Sunday, May 13, 2012

There's corn in them thar hills!

Just got back from Mt. Shasta, CA, where the corn skiing is off the hook and significantly better than what we have going on here. Note to out-of-towners: Keep driving.

That said, it's tough to beat a 15-minute drive and two hours of skinning to get to the goods. Since I'm here, I'll ski it, right?

The road is completely open all the way to the end. The snow doesn't get started until a few hundred yards above road's end, and I didn't put skins on until I'd been hiking for a half hour or so. Of course, I started spotting snowmobiler spoor pretty early on.

Q: What's the difference between snowmobilers and BC skiers? 

A: Snowmobilers drink Bud Light and toss their empties on the ground wherever they happen to be at the time. Skiers drink real beer back at the bar and pick up after snowmobilers.

Found a shop rag, too.  But I digress.

I didn't really have a destination in mind when I started, and opted to ski an east aspect line (Snowflake) since I hadn't hit that line yet this year and since it wasn't going to be around long. It became apparent pretty early on that I was going to be playing connect-the-dots looking for skiable snow.

It was an absolutely gorgeous day.

I got to the ridge at about 8:30 AM, which was perfect. The snow softened up enough for me to feel secure with the skins and ski crampons on the up, but not so much that it wasn't excellent skiing.

Snow Lake Peak

If you're planning on skiing Thomas, plan on packing your skis for a while.
There's still plenty of skiing up high, if you're willing to hike for it.
The turns were pretty darned excellent while they lasted. Unfortunately, if a line went through I didn't find it, and I ended up picking my way down through rock bands and moats. All part of the day's adventure!

The day, unfortunately, ended poorly. I was following snow patches and rocks back to my car when I stumbled upon the place where the snowmobilers have been tearing up the willows to access the snow from their trailers.

Not only have they killed a bunch of plants, but they've created an erosion path that is going to turn into a trench without some serious rehabilitation from the Forest Service or some other non-existent group.  The snowmelt has already started the erosion process. Water is running pretty much constantly down this new snowmobile-created "path."  Of course, nobody's going to do anything about it, so we'll be stuck with the scar.  It'll get worse and worse as time goes on and the water up there does its work.  It's just a matter of time before some jerk on an ATV gives it a go.  It's a "trail", right?

And now I'm going to rant for a while.

It just blows my mind that the USFS could use taxpayer money to pay for some fat jerk "Law Enforcement Officer" all winter long to bust people for driving past a closure sign on a snow-covered paved road. Most of the people he busted were doing nothing more than following HIS tracks - that's right, he continually drove his truck past the road closure, leaving big trench tracks that made the skiing and snowmobiling both difficult and more dangerous. When people followed his tracks up there - oops! BUSTED! That'll be a nice fat fine, thank you very much.  I know one long-time local who got a ticket for driving on dry pavement.

Where is the LEO and the USFS when these people are up here doing this kind of resource damage? This clearly wasn't one guy one time. This damage was done by numerous people driving repeatedly over the same place, destroying the same set of willows, over a matter of weeks.

And, where is the outrage? There is this BS mindset here in Elko County that every single inch of ground can be and should be torn up by motorized users.  Our County Commissioners (TM) have spent thousands of taxpayer dollars on staff time, public meetings and travel to ensure residents' rights to do exactly this - drive offroad - just in places that aren't so readily apparent to the public.  I'm confident they'll express "outrage" over this, find some way to blame the Forest Service, and deny that anything like this is happening anywhere else in Elko County.

I understand - clearly - that it's a small minority of people causing 90% of the problems, but I see absolutely NOTHING from the motorized user crowd about stopping this kind of thing, about prosecuting the people responsible for this kind of vandalism. All I hear is a bunch of mindless screaming about the USFS' efforts to close a few erosional and duplicative roads and to stop offroad travel.

It's enough to make a person sick.

Rant over. I wish somebody else around here cared enough to be mad, too.