Trailhead Outtakes: California Snow and Sand Edition

tracked FJ Cruiser

On two recent camping trips I spotted a few interesting vehicles at trailheads, and wanted to share them here at CC. First, from a California SnoPark just last month.

SnoParks are found in several western states; here in California they provide access to snowshoeing, Nordic and backcountry skiing, and (usually, but not always) motorized over-the-snow travel. For a small fee, you can get a one day parking pass, or for about $25 a season pass, November to May. Most SnoParks allow overnight camping with bathrooms and trash containers. Not the most scenic spots, but convenient. And sometimes quite nice.

Ford Transit in snow

Here is our own Ford Transit, which I have yet to COAL about, in another SnoPark the previous winter. But I digress. The tracked FJ Cruiser had a county resident parking permit, not the usual state dashboard pass. It, along with some other tracked vehicles, presumably belongs to local residents who have homes that are only accessible over the snow in winter. And we’ve had a lot of snow this year. I assume the Audi’s were used to access the parking lot which is just off a year-round State Highway. Several of the Sierra passes even on State Highways are not plowed in winter. And this year winter may extend to July, at least as defined by pass opening.

Tracked 4Runner

Here’s another tracked Toyota parked a few yards away. I seem to recall the last time I was here, there was also a tracked Grand Cherokee. Perhaps it was in use, or theToyota’s have replaced the Jeep. Honestly, these were so clean I wonder if they had been used, but I suppose there wasn’t much grit and dirt to contend with during this winter’s onslaught of snow after snow after snow. Even in the last week of April there was about 5′ of packed snow. And a few days later another 4-6″ fell.


But not all the tracked vehicles were SUV conversions. This one is a German Kassbohrer PistenBully. Not an uncommon sight at local ski resorts, and made famous this year when a PistenBully injured a Hollywood actor in an accident. By the way, “piste” is a French term for track or ski trail, perhaps also used in German, so I guess the PistenBully bullies the snow into submission for easier skiing, or snowmobiling. This late in the season it was well packed and we walked easily in light hiking boots. In fact, it would have been nice on skis, but we hadn’t brought them as this was just a convenient spot to spend the night after leaving home mid-day, en route to warmer climes.

And this one? I don’t know. No brand markings, and some indications it was a custom job but with very nice craftsmanship.

CAT 918M

Of course, normal vehicles need access to these parking lots, and wheeled vehicles help clear the snow. Chains on all four wheels definitely required.

CAT made in UK

Unlike the PistenBully, Caterpillar is of course a storied domestic brand. But this loader was actually made in the UK. Go figure.

Loaded Prius

Now for something completely different. I spotted this Prius at the Mesquite Sand Dunes in Death Valley last December. Who needs a van? Or even an SUV? With Oregon plates ….