Saturday, March 13, 2010

One last walk in snowfall

We had a storm last week on Saturday. In the morning, I made a fire, did some chores, then waited for the snow to come. I wanted to do something I haven’t been able to do all winter—take a walk in the snowfall.

This winter, most of our snow has been at night, or when the snow has fallen during the day, I’ve been at work. Finally, a Saturday storm, and I was ready.

The sky continued to darken throughout the day, and at 2:00 the first fat flakes drifted down. I donned my waterproof pants and jacket, pulled on my snow boots, and went outside. By that time, the snow was falling rapidly, tiny flakes skimming down. (Think of a steady downpour only with ice crystals this size * instead of rain drops.) I walked two cabins up to Rob’s house, then stood on the edge of the canyon. When a storm rolls in, we are usually so enveloped in cloud that visibility is less than fifty feet. But this was the vanguard of the true storm, so I could still see all the way across the canyon. Imagine that little snow crystal—times a million—falling from the sky into the canyon. As I watched, the clouds above parted slightly, and the sun squinted through the gap briefly—just long enough for its light to refract off those millions of tiny crystals, creating a dazzling display so bright my Transitions® couldn’t darken fast enough. Makes one understand the meaning of “awe-struck.”

I continued my walk up the road, around Cabin #43, and up to the waterfall, slipping and sliding my way along on the snow from past storms. I stood for awhile, watching the falls thunder over the side and down through a hole in the accumulated snow at the bottom. Magnificent.

‘Well,’ I thought, ‘it’s getting cold. I should probably go back.’ I turned to find that the advancing army of clouds had made its way up the mountain. Behind me on the road, visibility was down to about thirty feet.

No worries. I’ve walked to the falls and back so many times in three years, I could do it in the dark. (And I have, now that I think of it.)

I started back… but was lured off course by a snow covered trail. A fire road leads up to the falls and then makes a hairpin turn, winding up toward the top of the ski lift. In January, snow drifts from the five-day storms had completely covered the road, except for a single-track trail through the snow. I began to walk up it, the snow still falling heavily on the hood of my jacket. It’s easy to see, in these conditions, how people become lost in snowstorms. The ground all around is white. The air is white. The trail becomes obliterated…. I stopped. The clouds shifted, and for a brief moment I could see down to the valley, dark clouds hanging ominously over Upland and beyond. I breathed in the hushed silence—until thunder boomed overhead. Time to go.

The next day, I walked back to the same spot where I’d stood to view the valley, and I took the snapshot that accompanies this post.

I tell myself that when I no longer live here, I will still come up to walk on snowy days. The truth is, my intentions will probably get swallowed up in household chores, writing deadlines, and social obligations. And even if I did make it up the mountain, would the timing ever be the same again? At this point, that walk in the snowfall, the glimpse of millions of falling crystals reflecting the sun’s fire, is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will never forget.


  1. sounds like a movie...or book,, er,, how is your new book developing? This was a good post, eventhough i am "alergic" to cold weather..:)

  2. I'm still hoping for one more snowstorm this season. Have you ever seen a good dump in April on Baldy?

  3. Lovely. I recall, years ago, being in Kansas, and asking coworkers to please call me when the snow started to fall, as I'd never seen snow falling. A co-worker asked me what country I was from! I remember my astonishment that one can actually HEAR snow falling, which came as a splendid surprise to this southern Californian.