Thursday, December 10, 2009

Our Little Blizzard

So, I promised a description of our recent storm, and here it is.  The storm came in on Sunday and got heavier and heavier until Tuesday afternoon.  We ended up with about 2.5-3 feet and some drifts that are definitely much higher.  It was really fluffy stuff- there was only 2.5 inches of water in all of that, according to our weather station trip.  Unfortunately, since it was so fluffy, skis were nearly useless.  The minute I put weight on a ski, it would slide down at least two feet to the snow-pack from previous storms.  In short, it was really frustrating.  It was fun and gorgeous to be trapped in a blizzard- until we had to go outside.  But I digress.

Do you remember the waterfall I showed you several weeks ago- Judd Falls?  Well, we walked up there the day before the storm hit, and it's frozen over now.  Thayer nearly missed it and walked past because it's so much quieter with a layer of snow and ice covering the moving water.

[T - in spots where there is just ice, you can see the water running underneath it]

 And how cool is this lichen?

[T - it was on a memorial bench at the falls]

Here are some "action shots" of our storm.  I think they're from Monday.

Tuesday was our turn to visit the weather station.  We woke up to a cold cabin, a power outage and lack of running water (we have an electric water pump).  And then, the weather was . . . uncooperative, to say the least.  Yay!  We learned pretty quickly that skis were nearly useless on flat ground and more frustrating than you could possibly imagine on the upward slopes of hills.  There was no way in heck that either of us could herringbone up the hills, because we couldn't pick our skis up through the 2+ feet of snow that they were instantaneously buried under the minute our feet touched down.  Ugh.  So, the skis were discarded and we both climbed ski-booted up the steep hill to the weather station.  Also, the wind had picked up by the time we got to the weather station hill, and there were times when we weren't quite sure which way the path was supposed to go, or couldn't see anything other than white - 'I dunno- aim for that tree, I think'.  But we did manage to get up there after an hour of strenuous climbing (four times longer than our usual walk)- Thayer breaking trail for me, for which I'm eternally grateful.  Thayer did the weather station stuff (we switch off weeks) and as we were getting ready to leave, we realized that, since the internet was down, we would have to climb up the next day with a flash drive to retrieve the data that we had downloaded from the precipitation gauge.  The climb down was nearly as hard, as we were so exhausted.  But once we got back to the cabin it felt SO good to start a fire and veg out for the rest of the day.

We walked/climbed/fell back up to the weather station yesterday, to retrieve the data with my flash drive.  It was so much more enjoyable than our Tuesday hike- there was actually some sun and NO blowing snow!  We didn't even bother with skis yesterday- sturdy boots with ski poles for balance were much more effective.  We managed the whole thing in little over an hour- the time that it took us to just get to the weather station on Tuesday.  It was so wonderful!

[T - also, we didn't sink quite as deeply in this time.  Snowshoes would have been useful, but alas.  Well, we made due and got a good workout.  The ozone machine thingy was working though, so that's exciting.]

There was a little time for lunch, and then I had a phone interview/conversation with a potential graduate adviser at Oklahoma.  After that, Thayer had his own interview with the same potential adviser.  I think both of our calls went pretty well, but we'll see in a month or so how it turns out.

Compared with Tuesday and Wednesday, today was a much appreciated sluggish lazy day.  The sun finally came out and the fresh snow draped over Gothic looks so picturesque.

Just about an hour ago, I skied around the cabin to test the snow.  It has packed down quite a bit, and skiing is no longer an exercise in frustration.  Look at how blue the sky is.

Everyone was taking advantage of the brief respite from storms.  Bucketloads of little songbirds were flying around and calling.  I saw some snowshoe hare tracks (no surprise that they're out and active).

 I also came across a porcupine trail (really more 'trail' than 'tracks'- they carve hilarious troughs in the snow).

As I was admiring its tracks, I heard the telltale wood-munching of a porcupine.  This one was perched halfway up a pine tree, busily stripping its branches (remember to click the photo for a larger image).

[T- I think its face looks surprisingly like a snow monkey face, and the quills kind of remind me of their fuzzy guard hairs]

This one was so much larger and pricklier than the juvenile that we've seen along Gothic road.  It didn't pay us any attention- except for when Thayer laughed at it- that got a look.  And here it is in midreach for a tasty branch.
[T - I was laughing because I had just looked to check my camera shot and saw this picture in the viewfinder.  I think the little tongue hanging out is hilarious.  I watched him for a while, but got bored after 15 minutes of him just sitting eating pine needles.  I'm impressed there's anything that actually chooses to eat pine needles, but he seemed to be enjoying himself]

The snow below the porcupine tree was nearly covered in discarded or dropped branches.

[T - I don't think he was trying very hard to conserve the pine branches, as he had an entire tree to eat if he was so inclined]


Thomas said...

have good one ! thanks for sharing!!

ski resort said...

I feel that you have very tough time in that storm. In such conditions I suggest you to not go for skiing.

Anonymous said...

WOW. Finally the adventure part of your adventure has really kicked in!!The Porcupine pictures are gems. I may have to copy them at some point. How's the water now---running?I am so happy that you are having this experience. It is just amazing to see your lovely cabin house nestled in the storm.
WE'll be eager, of course, to hear about Okie. Were you both excited with the potential adviser? more love,
carolynish mom

G & G True said...

The photos are fantastic. Almost feel like being there.
Even the little guys look great.
Can"t wait to hear results from Universitys.
Keep on bloging.
G & G True

Anonymous said...

Love the photos. The standard cross country skis aren't much good in deep powder as you found out - you probably need telemark skis. I thought you were going to have snow shoes available? Glad the interviews went well.


Bonnie said...

When we have spent the winter in Gothic, we use climbing skins on our skis. Also we have wide enough skis, with metal edges, and strong boots and gaiters. I hope you are well equipped! When you ski uphill, make a diagonal across instead of heading straight up. Ask billy barr about technique. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Thayer, can a porcupine enjoy pine needles any less than we can enjoy gin? Gin and pine needles share the same flavor!
Have you considered a career in photograpy? Amazing shots. I love the grey jay!!!!!!!!

OMDS said...

I love adventures. One of the cutest pics I've ever come across. Keep up the nice work.