Winter’s snow is disrupting this Sierra Nevada summer

Winter’s snow is disrupting this Sierra Nevada summer

ven when snowbound and inaccessible to vehicles, the rustic Tioga Pass Resort on the crest of the Sierra Nevada range offered homemade pie, a wood-burning stove and plump sofas to relax on after a day of backcountry skiing.

But the winter of 2017 was more than the log cabin lodge, just two miles east of Yosemite National Park, could bear.

Trails, roads and campgrounds throughout the Sierra high country were hit hard by snow and runoff from one of the largest snowpacks in recorded history, leaving public agencies scrambling and summer visitors feeling lost. At Tioga Pass Lodge, established in 1914, loyalists’ hopes of kicking back on a sunny afternoon have taken a particularly tough wallop.

Entombed in 20 feet of hard pack known as “Sierra cement,” the lodge “suffered severe crunch injuries,” said Dave Levy, manager of the resort, which is owned by a consortium of investors.

A team led by Levy used shovels to dig down through the snow to reach the kitchen door. Sheared structural support beams appeared like ghostly shadows in the glare of a flashlight.

“Inside, the bad news was much worse,” he said. “Doors won’t open, windows are shattered, floors are warped, the roof sags. We may reopen sometime next year, but it won’t be easy fixing a place built like a jigsaw puzzle with antiquated construction techniques.”

A creek running through the property leased from the U.S. Forest Service is surging over its banks with snowmelt, undermining the foundations of the lodge and several cabins surrounding it.

Top: In early July, two standup paddle boarders skim along the icy waters of Tioga Lake off Highway 120. Left: The snow is melting faster than the giant pumps can remove water from Agnew Lake in the mountains above June Lake. Right: Snowbanks still line the road in early July near Tioga Lake.

Over the July 4 weekend, as thousands of summer vacationers streamed into the mountains with coolers, bicycles, fly rods and barbecues, the runoff in streams peaked.

But with many popular trails and campgrounds still closed because of safety and health concerns, rangers struggle to keep up with visitors arriving each day with the question: “Where can we find a place to camp?”

The hard recovery ahead

“Nearly every campground in the area has problems,” said Deb Schweizer, a spokeswoman for the Inyo National Forest. “There are broken water systems and sewer lines, gates that bent under the weight of so much snow, washed-out bridges and trails, damaged roads, fallen trees, downed power lines.

“It’s taken an incredible amount of cooperative efforts by multiple agencies to open as many campground facilities and roads as possible — and we’re opening more every day,” she said……more here

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