We hiked what I call the Galena Creek Waterfall Loop. This is where you start at the Mt Rose Summit trailhead and instead of taking the Tahoe Rim Trail to the waterfall, you cut west to connect with the Relay Ridge utility road and take it a few miles up to Third Creek Pond, then catch the trail north up to the Galena Creek watershed. Then you hike down from the top of the waterfall to connect with the Tahoe Rim Trail and take that back to the car. It’s between five and six miles and I first did this hike in September.

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Ingrid gave me shoeshows for Christmas, and we brought them up with us to try them out. We figured if the snow got really deep Ingrid could wear them and I’d just power through postholing. But since it hasn’t snowed in a couple weeks, we didn’t think there would be much deep snow, we assumed it would be pretty hard from freeze/thaw cycles. Boy, we still have a lot to learn about this place.

We got a very late start because we had to deal with my mother first. I forgot to bring a map (again), so once we left the road we were sort of on our own. I had assumed that by this time there would be lots of boot and ski tracks guiding us from the road to the waterfall, but I was sure wrong about that. Fortunately, by now I have a pretty good idea of how the land lies, so we were able to make it down to the waterfall. The snow was deep and we traded the showshoes. Poor Bella had a rough time in the deep snow.

By the time we got to the waterfall, the entire east facing ridge was in shadow and I was starting to get worried, not so much about me and Ingrid as about Bella, who seemed to be getting exhausted and maybe cold. We experienced another miscalculation that slowed us down: since the waterfall trail is so popular in the summer (it’s really a mob scene on weekends), I assumed there would be an easy to follow trail back to the car through the snow, but we found only a few sets of boot tracks around the waterfall. So routefinding back to the main trail was tricky and it was very slow and miserable going (since we had only one set of snowshoes between us). Of course, we did find our way before too long and Bella, bless her, seemed to get a second wind.

We got back to the car 30 minutes before it got dark. Fumbling through the snow in the dark really would have sucked.

Lessons learned:

  • Get an early start.
  • Carry a map.
  • Always carry snowshoes, no matter how good the trail is near the trailhead.
  • While the showshoes were about right for me, they were too big for Ingrid, so she needs to get smaller ones.

My feet got a little damp and were numb by the time we got to the waterfall, but other than that I felt fine in a thin polypropylene undershirt, wool shirt, polypropylene long underwear and jeans, plus two pairs of wool socks. I wore glove liners for most of the hike. Ingrid was comfortable too. I carry warm clothing and accessories, and would have been fine (though not happy) if I had to spend the night out there.

Bella was probably okay as long as she kept moving, but we could tell her feet hurt by the middle of the hike. We carry dog booties, but deploy them only in emergencies, especially in the snow, since I think they would keep her feet damp and cold. We also carry a sweater and a sort of insulated windbreaker for her, but again she probably doesn’t need anything in these kinds of temperatures as long as she’s moving and there’s no significant wind. I’m not sure she would have survived a night on the mountain without shelter.

Once we were home and snug we forgot about how miserable much of the hike was and we agreed it was a fine winter adventure.