Mt Lola, at 9143ft, is one of the highest peaks in the Tahoe/Truckee area. It lies just north of Castle Peak, and is ensconced by the trees and meadows of the Tahoe National Forest off Highway 89, north of Truckee. From the summit, on a clear day, one can see Freel Peak to the South, Desolation Wilderness and Snow Mountain to the SW, and Sierra Buttes and Mt Lassen to the North. While the views are spectacular, it is a relatively isolated peak- getting near it is half the adventure; hiking to the top is usually an all day excursion.
So, there we were; kicking ‘duckbill’ steps up the slope we had just skied. My intrepid mascot, Scooby, and I were enjoying the solitude of a beautiful mid-week July hike/ski on Mt Lola.
So it was with some trepidation that Scooby and I paused near the top of thesnowfield when we thought we heard voices. I often hear voices in my head whenI’m alone in the wilds, hoofing it up some peak, but they are usually the kind that say, “You’re an idiot. This is Hard. What are we doing up Here? Why are we skiing inJuly? Beer sounds nice…”
But, there they were again- voices flitting on the breeze. I paused to look around andspied two beautiful 4-point bucks, still in velvet, poking their way across the snowjust 50 meters below. “Were they talking?” I asked Scooby. He did not reply.
As I fumbled in my pocket for my camera- the deer had paused and were perfectlysilhouetted on the snowfield, I heard a distinctly human male voice say, “Hey!There’s a dude down there. And he has skis on!” I looked up and saw a guy whacking his way through the bushes. I looked back down as the deer bounded off the snowand into the trees. Pissed that I had missed a beautiful photo opportunity and evenmore upset that my solitary reverie had been shattered, I glanced back up to wherethe guy had paused, 50 meters above me. His buddy had joined him. They both wereheavily loaded down with skis on their packs. “Did you get a picture of the deer?” thefirst guy- the talker-asked. Before I could answer, especially in a civilized manner, headded incredulously, “We never see anyone with skis up here!”
“Same to you,” I mumbled.Barely pausing, he added, “We came up from over there.” He pointed north, “Agnarly four wheel drive road. And it is a steep hike to here. How’s the snow?” I looked down slope at my tracks perfectly etched into the dirty corn snow. I smiled to myself.“Good,” I told them and I started hiking again. The Talker kept talking, “Have you skied the bowl on the North side of the peak? We’re going there next. We could see it from the bottom. It looks good.”“Ok, have fun. I will ski you over there,” I said and orientated my steps that direction.I never saw them again. Nor anyone else that day.
But on the hike “over there” and back to the trailhead, I did see the most amazingdisplay of wildflowers I have seen in my Sierra tenure. Everywhere, on all aspects, in every drainage and rocky nook; carpets and pads of wildflowers – colors bursting,blooms busting, smells billowing- a feast for the senses. It was pure pleasure just toamble along and check out the flowers, Sound of Music style.
And, while the skiing was truly great- I hiked several laps in Lola Bowl of perfectlydirty and smooth corn snow- the spectacular wildflowers display on Mt Lola mademy day. Maybe even my whole summer…