Trading in tails for trails |

Trading in tails for trails

Alpha Omega Scenic Overook

At one time Caltrans considered it as a highway rest area but lack of water supply relegated it to scenic overlook status. This spot has great off-road parking in good weather. During storms Caltrans uses it as a staging area for their equipment and that is why it is so well-plowed.

I would not suggest parking there during stormy weather. There are restrooms onsite. If snow conditions are adequate at 5,000 feet, it is a close-to-home spot for Nordic skiing, snowshoeing and general family snow play. Snowmobiles are not permitted in the immediate area.

There is a second access with roadside parking farther east on Highway 20 beyond the traffic turn out. Caltrans graciously clears this roadside parking when possible. The rule for roadside parking is all tires off the pavement. Beware crossing Highway 20.

Nordic Skiers of Nevada County

Club meets the first Thursday of winter months at Seaman’s Lodge, Pioneer Park in Nevada City. Each meeting includes a potluck dinner, followed by a speaker on some related topic. Dinner starts 6:15 p.m., bring a dish to share plus your own plate and flatware.

The main function of the club is to organize outings. The trip ratings vary from beginner to advanced. In addition to skiers, there is a big contingent of snowshoe enthusiasts in the club. Carpooling is encouraged with a suggested fuel contribution schedule ranging from $3.00 for a trip to Alpha Omega to $15.00 for a trip to the Carson River area south of Lake Tahoe.


Snowshoes or Nordic skis can be rented for a modest sum here in town with returns the following day. Expect to pay less than $25for Nordic skis, poles and boots. Snowshoes and poles rent for less than $20 per day.

As the storms roll in off the northern Pacific and we are experiencing the shortest days of the year, finding productive places to fish can be problematic.

Yes, there are places to fish, but sometimes putting our rods aside for a bit can make fishing new again when we return.

Notice that all sports are seasonal. Would you really want football to go all 12 months of the year?

In the last few years, I have returned to cross country skiing, having dabbled in it during the time I lived in Truckee during the late 1970s. A large part of the allure of fishing is being outdoors. The maxim “Trout don’t live in ugly places” comes to mind. ­­

Cross country gets you outside in some of the most beautiful environments nature has to offer. The learning curve is moderate, the cost is modest, and we live so close to the snow that not finding a way to play there in the winter is an opportunity lost.

When I chose to get back into recreating on the snow, I looked for the local Nordic skiing club that I heard existed in the area. I just showed up at a meeting and was welcomed.

I had picked up used gear for less than $100, and what I wanted was information on places to go as well as people to go with and learn from. The Nordic Skiers of Nevada County fill that bill quite nicely.

This season we have had great snow conditions at low elevations. The closest place to get out for a couple of hours is the Alpha-Omega Scenic Overlook 17 miles above town on Highway 20.

At just over 5,000 feet of elevation, this ridge top can be barren of snow when the “Pineapple Express” storm track comes from the south. Currently, there are a couple of feet of snow on the ground and more on the way.

In the 1980s, the Nordic Club, in conjunction with the Forest Service, marked a ski/snowshoe trail east from the parking lot that extends along the ridge top toward the head waters of Steep Hollow Creek.

The ski trail is designated with blue squares nailed to the trees a dozen feet above the ground. The same trail is marked with brown plastic posts in the ground for summer hiking and bicycle users.

The trail rises gently as you head east without any major hills. This is an ideal place to go for beginners. On the weekends, you will see numerous others on the trail with snowshoes and skis. Closer to the parking area is a great snow play area for kids.

On weekdays you can have it almost to yourself. I have been up three time so far this year. It is my “get back into the sport” warm-up spot.

I am not much for exercise for its own sake. I do not do push-ups at home. I prefer exercise as incidental to other activities, such as fishing a river, rowing my boat trolling on a lake or skiing to be outside on the snow.

Once you get the rhythm of Nordic skiing, it is easier than walking. You get a bit of glide with each step, and going down a slight slope is like coasting on a bike.

I like to get my workout outdoors rather than in. It does not seem so much work this way. Given where we live, we owe it to ourselves to enjoy winter.

Denis Peirce writes a fishing column for The Union’s Outdoors section and is host of “The KNCO Fishing & Outdoor Report,” which airs 6-7 p.m. Fridays and 5-6 a.m. Saturdays on 830-AM radio. Contact him via his website at