IF THE SHOE FITS My brother Scott and I had never been snowshoeing before, so going on one of the Almanor Ranger District’s guided snowshoe walks was perfect for us beginners.
We headed up to the town of Chester, 70 miles from Chico. The directions are simple: Take Highway 32 east to the end and turn right on Highway 36 to Chester, home of the Butt Lake Dinky, a tiny 100-year-old locomotive that was recently found at the bottom of nearby Butt Lake and restored.
WALK LIKE FRANKENSTEIN After meeting our guide, Ranger Barbara Jackson, and the rest of our group at the station (20 in all, including another ranger, Lauri Smith), we caravanned about six miles to the starting point of our two-hour snowshoe walk in the Lassen National Forest.
Ranger Barbara gave us a short-but-thorough lecture on how to don and walk in snowshoes (Tip: Keep your feet farther apart than normal and walk a little like Frankenstein) before leading us over pristine snow into the silent woods along the Pacific Crest Trail, using both compass and eyeballs to follow the snow-covered trail.
DOn’t EAT THE SNOW Barbara pointed out animal footprints in the snow (we saw snowshoe hare and chickaree—or Douglas squirrel—tracks), taught us how to walk downhill (‘Dig in with your heels and lean backward"), and gave us a demonstration on what to bring in a ‘survival pack” when venturing into snowy territory for any length of time (water, waterproof matches and a super-portable ‘space blanket” are some essentials). We learned that you should not eat any snow—yellow or otherwise—when on a snow trip because it will cause dehydration when your body attempts to turn it into water.
TALK TO THE BODFISH Second time out, we’ll hit up well-known local outdoorsman Chuck “Bodfish” Elliott at Bodfish Bicycles & Quiet Mountain Sports (149 Main St. in Chester) for ideas on where to snowshoe to really get our groove on. Bodfish also rents out snowshoes.
FUEL UP Get your coffee, mocha, blackberry strudel (theirs is yummy!), etc., at Three Beans Coffee House & Bakery at 150 Main St. in Chester. It’s a cozy, friendly little place owned by recent Elk Grove ex-pats Kendall and Kirsti Fong.
THE PROPER DRESS Wear layers. Check out Gates Resale for waterproof boots and gaiters. Warm wool Army sweaters are only $5 at Mad Dog Wholesale on the Midway.
BARABARA AND CHAINS Call Barbara Jackson at 258-2141 to sign up for upcoming free snowshoe walks Feb. 17 and March 3, 17 and 31. Snowshoes are provided. As of Jan. 1, 2006 California law requires all vehicles driving into potentially snowy areas to carry chains.