James Murren
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Earn Your Beer at Snowshoeing June Lake

By James Murren
Photo of a beer at the June Lake Brewing tasting room

10oz of Hail Zythos at the June Lake Brewing tasting room (June Lake Brewing).

Where to Earn Your Beer

I parked my car where the snow plows had stopped clearing the road that goes from June Lake to Silver Lake in the eastern Sierra Nevada. Accumulated snow in the area was measured in feet and I was excited to go snowshoeing.

Where the snow plow stopped, snowshoeing began, meaning the unplowed road was the trail. As I strapped on my snowshoes, a backcountry snow boarder came walking out from the other side of the snow pile.

Photo so snow with tracks on it.

Tracks at Silver Lake, June Lake (James Murren).

Read other Earn Your Beer columns

“Good, you’ll help pack it down,” he said. We exchanged a few musings on the recent weather as I finished with the final strap. He commented that the snow-covered road/trail was not tracked after  a half a mile or so.

A little ways down the road, two ice-climbers were seemingly learning how to use their axes on a snowy section of wall that was not more than a few feet off the ground. The day was blustery, wind chills in the low double digits nearing single digits. Silver Lake was out of view, but knowing it was up ahead and wanting to see its famed views from the other side served as my motivation.

Once past all the holes from the foot traffic and what looked like one set of snowshoe tracks that got out a day or two before me, there were only cross country ski tracks in front of me. The terrain graded slightly up, making the going a little strenuous, especially after arriving from sea level.

Behind me, I noticed two people getting on the trail. Some 15 minutes later, they caught up to me; cross country skis sliding easily across the snow.

Snow white Silver Lake came into view and I could see the distant shoreline. Looking back, Carson Peak rose up, and a distinct couloir was visible.

Continuing on towards the shoreline, I was surprised at how labored the effort was. My quads were heating up as I traipsed over the deep snow. I was short of breath. To be frank, I struggled a little.

At the shore, I looked back across the frozen snow-covered lake. Winter’s grandeur in the eastern Sierra Nevada was on display. Gusts of icy wind whipped across the lake and slammed into my face. I smiled.

Turning around, I kept looking at that couloir, hoping to see someone drop into it. Eventually, I noticed a line snaking down it. Someone did run it. Was it the snowboarder from earlier? Around me, trees were dressed up in their winter wear, a mega winter of snowfall not yet done. The immediate forecast called for a few more feet in the coming days.

Now back near where I began, I followed tracks from the previous snowshoer that went out onto the lake. The perspective from the open vastness, versus being treed-in, provided an understanding of immensity.

Back up on the trail, I went. I soon climbed over the snow pile and started unstrapping my snowshoes. Snowshoes off my feet, I loaded them into the car.  June Lake Brewing was my lunch plan.

The Beer

I walked into the tasting room and reviewed the board of beer offerings. When I saw a collaboration beer between June Lake Brewing and Alpine Beer Company, I did not contemplate or hesitate for a second on what I was going to drink.

Hail Zythos Pale Ale came in at 6.66%. I picked up the pint and got an immediate blast of citrus on the nose. Down the gullet, it finished with a little pine-resin dank. Highly drinkable, I thought, one of those beers that could sneak up on you.

The vibe was super laid back with locals talking at conversation tone. Sun streamed in through the windows. A couple recommended that I get the ahi taco from the food truck, so I walked across the icy parking lot and ordered one. Less than ten minutes later, it arrived to my seat at the bar. The couple was correct; it was as good as any ahi taco that I had eaten over the years.

Finishing up, I wanted another pint, but alas … I had to drive.