March 11, 1998
March 11, dawned clear and bright. It looked like the perfect day to try again to reach Castle Lake for some snowshoeing. It hadn't snowed in a couple weeks and the daytime temps had been in the forties for several days. Surely the road was open by now. It was open to within about a mile of the lake; beyond that point they were still carving away at the snow walls.
As it turned out this was fine because at the point where the road was closed the terrain on either side was as open as Bunny Flat and perfect for snowshoeing. Three other cars were already parked there. The snow walls here were a mere 10 feet. We kicked our way up a steep ramp that had been gouged out of the east wall. The view that you couldn't see from down in the snow canyon was a knockout -- the full panarama of Mount Shasta, Black Butte and the town in the valley.
After savoring the view and snapping a few photos we strapped on the shoes and started off across the open snow toward the timber about a block away.
Click here for photo of Jennie (follow the tracks) and panarama
It was so warm that before many steps we came out of our jackets. We plodded along over the untracked snow enjoying the sun and incredible view. As we neared the edge of the woods we came across a line of animal tracks. They were big, but not big enough for bear tracks. They were not dog (no claw marks) or deer tracks. Certainly there were no ski tracks beside them. They came from the tree line above us and descended toward the creek we could hear splashing in the woods below us. They looked just like the, ahem, mountain lion prints we'd seen the cast of at the lecture. We had planned to shoe down to the creek. The unanimous vote was to change our plans and keep to the center of the open area. We moved briskly away at right angles to the line of tracks and from then on kept a close eye on the tree line.
It was only after we were about 50 yards distant from the tracks that it occurred to me that I should have made a photographic record of the paw prints. I wasn't about to go back and do so even though I thought how great it would be to have such proof of what we'd seen. After putting about a hundred yards between us and the tracks we relaxed and savoured the scene and sun. Just then something emerged from the tree line. For a split second we froze, then realized it was a pair of cross country skiers. We not only felt a little silly for our half second of fear, but also for having on sweaters -- the female half of the pair was wearing only jeans and a tank top.
We spent about an hour more traversing this beautiful rolling area, before heading back to the road. When we reached the road trench and unstrapped the snow shoes, we didn't want to leave. We sat on the edge of the snow wall and gazed out across broad expanse of snow and the deep valley at the big white mountian. As we watched, the puffy clouds that had been slowly assembling during the time we'd been there, gradually gathered around the summit until it finally disappeared. That seemed to be our sign to depart and we slid down the snow ramp to the road and drove back to the man made world.