Round lake is located about 3 miles from the Big Meadow trailhead on highway 89 (South of Lake Tahoe). I have visited this lake many times but the hike seems to get better every time. My friend Leo and I took off on this trip knowing that we were going to encounter some snow... of course we didn't expect quite as much as we received. You can see from this first picture there wasn't much snow on the ground... yet.
The trail actually starts on the other side of the highway, make sure you watch for traffic (you can't move that fast with a heavy pack on). The trail starts out pretty steep but it eventually levels off and after about a half mile you reach Big Meadow. It really is a neat meadow with a stream winding its way through one corner of it. It was towards the end of the meadow that the wind picked up and it started to snow quite hard. This picture was taken at the very beginning of the meadow.
Trail conditions were changing rather fast. There were only a few inches of snow on the ground at this section of trail but the breaks in the snow seemed to be getting shorter.
Once we got the tent set up we knew that we had better get ready for some serious winter conditions. As you can see from the trees in this picture the wind had really picked up now and was making the snow stick on the windward side of the trees. This picture was actually taken from a hastily made cooking shelter so we could at least eat out of the wind.
That night we were snowed on like mad. We had to clear the snow off the tent a few times that evening and by morning we decided it would be best to try to get out before things got any worse. We both knew it was going to be a long hike across some fresh powder without snowshoes. This is a picture of Leo with snow not quite to his knees yet. During the worst stretches it was only slightly above knee height. The tricky part was the navigation aspect. It was snowing nearly horizontal through the open sections because of the fierce winds so looking for trail blazes was not really an option because of the limited visibility. We took this opportunity to brush up on our map and compass skills and navigate back to my truck.
When we got to Big Meadow I just had to take a picture of Leo with the meadow in the background. It is amazing how much a couple feet of snow changes the way things look. Luckily we were able to calculate what bearing we should use to cross the meadow. The only tricky part was when we reached the stream that crosses the far corner. Luckily we found it before we were in it. I was hoping to find the bridge and cross the stream on that but the bridge was difficult to locate because of the snow. Crossing streams is always a little tricky in snow but we were able to cross without any problems.
After making it across the meadow we were left with only a short scramble to the trailhead. Except for some traction problems toward the very last stretch it went surprisingly well. This picture is of Leo rejoicing in our excellent orienteering skills. I guess we weren't as rusty as we thought we were. Of course there was one more adventure left for us...
Digging out the truck!