Saturday, March 21, 2015

Whither The Weather

This should all be white. Not just Dave.

Well, it's winter. The hiking possibilities on Mt. Hood aren't the same as in summer. But we decided we might be able to pop up to Mirror Lake and Tom Dick and Harry Mountain. The trail is so short and scenic, and thus crowded, that we rarely take it in the summer. But in March, especially since we're in winter shape (a shape defined by large, soft, comfortable clothes), it sounded nice.

Last time Dave went up to Mirror Lake in the winter, there was an incident. I won't go into any details of the incident, except to note that snowshoes were involved, and someone had to take a dump. Actually, everybody who knows about the incident thinks it's wildly funny and they've thought so since it happened. Dave has thought it was funny for a much shorter length of time.

The point is if you do go to Mirror Lake in the wintertime, there will be snow. Lots of it. There will always be snow.

Not last week, though. It looked like there hadn't been any snow all winter. Dave and I waltzed up to Mirror Lake and continued on up another 965 feet to Tom Dick and Harry Mountain, overlooking the lake, in our sneakers. On some maps it's just Tom Dick Mountain; you can't always count on Harry. Dave and I have had either the flu or pneumonia (depending on which of us you're worried about) and our lungs still aren't quite up to their previous bounciness, and a six mile out-and-back seemed like a good enough start to the mountain hiking season. Which usually starts much later.

The view from Timberline
The next day we felt up to a longer hike and thought: let's go up the Paradise Park trail and see how far we get before we're bogged down in snow. That trail starts near the bottom of the mountain, where we should expect to be in at least two or three feet of snow right now, and ends at the Timberline Trail, the one that goes around Mt. Hood at an average elevation of about 6000 feet. We got all the way there. We climbed about 3000 feet and encountered only a couple snowflake accumulations that looked more like doilies than snow banks. Oh boy! We get to hike the alpine areas all year! Oh shit.

This is not what we want to do. We're fine with slogging around in the low elevations in the wintertime while our beautiful neighborhood mountain packs on its winter coat, as it is meant to do. Just a few years ago someone discovered some ice caves on Mt. Hood: turquoise cathedrals beneath the glaciers.  There was a lot of melting observed at the time, and whispers about the demise of the glaciers, and their ice caves, in our lifetime.

I'm not sure they're still there.

Here's the thing: everything we love about living here has to do with water. We are inundated with
green. Moss defines us. Ferns slouch from our city trees. Those of us who are up to climbing 5000 feet in the summer will be able to find a snow bank even in August that we can twirl our beer in if we're so inclined, and some of us are. Water. It's a miracle substance. The damn stuff falls from the sky. We know how lucky we are.

Were. We have had some water this winter, but we've also had sunny days on end, approaching 70 degrees, since the middle of February. It's been pleasant in a way that feels false and dangerous. We're supposed to be stacking up snow on our mountain to trickle on us later. The little rainfall we've had has been too warm to crystallize and has barely blessed the slopes. Now, standing at the timberline elevation of Mt. Hood in our damn sneakers and gazing up, we see a volcano bereft, its crown of snow a mere beret, trailing sparse tendrils. It looks like a comb-over.

Don't know where it all is. Where does our weather go on vacation? A bunch of it is in New England, apparently, where they don't have a volcano to stack it up on, and when it melts it's going to do nobody any good. In fact, it will be spectacularly bad. Didn't California used to have a little water? Didn't Texas used to store some fossil water underground? Didn't the sled dogs in Alaska used to run on snow? Didn't the mighty Colorado River used to go all the way to the  ocean instead of petering out into a pile of spit?

Can't Harry at least stay put?

39 comments:

  1. Well, at least some of it is here on the east coast. We had snow yesterday, on the first day of spring. (Someone obviously didn't get the memo.) You can have the stuff.

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    1. Not a flake on the ground here in Portland all winter. That's not abnormal. We just stack it up nearby and keep the streets clear in town. Now, if you could move it all to the mountain?

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  2. Same here north of you. Mt. Baker is at 15% of normal snowpack. It is a bit scary, thinking about the summer.

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    1. You know, a big mountain without any snow on it is just a big rock. It really needs the bling.

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  3. We have gotten our share of moisture. You consider a six mile in and six mile out a 'light' hike? You are better than I Gunga Din. Your post reminded me of the news that Mt. Everest is getting too much poop from hikers and they are worried about pollution and disease in the rivers when the snow melts. Maybe people should pack it our like they do with their dogs.

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    1. Oh, what a lovely image! They can tie the baggies to their ropes. I hadn't heard that.

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    2. Maybe the dogs could be carrying the baggies for the humans this time. Like the old cartoons with the Saint Bernards with the casks around their necks. Only with poop bags.

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  4. Well, there is no climate change or global warming; that's what way too many people in the south say. Because we've had a COLD winter. And then there's Inhofe and his damned snowball. We are doomed.

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    1. Don't forget our friend McConnell. Don't these people have grandchildren?

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  5. We rarely get enough water, and our hills (such as they are) are almost all blingless.
    One of our larger rural cities is about to run out of water though.
    Aaaaargh.
    Mind you, our Prime Minster did tell us that climate change is crap, so this is just a 'seasonal variation' and we will all be fine...

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    1. If only he and his kind were seasonal variations.

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  6. Well, the Atlantic coast of Canada has also been the (lucky?) recipient of what seems like ALL your snow. There are those smug people who say it means there's no climate change - for cryin' out loud, it's a RESULT of climate change. Have a look here: http://atlantic.ctvnews.ca/heavy-snow-rain-headed-for-winter-weary-east-coast-1.2291010

    This is not my photo but it's a good representation of what we just got, on top of what we got a few days before that, on top of what we got a week before that ... you get the picture.

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    1. This would be a good time to link to this fifteen-second video my cousin in Maine sent me.

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    2. Hilarious!! You have to keep a sense of humour. I tried to find the link to another photo but ran out of time - a picture of a snowman on the spit of a flaming gas BBQ :)

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  7. Psst - copy editor here... May I presume you meant "mighty" Colorado in that last sentence there?

    Other than that - uh oh. But it can't be our fault, can it? Just normal climate fluctuation. It'll be fine. We'll be fine.

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    1. Thanky kindly ma'am! Fixed. My friend Sculptor1 usually alerts me to any typos before the sucker's been out for a few hours (although I'm not necessarily up, so it doesn't get fixed right away). She reads them aloud to her mom and BOY do you find the typos that way. I should do it myself but who has the time?

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    2. Hey, if you've got a team to do it for you, why bother?

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    3. Also - I'm a tad puzzled by the sentence which goes "It's a miracle substance. The damn stuff

      Were." But I'm assuming that's some kind of deliberate artistic statement. I could be wrong.

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    4. Oh hell no. That's just a screwed-up statement. JEEZY PEEZY! Fixed. Here's my usual work schedule: I put in Wednesday's and Saturday's blog posts on Monday, all relaxed, and if something looks wrong I have time to fix it. But we went to the mountain Monday, and I barely remembered to stick in Wednesday's post (whew) before we left--then came home and put in this one yesterday. In a hurry. What happens sometimes is you put in a photo and it bollixes up everything. Picks up a fragment of a sentence and tosses it somewhere else. And under normal circumstances I carefully check for such things and fix them. Obviously I DID NOT DO THAT THIS TIME. And I'm not going to look now. I'll let you report back if you find something else! Thanks!

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    5. Although I do get a kick out of the idea that anyone would give me such a benefit of the doubt that they'd assume whatever I put in was what I meant to put in! Yahoo!

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    6. Well, you are so above me in brilliance of writing that I just had to assume I'd missed that class in creative writing. Or something. I did think it looked like that "Were" were (was) just hanging out there without the rest of its sentence. Or something. I scratched my head. And then I figured I'd better mention it. Just. In. Case. ;-)

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    7. ALWAYS mention. I do not take offense!

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  8. Portage Glacier, lovely Portage in Alaska, is gone. I can't even fathom that. Wonder what the'll name Boston's glacier.

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    1. Hmm. They named the leftovers of the last one Cape Cod.

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  9. I recommend the recent movie 'Merchants of Doubt' for a primer on how the climate change deniers do their stuff....pretty interesting, albiet scary/disgusting.

    I drove from MT to Seattle last week, three passes from there to here, all higher than Gov't Camp, no snow, zip. There should have been 3-5 feet at a minimum. My yard, at around 5800 ft elevation, is free of snow, normally it'll have 3+ feet just starting to melt.
    Oh, and I do believe a little bit of Portage Glacier is still there, though in rapid retreat.

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    1. I'm reading The Sixth Extinction right now and that's probably all I can bear for a while. Hey! Are you at 5800 feet in Montana? Sounds pretty close to heaven to me.

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    2. The town ranges from around 5200ft (the flats) up a hill to Walkerville, around 6200ft. I'm somewhere inbetween.
      It's sorta like heaven, if you don't have to make a living here in the service industry (the only thing employing people without a grad degree). It reminds me of what Bend was like when I left in '64, in terms of atmosphere.

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  10. the Anthropocene. Who woulda thunk a bunch of blockheads could affect the planet? Is there a pill for rage?

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    1. Yeah. I got the cap off one right now.

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  11. Beautifully written, Murre. The erosive trickle of concern running under the snowpack of your prose gets my attention. Scary stuff.

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    1. I'm so verbal: since you wrote "erosive trickle" I've felt all itchy. And in case anyone wants to know, I love Julie Zickefoose.

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  12. I certainly hope y'all aren't headed for the kind of dryness we have here in South Australia. We're in Autumn here and temperatures are hovering between 27C and 32C; that's about 80F and 89F; sunny blue skies and no rain now for about 65 days.

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    1. I'd have to stab myself in the eyeballs. Just to relieve the pain. I require the gray skies. You know? Sooner or later people will figure out that water is an actual need. I fear: later.

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  13. 108.6 inches of snow ended up in Boston, mostly in a 3-week period. I suspect much of that belonged out your way. We'd be more than happy to return it to you.

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    1. There must be a way. Too bad it will take so much fossil fuel!

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  14. Hardy har-har as the deniers say - look at all the freeze around you. And the arctic I shrinking so rapidly they can't keep up with the measurements.....
    XO
    WWW

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    1. It would be nice if the calamities just visited the deniers. In fact, that would be right handy.

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