By the side of the road…

Dead bush, by the side of the road in Idyllwild // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Over by the dump, on the side of the road, there is some brush that looks dead. Maybe it’s the time of year? Maybe it will come back when we get further into Spring? Maybe it won’t? But either way, it’s seriously beautiful when looked at through a camera lens!

My last post about the snow…

Idyllwild Snowman // Photo: Cheryl SpeltsI promise, this will be my very last post about the snow and winter and everything cold. It’s almost spring, the seasons are about to change, what more is there to say? Right? Turns out I have a lot to say, so I need this one last post, to get it all out…

I’ll admit it, I didn’t have any idea what a real winter was like before this year. I wasn’t totally oblivious – I spent time in the snow every year, as a tourist. My family spent Christmas in Idyllwild many many times over the years. I thought I “got” snow. But there’s something about living with it, that is very different than visiting it. I also fully understand that dealing with a little snow is a lot better than dealing with bitter cold, and I’m very grateful that we don’t get that kind of weather here in Idyllwild. Even at it’s coldest, it’s never too bad – this is Southern California, after all.

So I’m not complaining – really I’m not! But I have noticed a few interesting things this winter and thought I’d share my top ten!

First, I think it’s kind of funny that I came to Idyllwild thinking it would probably be a light year for snow. I don’t know why I thought that? It wasn’t based on anything I’d heard or read, just my own personal desire. But I was really wrong. In December we got the second largest snowfall since 1947, and the power was out for four days – something that hasn’t happened in at least 30 years. In January very little new snow fell, but February so far has had the fourth highest snowfall totals on record – so not only was it not a light year for snow, it was a record year.

Second, I’ve been surprised at how different the snowfall can vary between different locations within Idyllwild. The official snowfall total for the big December storm was 21 inches downtown, but the elevation of the downtown area is only about 5400 feet, and where I live at 6800 feet, we got well over 36 inches in that same storm. The totals were very similar in last week’s storm – downtown got 18.7 and we got just under 36 inches.

Third, I’ve learned that snow can blow sideways, and if it does, there will be pockets that are really deep. The storm last week dumped about three feet of snow here, over six days, but I heard about a guy who had snow drifts five feet high, because of that sideways-blowing snow. Can you even imagine? Three feet is tough enough, you sink up to your thighs, and it’s difficult to get around, but you can do it. With five feet of snow, you’d be literally stuck. Even if you wanted to shovel out, where would you heave the excess snow? I know I couldn’t heave it up over my head for very long! I almost hope the story was a bit of an exaggeration – maybe he only had four feet? I might be able to deal with four feet…

Fourth, I’ve noticed that the area near the entrance to Idyllwild gets a lot more sun than we do, and so the snow melts much faster on that side of town. They get less snow to begin with, and it melts super fast, so living on the South side of town has some real advantages, if you want to live a somewhat normal life in winter, and be able to get in and out easily.

Fifth, I’ve noticed that different people deal with the snow very differently. Some dig out immediately, and are bopping around town right after a storm ends. Others will let their cars stay buried for a week, and just burrow into their warm little homes. That contrast was super-apparent to me today as I watched a guy in shorts, jog along the side of the road, right in front of homes with cars totally buried under two feet of snow. Everybody deals differently!

Snow in Idyllwild

Sixth, I’ve noticed that nearly everyone in Idyllwild drives a green Subaru with All-Wheel Drive – as do I – but with me it was not a choice, it was more chance, and I plan to trade it in at some point – but not until winter is officially over. All-Wheel Drive rocks in the snow! When other cars are spinning on the slick icy pavement, I’ve been fine. This car may not have been a choice for me, but I’m really happy to have it right now. But it is sort of weird to see so many others driving the exact same car as I do. It’s like we’re all members of the Idyllwild Green Subaru Club.

Seventh, I’ve noticed the tourists stop way too soon to play in the snow. Some don’t even make it into town, they stop at the first patch of white they see, even when the roads are not icy and totally safe. That’s fine, if they’re happy with patchy snow that isn’t very deep, and is usually kind of dirty after a few days – but if they want better snow, all they have to do is drive into town. Plus, if they get into the downtown area there are restaurants where you can warm up after playing and get a great meal. It’s a win-win to come all the way into town! The tourists would have more fun, and the merchants would have more customers.

Eighth, I’ve learned how to really build a good fire – not a wimpy little fire on Christmas Eve for atmosphere, or a fire at the beach to roast marshmallows, but a real rip-roaring-fire that keeps the whole house warm. The secret is air, and thin spaces between the logs, that cause a sucking whoosh of air, that carries the fire up. Who knew?

Ninth, I’ve learned that snow can be treacherous. Today I was slogging through two-feet deep snow, and didn’t realize that the ground below sloped down. It was that darn sideways snow again. It didn’t fall evenly, so you never know how deep it is, and I got tricked in an unfamiliar area, and twisted my ankle – not fun.

Tenth, I’ve learned that you really can wear snow boots with a skirt – up here – not anywhere else. As long as they match in style and color, no one is going to look at you askance if you take a fashion risk, and wear brown fur boots with a brown skirt. Just be sure and take your regular shoes with you, so you can change once you get down off the hill, because down in the real world that kind of a fashion risk is just not happening!

A little break before the next big storm

Tire Tread Marks in the Snow // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Abstract road art, created by tires with an interesting tread pattern.

Lilly Rock in the Snow // Photo: Cheryl SpeltsSquirrel Footprints in the Snow // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Lily Rock can be seen in the background in the first shot, and the second shot is squirrel prints – they move so fast, it’s hard to tell sometimes if they’re even touch the ground, but these prints are proof that they do!

Icy Rivulets // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Icy rivulets frozen to the side of a water tank.

What the snow plow leaves behind... // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

What the snow plow leaves behind.

Idyllwild Snow // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Snowflakes on my windshield, first thing this morning.

Yes, it’s snowing again in Idyllwild!

Idyllwild Snow // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

If you look closely you can see the snowflakes falling against the dark background of my neighbors house. It really is falling that hard and fast – about a foot of snow so far – and more predicted tonight and tomorrow.

It’s beautiful, and I’m warm and cozy inside, so I can’t really complain, but I’m definitely ready for a long hot summer!

I’m back! I think…

Getting “snowed in” sounds so romantic – staying inside by the fire with a good book, drinking hot chocolate. No work, no school, no modern world. Sounds fun! And in a way it is, but it’s also a lot of cold hard work. By the third day with no electricity, one more trip out to get firewood, just gets old. Do you have any idea how much wood it takes to heat a house with a wood stove and a fireplace, when it’s 22° outside? And when that wood is at the end of long walkway, and buried under three feet of snow, it’s a lot of work!

And there’s the darkness. This time of year the sun goes down so early and comes up so late – and with only firelight, and one dim lantern, there’s not much you can do. We played Scrabble – a lot of Scrabble! And went to bed early, and slept late. But fourteen or fifteen hours of darkness is a long, long time. Especially by the third night.

The power came on suddenly at 1:30AM last night, then flickered out, then came back on for good at 2:30AM. I’ve never been so happy to see the lights come on!

Idyllwild Snow // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

This is the view from the house, about midway through the second storm, soon after the power went out. Down by the garage there’s a big bump in the snow – that’s my car. As more snow fell it became even less recognizable.

Snow in Idyllwild // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

The view from the front porch, also on the Wednesday. There’s no denying that it’s beautiful!

Icicles in Idyllwild // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

And this is what it looked like today! Bright blue sky, lots of sun, and lots of icicles as the snow on the roof began to melt.

As the sun heated things up, the trees began to shed their load of snow. In fact, it was hazardous to walk under them since you could get dumped with slushy snow at any moment. But it was worth it to get to see some green again!

We’re supposed to have two more days of warm weather and sun – so hopefully the ice and snow will melt off the walkways and we can dig out the wood pile and my car before the next storm – which is supposedly coming on Monday. I am definitely hoping for rain that day, instead of snow – and that’s a possibility – but if it does end up snowing, I just hope for a light dusting this time. I can hope! And I really really hope the power stays on. It’s amazing how great heat and hot water and hot food are! I’m not ready to go back to the romantic pioneer days again quite yet…

Bright Blue Sky and a Warm Sun

Snow and Sunshine in Idyllwild // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Much better! Bright blue sky and a warm sun. It’s up to 37° and there’s a constant drip, drip, drip as the snow melts off the tree branches.

My car is totally covered – if you didn’t know, you’d never guess there was a vehicle under that particular mound of snow.

They’re predicting rain or snow tonight, and then more snow tomorrow, so it’s not over yet, but I am definitely enjoying this little break and some bright pretty sun shining through. I love the way the light reflects off the snow – it’s so bright and beautiful! Reminds me of the beach…


Snowy Trees in Idyllwild // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Yes, it does indeed snow in Southern California – if you’re in the mountains!

It started snowing on Saturday night, and by yesterday morning there was a blanket several inches deep covering everything. I finally ventured out in the afternoon and scraping the snow off my windshield was sort of fun – it was soft and fluffy and light – and pretty! Then more snow last night, and lots more snow this morning. Judging by the snow on the roof of the house next door, it must be almost a foot deep at this point. And it’s not stopping. The forecast is for three more days of this. Will I even be able to see my car if it continues at this rate?

Last summer we got a hard thunderstorm that dumped more rain faster than Idyllwild had seen in 30 years. That was impressive! But I’m sort of thinking that was nothing compared to several feet of snow?

It’s going to be an interesting winter!

Idyllwild Snow // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Voting in a Small Town

Idyllwild Town Hall

In Fallbrook I used to love voting at the First Christian Church – a beautiful little Gothic-Revival church, constructed in 1887. How can you beat voting in a little white church with a tall steeple? It’s so American, and so patriotic, it just feels right.

But for me today, the election season ended at the Idyllwild Town Hall – and I have to admit it felt just as right.

I love small towns!

Am I Idyll? Or am I Wild?

Maybe a little of both?

I’m in Idyllwild! It’s a beautiful little mountain town, with rock climbing, hiking, shopping, and lots of restaurants. It’s also a bit like Snow White’s Forrest – squirrels and chipmunks and blue jays all play together, with an occasional rabbit or deer joining in. I’ve actually seen five deer in the nearly two months I’ve been here. It’s a magical place!