We spent New Year’s Eve day on a 500-mile loop up to the Sierra and back. No snow in the forecast meant safe, easy driving and the expectation of amazing mountain vistas. We drove under overcast skies for more than three hours but when we got to the Sierra Crest the clouds broke, and we were amazed right on schedule.

We took a rather long but scenic route to California Highway 88 by way of Highway 108 and Sonora and Angel’s Camp (alleged home of the Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.) From there we crossed the crest at Carson Pass, where I snow-camped last winter, and took Highway 89 into Nevada for a few miles before doubling back toward Lake Tahoe on a gorgeous (though tortuous) highway past Heavenly ski area and down into South Lake Tahoe, where we cruised past obscene mobs of tourists and headed back south on the first available thoroughfare, U.S. Highway 50, which we took down to Sacramento and back home to San Jose via Interstates 80 and 680.

Got all that down? Good, there will be a quiz on Friday.

An unfortunate reality of being 7,000 or more feet up in the mountains in the dead of winter is that it’s well-diggers-ass cold outside. Another reality is the roadsides are piled with snow, which makes it sketchy to pull the car over and snap a pic of every splendid scene. Lousy conditions for photography (none of the good stuff is ever visible from the main road), but I made do. Came back with a half-dozen pictures that seemed post-worthy, though all seem to cover the same ground. Well, air.

Before Carson Pass

This feels like the best of the bunch. And it was the first one I took, not far from the Kirkwood ski area.

Clouds dancing

Little wisps of clouds do that dancing-aloft thing.

Caples Lake

Hard to take a bad picture of Caples Lake, especially when the clouds are doing all these shadowy things.

Snowy peak west of Carson Pass

This is a familiar peak west of the Carson Pass Sno-Park. The air up here is amazing. A breath of it feels like adventure.

Clouds and peak

Got some nice clouds behind this peak, but the shot feels just so-so for some reason.

Rock and sky

This is another shot I had high hopes for that came out a bit flat. Probably because I was shooting at the worst time of the day — high noon. The best times are early morning and late afternoon, when the sun illuminates the crags from an angle and gives them a greater sense of depth.

Well, time to ring in the new year. See y’all in 2007.