Saturday, June 5, 2010

Mud Season Distractions

Fallen Leaf Lake in front of Lake Tahoe

The time known as spring in most places in the Northern Hemisphere, is not so affectionately referred to as "mud season" in the mountains.  It is the messy in-between time, when the snow is too spotty to play on, but is still covering the trails.  Muddy trails will gradually be exposed, depending on the elevation, but the ones in the highest country (where I want to be most) will unlikely see the light of day until July.  Aside from heading down to lower elevations, there is surely still fun to be had if one is willing to brave the cold, wet weather, post-hole through snow and/or play on the pavement.  My need to be in the higher elevations allows me to tolerate and even embrace this time of year, but I realized a few years ago bumming around in my car makes it difficult to utilize this swing season.  I decided a warm place to live, a hot shower and even a job (since the weather is crappy most of the time) would allow me to take mud season for all its worth.  Alas, I have found all these things, and then some, at the Stanford Sierra Camp.

Mt. Tallac towering over Fallen Leaf Lake

The Stanford Sierra Camp and Conference Center is located ten miles outside of the city of South Lake Tahoe, California, five miles from the southern shore of the impressive Lake Tahoe.  It is perfectly tucked under the southeast towers of Mount Tallac and on the southwest shores of Fallen Leaf Lake at the end of a five-mile, single-lane road, which dead-ends at the camp.  Granite boulders, huge trees and gushing creeks dominate the landscape.  Perfection, if you ask me.  

View from camp

The Stanford-owned facility functions as a resort in the summer and a conference center in the spring and fall.  A separate staff works the conference season and the summer season.   Most of the single season jobs are as an "all purpose" staffer.  A typical schedule will include 2-5 different shifts a day.  Jobs include housekeeping, washing dishes,  working in the dining room,  cleaning, shoveling snow,  leading hikes, set-up and break down of events and doing maintenance projects.  The are 40-50 employees.   Most live on-site.  Room and board are part of the deal.  Employees also have access to everything the place has to offer, which is about everything.  They have a shitload of watercraft, a basketball court, tennis courts, sand volleyball, a beach, books, games and any equipment you could need.  And that is just the stuff to do on-site.  The mountain-tops that run straight up from the back of my cabin offer endless entertainment.  

View from my front porch

True to the its elevation, the High Sierras disappointed most this spring.  It consistently snowed every week into June.  But true to it's California reputation, it was sunny and beautiful in-between.  As planned, I was able to take full advantage despite the rather foul weather.  I started the season by exploring the area on several different snowshoe outings.  As the snow became spottier and I was constantly falling through I spent most of the time road running and road biking.  Towards the end of May I was able to get on some east-facing and low-lying trails.   And through June I was primarily running on trails and road biking.  My cross-training consisted of large doses of hula-hooping and short runs in the Vibram Five Fingers.

After one of a dozen spring storms

As I suspected, structure provided by a work schedule, a home and a hot shower make for the most advantageous situation for me this time of year.  I am pleased with the training I got in during my stint here.  I feel like I'm prepared for the trail marathon I'm doing a couple days after finishing work.  The work itself was average (but necessary and now allows me to not work for a few months).  After not working for five months before this, it started out actually being fun, but then turned to the regular grind after a few weeks.  Then a few weeks is over.  I love seasonal work.  Impermanent, just like everything else.  The perfect distraction for surviving mud season.

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