Monday, December 7, 2009

Snow: Day One

When you go to bed knowing that you could awake to the world being blanketed in white, it's kind of like going to sleep on Christmas Eve.... I slept on the couch last night in front of the fire, wrapped in a warm blanket, Sug curled behind my knees. I woke at 4:00 and immediately looked outside. The first thing I saw was raccoon faces peering back at me through the glass of the French doors. Then I saw a dusting of snow, maybe a half inch. The little 'coonies were brushing it away as they scampered from one door to the next, begging for a hand-out. I breathed a sigh of relief--I wouldn't have to dig out the truck before leaving for work. I made some nice Irish breakfast tea, settling in at the computer to check email and, of course, my Facebook page. A half hour later I went to the kitchen for more tea and some breakfast, and I noticed there was a bit more snow on the ground. See, that's the funny thing about snow; you can't hear it. Looking closer, I could see that the 'coonies tracks had already been completely covered. About an inch had fallen in 30 minutes. Yikes. Time to skedaddle.

By 5:30, I was dressed and ready to go. I brushed the snow off the windshield, climbed in, and started down my steep treacherous road--in 4WD low. The new tires are great, and I had no problem getting down. Out on the main highway, I realized the snowplows hadn't started clearing, so I was driving along on a couple of inches of snow. Again, no problem. I kept the truck in low and simply rolled slowly down the switchbacks while the wind blew snow out of the darkness and directly into the windshield. I didn't turn the radio on. I just eased my way along in the quiet. Finally, somewhere far below the Village, the snow turned to rain. Eventually, I switched out of 4WD. I got to work at 6:30--plenty of time to change out of snow gear before my students began arriving.

After looking at (which predicted severe weather in the afternoon), I requested a sub for the last period of the day so I could start my slow trek back up the mountain. (Bless all teachers who agree to sub during their conference periods. I'm way too selfish; you can't pay me enough to give up that hour of quiet.) When the sub arrived, I took attendance, said sarcastic things to my Journalism kids (whom I love), put my snow boots back on, and headed out. It was raining steadily.

Signs were posted at Shinn Road where it intersects with Baldy Road--chains required. Uh-oh. I didn't don my chains once last winter; the only time I need them is to appease some CHP officer who's out of sorts for pulling Mt Baldy duty. (They have to sit in their unit until a vehicle comes along, then get out--in freezing rain or snow or sleet or hail--and say, "You can't get up without chains....") If you've ever put chains on... in freezing temperatures... crawling around on the icy ground... your fingers frozen and stiff because you really can't operate the fasteners with gloves on... while snow piles up on the back of your neck... you know why I'm not eager to use them.

But I was lucky--no officers on duty. As I approached the Village, I could see snow everywhere, just like a winter wonderland. I didn't stop at the post office for my mail, just kept rolling along through the rain. The snowplows had been through, and now the rain was washing away the snow in the lower elevations. Perfect. I started up the switchbacks (this is the section of road that gains two thousand feet of elevation in under three miles and has several hairpin turns), and the road was pretty clear.

Then the rain turned to snow... and I could see that the first runs by the plows had left huge chunks of packed, crusty snow in the road. I avoided them as much as I could, just climbing ever so slowly, ever so carefully. With the radio off again, I listened to the sound of the wiper blades periodically brushing the snow from the windshield.

Finally, I came around the last corner and topped out at the 'flats.' A foot of snow covered everything. As I passed Snowcrest Inn, I recognized all my neighbors' vehicles--no one went to work today except me. Their trucks were parked along the road in front of the inn, now all nearly blocked from view by a huge berm created by the plows. They'll have fun digging out tomorrow.... It took awhile, but I finally found a spot along the road where the snow berm wasn't too high, and I tucked the truck in. Then I got out and started walking.

As is usually the case in Baldy, two of my neighbors showed up at that moment. Rob was driving around with TJ-the-big-red-dog, looking for a place to park his truck. Brad was about to attempt to drive up our road in his Bronco. I love his truck--I used to have one--but I knew he wouldn't make it. I declined his invitation to "hop in." He gunned it, then disappeared up the road. In less than a minute, he was slowly making his way back down. "I got as far as the first turn," he said, "and the truck did a 360." I'm pretty sure he meant a 180, since he was headed back down. I was just glad I hadn't taken that ride. So I walked home in a foot of snow, up, up, the steep road as the snow fell. I'd left my snow shovel beside the back door, and I shoveled out the steps before going inside. A few minutes later I was sitting on the floor, taking off wet boots and socks and jeans while I called Mom to let her know I'd made it home OK. "Well," she said, "can you just sit and relax and watch TV tonight? There's a Christmas special on...." Shit. Yes, I do have Direct TV up here--but when heavy snow falls, it covers the dish. Sure enough, I had no reception. I pulled on the wet, clammy jeans, the damp socks and soggy boots and tramped outside, climbed the slope, and swept the dish clean. Then, as long as I was out there, I shoveled out a path to the wood pile.

Back inside, I made a fire, ate some great vegetable enchiladas, then took a hot bath. A few minutes ago, I heard voices outside. I opened the front door and saw Eric and Jimmy, my neighbors, wandering around, enjoying the snow. Each was holding a bottle of wine. The air was clear and quiet, and as we talked, they both said, "I can't believe you went to work today." Neither can I. And I'll probably do it again tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. Sitting here in my office, with all my heat on, this was a "wintertime" fun read. I am not sure I have the endurance for that kind of snow, but fun to read about..thnx