Do you often wonder why your friends and family don’t love cross country skiing as you do?
More than once, my wife and I have tried to introduce the sport to friends and family, only to discover afterward, to our disappointment, that the experience was somewhat less than life-changing. In fact, when we ask them if they would like to try it again, their answer was, “Thanks, but no thanks. Once was enough.”
What went wrong?
These were not out-of-shape couch-potatoes we were taking out. One was a cross rit fanatic; another was a distance runner. Yet, they flailed and struggled with ascending and descending every small hill.
So in retrospect, I think I underestimated how difficult the sport can be for first-timers. Snow + gravity + novice = trouble. My suggestion: start them on something easier than the small hills around Spicer Reservoir Road or Lake Alpine on Highway 4. Instead, start them lower on Highway 4, on the relatively flat trail in Calavers Big Trees State Park. From the parking lot, head out on the Big Trees Parkway. In the summer, this is the road that takes hikers to the South Grove; in the winter, this is the trail for cross country skiers.
In mid-March we were blessed with a late spring snowfall that blanketed the area. Other skiers had already broken a path on the trail that morning. My wife Polly and I followed their tracks out to the marked “Overlook” that looks out over the canyon. We stopped for lunch, then turned around for the ski back. In all, the trip took around two and a half hours. Nothing epic, but it was enough to get some exercise and enjoy the beauty of the snow and the trees after a fresh snowfall.
Another winter option available at Calaveras Big Trees that does not involve donning long planks onto your feet is to try snowshoes. And though some people say nothing is free, they issue snowshoes for free at the warming hut next to the park’s visitor center. Every Saturday at 1 p.m., starting from the warming hut, there is a one-hour guided hike along the North Grove’s 1.5 mile trail.
On this day, after my wife and I returned from our short cross country ski excursion, we met up with our friends Donna and Dan, who had just finished their snowshoe trek around North Grove. We stopped inside the warming hut where a volunteer greeted us with cups of hot chocolate. We sat around the fire in the middle of the hut and shared our stories from the day.