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Exploring Our Backyard: Snowshoe hiking at Chickadee Ridge overlooking Lake Tahoe

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A short hike to the top of Chickadee Ridge results in sweeping views of Lake Tahoe and an abundance of hungry birds

The number one reason I love living in Northern Nevada is access to the outdoors. I don’t think there is anywhere else in the country that can beat it.

Within an hour, you have the place I grew up in, majestic Lake Tahoe, and the surrounding Sierra Nevada range, which has not only the lake itself but an endless amount of streams, waterfalls, swimming holes, hiking and biking trails. To the north, you have Pyramid Lake, home to the world-famous Lahontan Cutthroat Trout and incredible beachfront camping (although both are closed right now). To the east is spectacular Sand Mountain, where off-roading reigns supreme.

That just scratches the surface, and we’ve profiled many of these activities in our TV series “Exploring Our Backyard”. Point is, there is something outside for just about everyone. As we deal with this ever-changing COVID-19 pandemic, there’s one thing that has helped me keep my sanity through all of this: being outside. And although not all activities are available to us right now, we can safely distance ourselves and still enjoy the great outdoors.

Check back here every Thursday and I’ll be profile a place or activity to check out for a quick weekend excursion. Hopefully it will inspire you to get outside and breathe some fresh air.

Chickadee Ridge Hike

Today’s feature is a a location near and dear to me. I’ve been lucky to explore this area my entire life, and it’s great in both the winter (snowshoe) and summer (hike). Let's head out to Chickadee Ridge.

When I search for a hike, there are three things I look for:

  • Easy to find/access
  • Good physical activity, but not something extremely difficult
  • A payoff (view, waterfall, etc.)

Chickadee Ridge checks all of these boxes. From Reno, head up Mt. Rose Highway to the Tahoe Meadows, a flat stretch jump past the highway summit. This area is popular the winter (sledding, snowmobiling, snowshoe hiking and cross country skiing) and summer (well carved-out nature trails for hiking and sightseeing). Drive to the end of the meadows and park on either side of the road. You will want to end up on the east side of the highway (the flat side).

The best part of this hike is you can’t really screw it up. Head into the forested area and head east and south. It will be fairly flat for the first 20 minutes before you hit the ridge, which will slowly slope up to a nice view point. Not long after entering the meadows, you will hear a ton of chirping birds, the vast majority of which are chickadees (hence the name of the hike) as well as some beautiful blue jays.

Now to the payoff, and on this hike, there are a few. The first is the beautiful sweeping view of Lake Tahoe, which to this day is one of the most incredible places I've seen. And don’t @ me on that. I’ve been to a lot of cool places around the world (not that I’m bragging). In addition to the views, I love the chickadee birds. You can pretty much stop anywhere along the way and put your hands out with some kind of seeds (I used pumpkin seeds on this hike) and it won’t take long for the birds to come bombing in from the trees to land on your hands. Don’t be alarmed. They are harmless (at least in my experience!).

My favorite thing is to get to the top of the ridge, catch my breath and put my hand out with some seeds to watch the birds party.

I was even able to capture a showdown between some of the birds competing for my pumpkin seeds. It’s a sight to behold. There's a little magic in being able to connect with nature like that.

It’s a reminder of how lucky we are to live in this area, especially in the current circumstances. These moments are helping me get through quarantine. I hope you can find something to do the same.

I think getting outside during this time is crucial for everyone’s physical and mental health, and I encourage it. But people still need to be respectful of each other and the land. In lieu of that, I was given the following tips from Amy Berry of the Tahoe Fund for folks visiting the area:

  • Please keep 6 feet apart on trails and trailhead parking lots. This may mean you have to be prepared to move aside to let folks pass safely.
  • Leave No Trace is more important than ever. Public lands are managed with limited staff and are even more limited now. There is no one to pick up after you. Please remember to take home whatever you bring.
  • Best case is to stay close to home. Now is not the time to make a big trip to recreate.
  • Go small! It is tempting to do big stuff in the backcountry, but you don't want to be the person who pulls resources from the hospitals because of a needless injury.
  • Things are changing quickly. The Forest Service has recently closed a lot of recreation areas. Be prepared for closures and be sure to check online before you head out.

A collective group called Take Care Tahoe developed a series of fun messages with these and other reminders. You can see them all here. If you need more detail on this hike, All Trails has a great map and explanation on its website.

Nevada Sports Net's executive producer Alex Margulies will feature a local recreation activity every Thursday in his "Exlopring Our Backyard" feature. "Exploring Our Backyard" will return with new TV episodes this summer. You can contact him at amargulies@sbgtv.com or follow him on Twitter at @marguliespxp.

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