November 16 2002 Sierra Trip
(Friday, November 15 - Sunday, November 17)
Sarah and I left the Bay Area early on Friday to beat the awful getaway
traffic. We made good time, getting to Tracy and I decided to take Hwy
120/108 through Sonora and Columbia rather than the more direct route of Hwy
4. We wound up bypassing Sonora on a pretty back road, then stopped in
Columbia to get some incense and candles at their excellent bath & candle
store. We arrived at the cabin and had a mellow evening.
We hit the road mid-morning on Saturday and drove up the pass to Bear Valley,
where I bought a season sno-park permit, then continued to the seasonal road
closure and had a great hike to
Inspiration Point, which, having snow, was much prettier than last time I was there.
On Sunday we slept in, closed up the cabin, and headed west. Our plan was to
go to Jackson, then drive out to the Black Chasm, a cave that I'd somehow
managed to miss in the 20 years my family's had a cabin in the area. We took
the very scenic route through Sheep Ranch and Mountain Ranch (both very little
mountain communities) to San Andreas, then followed Highway 49 to old-town
Jackson. We had a terrific lunch at the "Streetside Bistro and Upstairs
Restaurant," browsed some of the botiquey stores, then headed east on Highway
88 towards the Black Chasm.
We arrived at the Black Chasm just before a tour left. It was a very, very
cool cave, with large and crazy helictite formations, far more than I've seen
anywhere else. I learned that the reason I'd not heard of it before is that
it only opened in September of 2000, and they're going to be working on
extending the walking tour down to the bottom of the main cavern where one
will be able to see the beautiful underground lake close-up.
After the cave tour, we drove through the quaint little town of Volcano, then
rejoined Highway 88 and continued east, as I wanted to see Silver Lake with
snow around it. As expected, it was gorgeous at Silver Lake, and we spent a little
while soaking up the great views. We continued further still, past Kirkwood,
to Caples Lake, which was also very pretty. At this point, it was a coin flip
as to whether or not it was faster to return to the Bay Area via Highway 88 or
to continue to South Tahoe and return via Highway 50. I opted for the latter,
and so ended our trip.