ahead I kept my eye out looking uphill, downhill, and in front of us for any additional signs of tracks. We were in forest, and had been for the last couple miles. It was thick enough to make it tough to see more than about 100ft ahead, but not too thick to make it a bushwhack. Countless folds in the hillside looked like roads above us, and it always seemed like we were on the brink of finding the magic road. Finally after about 20 minutes we did stumble upon the well-tracked trail, just where it should have been, and we were glad of it. Snowmobiles were our friends.

We hiked into Cold Stream Meadow where we took a break. A group of three snowmobiles came in shortly thereafter, we exchanged waves as they drove by. Instead of continuing up the canyon bottom, they took off up the east-facing side of the canyon towards Mt. Lola North. The first guy was pretty good (or his machine was anyway) and he pretty much shot straight up the steep slope. His two friends tried to do similarly, but ran out of nerve or juice and had to loop down before they stalled their machines. The second guy then took a more circuitous route up that didn't require such a steep angle. The third guy tried the straight up move another half dozen times before giving up and going the route of the second. After a few more minutes they were out of sight and sound and we were left with the meadow to ourselves again. It was only 10:45a, and we were making good time. The weather seemed to be holding out well for us. The sun even broke out for a while in the meadow with a good deal of blue sky. But that didn't last long. I was feeling confident enough that reaching Mt. Lola was a forgone conclusion, and I considered it might make it more interesting to take an alternative route for the return, possibly via Independence Lake. If we were going to climb Mt. Lola North in addition to Mt. Lola, it made sense then to do it first. So I suggested we follow the route of the snowmobiles, to which Matthew readily agreed.

It took another hour to climb the 1,000ft and go the mile and a half from the meadow to Mt. Lola North. Another group of three snowmobiles were returning from Mt. Lola and stopped a short ways off to enjoy the view overlooking Perazzo Meadows and the Little Truckee River basin below, Sierra Valley further to the north. We looked around for the coffee can purported to contain a register on the summit but found nothing amongst the rocks and snow. We could see the summit of Mt. Lola a little more than a mile to the south (it was actually a bit beyond that we were to find), a view we didn't have on our first climb of Mt. Lola North. It was a little windy on the ridge today, but nothing like the gale we fought (and lost) on our first visit. We continued upwards. Looking west and northwest we could make out English Mtn and the very impressive-looking Sierra Buttes, two other SPS-listed peaks. To the southeast we had a fine view of Lola's East Ridge which we hoped to return via, and far in the distance we could just make out a tiny bit of Lake Tahoe. This might be the furthest point north from which the lake's water is visible.

It was an easy walk today along the ridge to the summit of Mt. Lola, and shortly after noon we were on the summit. The top afforded a great view of yesterday's adventure to Castle and Basin Peaks to the south, Boca Reservoir far to the east, and many, many snow-capped peaks in all directions. Mt. Lola is the last Sierra peak to the north over 9,000ft, all else in that direction lying below it. It is said that on a clear day one can see to Mt. Lassen, but that would not be today. We were not not alone at the summit. In the ten minutes between my arrival and Matthew catching up to join me, four snowmobiles came to the top to take in the view. Another three came up a few minutes after Matthew's arrival. All trails lead to Mt. Lola we were finding - this is one popular summit for the OSV crowd. We chatted with the first arriving party briefly, had another futile look-around for a summit register, then headed down the East Ridge. This route had also been used by snowmobiles and was no more of a challenge than our ascent route, but it was nice to take in some different scenery. We continued east down to a saddle then up to a ridge overlooking Independence Lake on its northwest side. The lake was completely frozen over and we could see tracks running across it in the long direction - it would have been little trouble for us to go down that way (ok, maybe not that easy - it was 1700ft down some pretty steep, untracked slopes). Instead we decided to stay on the ridge for better views, and attempted to follow it back as it curved to the north. The packed trail we followed grew thinner as we stayed along the ridge, more and more of the snowmobile tracks peeling off to the gentler slopes going down the east side. We too, gave up the ridge shortly after the last tracks disappeared atop, and followed some down the east slopes in a northeasterly direction.

We intended to hook up with the route we had taken on our way up at the point just before entering Cold Stream Canyon, but we never quite reached that point. We made the best use we could of the existing tracks, but snowmobiles don't necessarily take the shortest path or seek to minimize elevation gain/loss. So it's a bit of a guessing game following the tracks as they converge and diverge and many places, trying to follow tracks that seem to head in a definite direction with a purpose rather than those laid down by joyriders. We went on for a couple of hours not exactly sure where we were, but knew we were haeded more or less in the proper direction by the shadows from the late afternoon sun (any heading between north and east would get us back to a known point). Mostly we followed an easterly tack, and eventually we made our way out to the main road between the Little Truckee River and Independence Lake. A virtual highway on snow, the road was groomed and packed sufficiently to allow us to take off our snowshoes and hoof it back in our boots. We hadn't seen any more machines since we'd left the summit, and it wasn't until we'd crossed the river and were two miles from the trailhead that we saw another one. There was a small procession of vehicles returning as we made the last mile, but for the most part it was the summit where we saw the most. Even on a Saturday of a holiday weekend, there really weren't that many snowmobiles to disturb us. We finished up at 4:45p with plenty of remaining daylight left. What a contrast to the first effort - it sure makes a difference when you know where you're going and the weather is more cooperative!

We changed out of our sopping wet shoes and socks, put on some dry footwear and drove back off to Reno. In contrast to the previous night, we had a devil of a time finding a room. It appeared that Reno was the Valentine's destination of choice for just about everyone. We tried about 10 places, but the best we could do was find a dump willing to rent us a room for $159 for the night. We decided camping wasn't so bad. We used one of the casino restrooms to "freshen up" which involved a towel bath in the handicap stall and a nice face wash in the sink. Not as good as a hot shower, but it was a great improvement over our previous state. We ate dinner in town before driving out to the outskirts where we found a dirt lot off a sparsely populated road. Though windy at times, it didn't get down to freezing at night, so we slept fairly comfortably. This made two successful outings in a row, unusual for Matthew and I of late. Tomorrow we would try for another success in an attempt to Tinker Knob. In the meantime, I had little trouble winding down in my warm bag and drifting off to sleep, the stars and clouds intermingling high overhead, keeping us guessing as to what weather we might see come morning.


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