Welcome to the winter newsletter from Skylight Retreat in the mountains of Calaveras County, California, near Big Trees State Park.
Winter has arrived: a beautiful season. Snow softens the landscape, highlighting the tall dark pines and firs, cushioning the undergrowth, and brightening the day. There is a hush in the deep woods, yet you can follow the trails of rabbits and other intrepid critters. The snows have come on time this year, so ski season opened before Thanksgiving. Higher elevations (8,000 feet) had a foot or two by late November. Skylight doesn’t receive as much as farther up the mountains, but we have arranged for a plowing service throughout the season, so no worries – curl up and enjoy it! Ebbetts Pass is closed for the winter above Lake Alpine but there are plenty of places to explore along the Arnold Rim Trail (ART), the gem of the Arnold area, which traverses the ridge to the north of Arnold, following San Antonio Creek for an easy couple of miles, then continuing to a spectacular waterfall overlook. For the first four miles the trail changes elevation only 100 feet or so.
Not many people realize that you can snowshoe through Big Trees State Park, ten minutes up the road from Skylight. With the wide trails and magnificent Sequoia, it makes a spectacular walk in the winter. We have several pairs of snowshoes in the garage for guests to use (Big Trees State Park and Sierra Nevada Adventure Company, five minutes from Skylight rent them as well). Farther up, Bear Valley is open for skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing.
Big Trees State Park holds the 3rd annual Winter Wonderland on Friday, Dec. 28th, with wagon rides, hot drinks, crafts, and music. The park has a warming hut open at the end of the main parking lot every weekend from 12-4, offering hot cider, coffee, hot chocolate, and a place to warm up after your hike through the trees.
In town, be sure to stop by Poulson Gallery. Bill Poulson and Bobbette Budworth Poulson are accomplished glass artists who have made their home—and workshop—in Arnold for many years. Bill’s art is on display from Japan to Hawaii. Bill has been working on a breathtaking four-part stained glass mural of Yosemite, titled “Four Seasons.” See his site for more information on their gallery and artwork.
At Skylight Retreat, the studio is completed at last, outfitted with yoga mats, cushions, a low circular table with growly lion’s feet, and audio speakers (to play music from your laptop). We have arranged for a cleaning service after each guest stay, and the house will be nice and warm when you arrive. You can view the calendar and make a reservation.
Be sure to check out the painting in the Skylight alcove, on loan from local artist Diana Souza – it’s a rendition of the original cover of The Hobbit, with snow-capped mountains, distant dragons, and a rune or two. The illustration for the 1937 edition was done by Tolkien himself.
Lastly, we have a book recommendation. Sacramento author Marilyn Reynolds, who has written more than ten books for teens, has turned her wisdom to the topic of aging. Over 70 and I Don’t Mean MPH: Reflections on the Gift of Longevity is a delightful read, offering pragmatism, humor and meditation on life in a slower lane. (Morning Glory Press, 2012) Ask for a copy at your local bookstore or library. Speaking of library, we continue to stock Skylight with a variety of novels, poetry, mountain guides, and more.
What is winter like in the Sierra? Listen to John Muir: “The latest leaves are shaken from the oaks and alders; the snow-laden pines, with drooping boughs, look like barbed arrows aimed at the sky, and the fern-tangles and meadows are spread with a smooth cloth of snow….There was no wind and every rock and tree and grass blade had a hushed, expectant air. The fullness of time arrived, and down came the big flakes in tufted companies of full grown flowers. … The trees, and bushes, and dead brown grass were flowered far beyond summer, bowed down in blossom and all the rocks were buried. Every peak and dome, every niche and tablet had their share of snow… The glorious crystal sediment was everywhere. From wall to wall of our beautiful temple, from meadow to sky was one finished unit of beauty, one star of equal ray, one glowing sun, weighed in the celestial balances and found perfect.”
We periodically send out this newsletter to keep you informed about the Retreat: improvements, upcoming events, seasonal observations and news. Please feel free to share it with friends. If you don’t want to receive it, just send us a note. We look forward to hearing from you.
Anara Guard and Dave Hutchinson