“Let's go snow wheeling they said, it will be fun they said” THEY WERE RIGHT!!!!
I live in Big Bear California, just shy of 7000 feet in elevation. We have dense forest areas, areas where the forest meets the desert and areas that just seem like the desert. But we also have snow in the winter. The amount of snow and “type” of snow we get changes with every storm. If we are lucky, we get 3 types of snow in a single storm (that was sarcasm) There is wet snow that makes you feel like you are driving in a slushee, dippin dot snow that is literally like it sounds. Tiny balls of snow that fall fast. And then there are the big fluffy flakes that land and create a pillow-like playground for those brave enough to bundle up and venture out.
A sizable storm was headed our way and a friend and I had decided that we would go snow wheeling the day after it snowed. Just as in my snowboarding days we were looking for that pow pow. I had been “snow wheeling” before but it was days after a storm that dropped very little snow. It had been driven on and packed down to where it was more like ice skating. We wanted virgin snow. To make fresh tracks. “Breaking trail” as they say. I had never done this.
We set off fairly early on a Monday morning. Crisp air, lingering clouds, and fresh snow. The goal, make tracks, explore, take some cool pictures, get video, test our new tires, don't die. We don't need to be the Donner party reincarnated. We quickly arrive in Fawnskin after a short drive around a half frozen lake and stop at the trailhead to air down. We discussed whether or not we should air down. We decided we should (you should too) We set out on the main trail, unfortunately people had been driving on it already and created some ruts. Our spirits were not dampened, we were just happy to be out there and there were still pockets and lanes of fresh snow here and there. We immediately started getting pics and video, stopping at to set up cameras and send up the drone at spots that seemed picturey #picturey #iownit #pictureyismine
I was having a blast, happy to be outside, in the snow, driving my truck. We continued down the main trail looking for a side trail that had not been touched, and was not going to be too difficult with the added snow. I had a trail in mind but after seeing tracks right off the bat on the main trail I thought for sure someone had beaten us to it. We made the turn onto a trail i have renamed “Hurl Creek'' and there it was, an untouched trail rated moderate (when there isn't snow)
The well below freezing temps overnight created a top crust on the snow. As soon as we turned onto it i could hear the crunch of my tires breaking the surface, digging down to the fresh powder underneath. We stopped to get out and take it all in. I was already having fun, I didn't think it would get better. We started off just cruising, going slow, enjoying the scenery. I noticed something, this trail is normally pretty bumpy, but this time it wasnt. The snow gave way on bumps, filled in dips and made for a much smoother ride. As we pushed on the snow got deeper, the ride got softer and i started to pick up speed. I had not gone this fast on this trail before and i felt i could go faster. So pushed it. Winding through bushes and trees leaning in on the trail due to how much My tires had no problem finding traction, whether it be from a stop, flying through turns or climbing hills. We approached the first “difficult” section. Nothing major, a twisty up hill climb that poses little threat to most vehicles when dry. But how would we do with all the snow. I charged the hill with about as much speed as i could. The tires dug, hooked up and that 4.0 flung me up the hill. I was surprised to not struggle. It was one of those scenarios where you are confirmed in the build of your vehicle. Shortly after the hill climb was a rocky, snow covered downhill section. We stopped at the top to get out and look. That was pointless lol. The snow made it so you could not really identify the terrain, but i knew what was underneath. I decided I couldn't really see a line to pick a line so I was just gonna go straight. It kind of felt like the snow made a not so difficult section even less difficult. I walked right down with the fluffy type snow providing great traction.
As we approached the end of that trail we came across a behemoth of a downed tree blocking the trail. This tree would have made Paul Bunyon put his head in his hands and sigh. “Well this is great, i don't want to have to eat you” i said to my buddy. We hiked around looking for an alternate route around the tree. After settling on a plan it was up to me to break through the snow on unknown terrain. I was nervous at first but once I started and realized I wasn't having an issue I pushed on. Going through some trees and coming out unscathed back onto the trail. We turned back onto another main trail that had been hammered with traffic and headed for the highway, going as fast as we could when ever we could.
All in all it was a great trip. Amazing experience making fresh tracks. I can't wait for some more storms to do it again, only this time I want to camp. It sounds stupid to most but I think it will be fun. We have a saying here at The Trailchasers Podcast, “snow on the ground, turn around” I dont think ill abide by that one any more. If you are prepared for what you are getting into, a good rig, good tires, warm clothes, boots, food and drinks, and have a good attitude about it, snow wheeling can be fun. Mind you it wasn't 4 feet of snow. Temps were mild for this location and time of year. If you have never been snow wheeling and live within a reasonable drive of somewhere it snows, go do it, try it. Gear up and go. I think you will like it.