A good time for a new hike

The Humbolt-Toiyabe National Forest Service has opened a new hiking trail off Mount Rose Highway 431 and this weekend seems to be a good time to try it out.

Rangers say that all the signs aren't up yet but that the trail is clearly visible. This is one of the few new trails opened recently so it should be fun to all of us. Named the Dry Pond Trail it is off Highway 432 at Timberline Road. Take a right if you're heading west and look for road sign 20049, which should be about a mile ahead. The trailhead is just past the Thomas Creek trailhead and there are some signs in place.

We'll confirm all this next week after giving it a walk. No data on length or vertical rise but it looks like it might connect up with the Tahoe Rim Trail.

Meanwhile, even if you're a long-time local you'll be pleasantly surprised by the spectacular views from Castle Rock southwest of Mt. Genoa and off Kingsbury Grade.

Castle Rock (7,904 feet) is a dramatic, craggy rock outcropping readily visible from many South Shore locations, such as the National Forest meadow at Highway 50 and Khale Drive. It's only a little more than two miles as the crow flies from the casinos at Stateline. The base of the summit can be reached on foot, mountain bike, motorcycle, quad or four-wheel drive.

To get to the Castle Rock climb, take Kingsbury Grade to North Benjamin. There's a green sign at North Benjamin for Brautigan Park. North Benjamin dead ends into Andria. Continue to the end of Andria (about two miles) and you'll find a parking area for the Tahoe Rim Trail (more on that later). About 50 yards before this area there is a small parking area for the trail to Castle Rock. It's on your left. There's a green Forest Service swing bar or gate at the head of the trail.

The way to Castle Rock follows an old logging road, now a Forest Service road. Always stay with the obvious dirt lane. There are several trails to the left and right but these are significantly less traveled, more like paths. The main trail is up-and-down but generally relaxing hiking.

The scenery, views included, is typically Sierra woodland. There's one stream that dries up in mid-summer but where your dog may be able to get a drink.

The total distance to Castle Rock is not much more than a mile. It's a leisurely 30 minute walk each way. The actual rock outcropping is about 100 yards off the dirt road to the left. There's a small sign there stressing no motor vehicles for the last stretch.

It's conceivable that you could miss this small sign and walk right by Castle Rock, hidden by trees. Check for the sign after the road has taken a sweeping left turn and then a wide right turn. The sign will be on your left at the base of a fairly steep upgrade. If you look closely you'll notice a couple of small parking areas where Forest Rangers stop or where vehicles can park or turn around.

The last section of the hike is quite steep and the last 15 or 20 yards very, very steep but definitely accessible for those who enjoy a clamber.

But even if you stop before the more vertical sections, the bird's-eye views of the casinos to the southwest, Heavenly Ski Resort, Nevada and Gardnerville to the southeast and nearly the whole of Lake Tahoe and its skyline to the west are stunning.

A camera, binoculars and a deli sandwich and sport drink would be just right. And a sunset might be simply awesome.

-- Heavenly offers some low prices on winter gear and apparel at its Labor Day Ski & Snowboard Sale, starting Saturday. The three-day parking lot sale at the California Lodge gives snowsporters a chance to get a jump on winter and pick up the resort's $299 season pass offer.

Sale highlights include Volkl P50 Motion skis with bindings for $399.99 (MSRP, $1050), and Burton Frontier snowboards for $149.99 (MSRP, $470).

All Atomic skis are 50 percent off the manufactured retail price, while children's skis go for $59.99 to $69.99. All ski and snowboard wear 50 to 70 percent off. Heavenly season passes will also be sold at $299 for a limited-time pass.

Sale hours are Saturday, 9 a.m.-6 p,m; Sunday,10 a.m.-6pm; and Monday 10 a.m.-2pm. Food and beverages will be available . Heavenly's California Lodge is off Ski Run at 3860 Saddle Road in South Lake Tahoe. Call (775) 586-7000.

-- Sept. 1 marks the deadline for early purchase discounts on all Squaw Valley season passes.

Aug. 31 is the last evening of night operations for the 2003 summer season at Squaw Valley.

Sam Bauman is the Nevada Appeal Diversions Editor.


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