Leo and I decided to get in a snow trip to the Loch Leven Lakes Area. The forecast was significant snow all day, so we decided to pick this spot since it is right off of a major highway . We knew the roads would be open even if conditions got pretty bad. You do not need a permit to camp but you do need a fire permit so get one at the ranger station at the Big Bend Visitor Center located just west of the trailhead. I know a fire permit in the snow... I don't make the rules, just follow them. I am sure that you will not see a ranger and even if some ranger decided to come see your snow kitchen he wouldn't ask for a fire permit. The trailhead is located off the Big Bend exit from Interstate 80. When we got to the trailhead there was already quite a bit of snow falling. This can be a busy trailhead so get there early or you are going to have to park down the road. There is also a small amount of parking at the ranger station. If you go in the summer I hear the weekends are crowded up at the lakes. I went during the week and it was nice. See this trip. In the winter we usually just hike in a little ways and spend time playing in the snow (building kitchens, caves, sledding, etc). See map below for approximate location and summer trail.
We took a meandering route to get to where we wanted to go. The beauty of hiking in the snow is you can take any route you want without the worries about wrecking whatever might lie beneath. There is a stream that runs through here so look at a map and get some idea of where that could be before you go. In some sections it can be difficult to cross depending on the weather conditions. This shot shows the sun was trying to come out.
Here is a shot of Leo on the way in. There are a few steep sections to traverse before you get to the railroad tracks. Be very careful if you are venturing over the tracks. Snow is an excellent insulator and that means it absorbs the sound of trains coming down the hill very fast. It is not as simple as looking both ways in the snow.
This is a tree near where we set up camp. The snow level was not as high as we had hoped. As I write this am sure the snow level is much higher now.
Here is my tent all set up. You can see our snowshoes in the foreground. Usually you can take off the snowshoes around camp. I leave my pack and snow shoes on until I compact the site that the tent is going to lie on, and then let the compacted snow settle a bit. After lying out the tent I guy out the rainfly using deadmen. Bamboo sticks (that I bring) and short lengths of parachute cord (cut at home). In this way you can dig out the snow place the bamboo stick with the cord looped around it once, bury the stick and tie it off to the tent. It sounds complicated but it is easy after the first one. The trick is to place the bamboo perpendicular to the thing you are guying out and have enough cord to reach that spot. If done right the next morning you can untie the cord from the tent and pull on either of the now loose ends to get your cord back (leaving the bamboo under the snow). If you want to retrieve your bamboo you can, but have a shovel and be ready to dig through frozen snow.
Here is another "dead tree" picture as my wife calls them. Ok so I like trees that don't always have leaves.
With it snowing on us we decided to throw a tarp up over our snow kitchen. This is a view from the inside of the kitchen. Our tarp did pretty good.
It was pretty cold that night and the next morning things were nice and clear.
Here is another shot on the way out.
This is the car when we reached it. You can tell how cold it still was from this shot, these icicles were not melting either.