First snow of the season is just right.
It started snowing Friday afternoon.
It had been forecasted, so I was expecting it and got all my errands done early in the day. There was a sleety mix coming down in town as I headed home. By the time I pulled into my driveway, the sleet was more snow-like. It could have been our elevation — my home’s elevation is about 800 feet higher than town at the river’s edge. I put my Jeep away in the garage, let Penny out, and settled down to an afternoon catching up on paperwork.
By 2:47 PM, there was 3/4 inch on the ground. Not very impressive.
But it kept snowing. I chatted with a few different friends on the phone, watching the white stuff come down in big flakes outside. Inside was toasty warm and smelled of the ham and cheese quiche I had in the oven. I was sipping a hot coffee with eggnog and milk — a do-it-yourself eggnog latte.
Later, after dark, I let Penny out to do her business. She stood at the doorway just looking at the snow, completely uninterested in stepping out. Later, before bed, when the snow was deeper but still coming down, I had pretty much the same luck with her. I suspected I might have a problem.
Of course, a tiny dog can only hold it for so long. She woke me at 3 AM, needing to go out. I obliged, standing at the doorway while she managed to find a satisfactory spot under the front deck to take care of business. It had stopped snowing and the sky was full of stars with just a few low clouds floating around. The cliffs behind my home were illuminated by the starlight and reflected light from town miles away. It was a beautiful night — perfect for some photography.
Now wide wake, I went back inside and set up my camera and tripod. I experimented with some shots from the deck outside my bedroom door and then the front deck. Although I couldn’t get a satisfactory shot of the cliffs, I did get an acceptable one looking down toward town. (I need to get my camera checked; there’s something screwy going on with exposures.)
I went in to have coffee, write in my journal, and do some blogging. I had some quiche for breakfast. Somewhere along the way, it got light out. I went back out with my ruler and stuck it in the virgin snow on my driveway apron. Four and a half inches.
The stuff was not wet but not quite powdery. The temperature was right around 32°F and didn’t feel cold at all. There was no wind. And it was amazingly beautiful with all that untouched snow on the ground.
I put on my Sorrels and walked back out to check on the chickens. They were out and about in their yard and looked up at me, as they usually do, expecting food. Their water was free of ice — I’d bought them a heated waterer — and although there was snow in their food dispenser, it didn’t look wet. I threw them a scoop of scratch and checked for eggs. There were three of them, one of which was still warm. Apparently, my chickens hadn’t gotten the memo about cutting back on egg production when the days got short.
First light was just hitting downtown Wenatchee. I went back upstairs and took in the view from the deck outside my bedroom. The light was pink as it touched the mountains and valley to the northwest. I felt as if I could have watched the view change all day, but it was time to get some work done outside.
Although my driveway is quite long, I don’t plan on ever shoveling or plowing it. I have a Jeep and its tires are still good. The driveway doesn’t have much of a slope to it. I don’t expect getting in or out with the Jeep to ever be much of a problem, especially since snow doesn’t usually stick around long here. Even my truck has 4WD, so if I need to get out with that, I know I can. How do I know? I used it to pull my RV out last February after a heavy snowstorm for a two-month trip to California. The Honda? Well, the Honda is in for the winter at this point.
But I also have a concrete driveway apron, which I need clear if I want to get my helicopter out for a flight. I didn’t have any flights scheduled until after Thanksgiving, but who knows what might come up? I had already decided to keep it clear of snow and ice. I had a good shovel and a bag of ice melt. With temperatures expected to rise during the day, I wanted to shovel now, before the snow got soft and heavy.
It didn’t take long and I have to admit that it felt good. That might sound weird to the people who consider snow-shoveling a chore, but I do it so infrequently (so far) that it’s more of an excuse to move around outdoors than any kind of real work — especially when the snow is still light and there’s no ice to contend with. I felt the same way last year when I shoveled the walk at the home I was housesitting at after a snowfall. The whole job took about 20 minutes — the driveway apron is only 22 x 30 feet — and I barely broke a sweat in my fleece sweatshirt.
I didn’t spread any ice melt on it. The way I see it, there’s no reason to spread that crap around unless there’s ice to melt. I figured I’d monitor the condition of the driveway apron and, if the little snow left did turn to ice, I’d spread some ice melt to get rid of it. But as the day wore on, the snow melted and the resulting water dried. No ice.
While I was out with the shovel and still energized, I shoveled a path from my front door to the chicken yard. This would give Penny a better place to run and do her business. But she had already figured out that she could stay under the front and side decks to get around the building without having to walk through much snow. In fact, while I was shoveling she disappeared around the back of the building, possibly tracking the scent of a rabbit that had left tracks in the snow back there.
Before going back inside, I walked down to Lookout Point, my little bench overlooking the valley. I’d brought the bench cushions in when the weather began changing two weeks ago and the bench looked abandoned and kind of forlorn with its covering of snow. I looked back at my home and liked what I saw: the neat symmetry of the building, the smooth blanket of snow on its big roof, the pine trees on the cliffs behind my home, accented with white. The path back to my home from the bench looked inviting. I looked forward to mornings like this when I could stoke up a fire in the fireplace and sip hot cocoa while looking out over the valley.
And that’s when I realized that I liked winter.
It’s odd because I left New Jersey to escape the cold. That put me in Arizona, which I soon grew to dislike for many reasons, not the least of which was the brutally hot summers. But my home in Arizona also lacked seasons — the only thing that changed was the average daytime high and nighttime low. There were no fall colors, there was no snow, there was no springtime leafing out. The seasons were more subtle, marked by temperature changes, wildflower and cactus blooms, and thunderstorms.
We bought some vacation property in northern Arizona, mostly to escape the hot Phoenix area summers. We went up there pretty regularly in the summer early on, and I spent much of the summers of 2004 and 2005 in my old RV up there. But we also enjoyed going up there in the winter time. How many Thanksgivings and Christmases did we spend in the cabin we built together? I remember waking once to a hushed, snow-covered landscape, cosy and warm under a thick comforter up on the loft, going downstairs to make a hot breakfast of Pillsbury orange danish. We spent part of that day at the Grand Canyon, walking the shoveled rim trails, before dinner with friends at El Tovar. That property, bought for summer use, became my winter treat. The chain of Christmasy red and white stars I’d bought still hung from the loft the last time I was there.
Now I’m back in a four-season place. Indeed, the winter here is remarkably like the winters in northern New Jersey, where I spent more than half of my life. But there’s the added benefit of a wide variety of winter sports nearby: downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and skating. There’s life here — that’s another thing I’ve been missing for too long.
I didn’t spend much time outside that morning. I had things to do inside before heading out to visit a friend and then participating in a cider tasting outing with other friends. Dinner out came afterward. The temperature rose throughout the day but it got cloudy. The roads were icy on the way home, but I threw the Jeep into 4WD and had plenty of traction.
The next day, Sunday, was even warmer. My garage got up to 50°F before I realized I didn’t need the space heater on while I did my warm glass work. Snow was melting everywhere and my driveway apron was dry. The chicken yard was snow-free — they’d trampled it all down into wet dirt and they were still making plenty of eggs. It was 46°F outside when I left at 1 PM for a football party at a friend’s house. I took my truck because I needed to run my trash cans out to the main road. It had no trouble on the unplowed driveway.
Temperatures this week will continue to rise, with a daytime high on Wednesday expected to be 50°F. The National Weather Service is predicting a warmer than normal winter here and if the cold snap we had earlier this month is an anomaly — which I believe it is — we might not get much more snow at all. Although I hope to get some cross-country skiing in before I head south for a month or two, I don’t really care one way or another. This snowfall was a treat and I’m sure there will be many snowy weekends in my future.