Our First Snow Odyssey

trees with a bit of snow

You Can Say That Again!

We arrived at our friend’s house late in the afternoon after leaving our previous house sitting assignment earlier that morning. There were a few inches of snow on the ground as we drove up the mountain. 

We had an enjoyable visit, catching up over dinner, and went to sleep planning an early departure the next morning for our next house in Sonoma.

snow-covered trees

A Winter Wonderland

As you can tell from the photos, we woke up to a very different world! A deep blanket of snow covered everything in sight. We heard no wind, no sounds hinting at what was happening outside our window. This was one of those quiet snowfalls that just gets down to business with huge soft snowflakes. Over a foot of snow had fallen that night, and I excitedly bundled up and went out on the balcony to get these photos.

snow-covered trees

Even though we had just spent almost two weeks in winter weather, with snow and ice storms even, somehow this was more dramatic. That’s how it’s supposed to be if you go up into the mountains in winter: the clouds dump tons of snow on everything. Fresh snow, pristine snow, soft snow covering everything, creating a quiet like nothing else does anywhere else. 

deep snow

Then We Saw Our Car

Yup, that’s not some miniature down there, that’s our Toyota Camry buried in snow. Which, of course, drastically altered our departure time. There was no way to drive out of there on our own and yet early.

snow-covered car

The only thing to do was get on our winter gear and start shoveling! Thank goodness our host helped Jim: I would have frozen to death doing that!

Even with two men, it took over two hours to dig the car out enough to put on the chains. Then we had to wait for the snowplow to clear the roads. Soon after that a private contractor came and cleaned up the driveway with a plow and blower. Have we mentioned lately that we’re most recently from Los Angeles, where this kind of thing doesn’t happen? 

man digging car out of snow

Take a look at the video, I watched from the window and found it fascinating. 

At last, the road was ready for us, and after getting the chains on tight, we were ready to roll!

men digging car out of snow

Off We Go

It was the first time we’d had snow chains on and let me tell you it was loud and slow. The slowness was all right with us since the road, though plowed, was not in the best of shape and it allowed us to take in our surroundings.

snow-covered scene in the mountains

This house is at 5,000 feet in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon about an hour north of Crater Lake National Park. The neighborhood consists of a bunch of homes up off the main highway. The photo above is one of the neighboring homes after the snow plow came around.

snow-covered trees and road

From all the recent plowing, the snow bank on the side of the road was six feet high; it was quite the sight.

snow-covered trees and road

As we drove by a few buildings, we got a better sense of the area. It’s difficult to see, but I noticed giant icicles hanging from that roof and would have loved to get a closer view. However, there was not a chance in hell that I’d be getting out of the car and climbing over that snow bank for a close-up.

snow-covered buildings

Seriously, look at that building! I don’t know how people live like that. Of course, it is incredibly beautiful.

snow-covered building

Since we hit the road about 9:00 am, the snow plows were out on the main highway already. We drove by at about 15 mph with those chains making quite a racket.

snow-covered trees and road

There was nothing for me to do but look out the window and snap photos as we drove. Look at that scene! Gas anyone?

snow-covered building

More Slow Going

It took over an hour to reach Highway 97 – a trip that usually takes 15 minutes. Along the way, we were able to take off the chains but couldn’t drive much faster: the fresh snow was cleared off, but it was still slippery with the snow-pack and ice underneath.

At least we didn’t have to listen to that noisy clanging of the chains, but for how long? We still had more mountains to get over. Was there more snow ahead? The chains came in handy, but we would be ever so glad to leave them in the trunk to dry out. 

snow plow on the road

It was great to hit the main highway and turn south, and we were grateful to see pavement again. Our goal for the day was to get to Sacramento; thank goodness we didn’t have to get any further than that.

Signs all along the mountain roads say don’t pass snowplows on the right. If you’ve ever wondered why here’s what happens on that side – no place to be unless you’re looking for a strange kind of thrill. We weren’t.

hillside with a bit of snow

A Different World

After about an hour, the snow dissipated substantially, and we only found a few inches on the ground near Klamath Falls. Once into California, the snow completely disappeared, and we had clear sailing all the way. Could this possibly be the same day? A hundred miles further south and a couple of thousand feet lower – big difference.

lake and mountains

Here’s a photo of Mount Shasta, one of the few times we’ve seen it this clear. It’s the big dog of the mountain range. Maybe they don’t call several volcanic peaks in a row a ‘range.’ More of a collection, and random, like ant hills, though our geologically minded friends might have a better explanation.

Mt Shasta covered in snow

This photo is from the south side of the pass, well into California. What snow storm? That was all far behind us by now. Our driver could now loosen his intense grip on the steering wheel.

sunny landscape in Northern California

The Weed Store 

In Weed has gotten us curious many times as we’ve driven through the town, and this time we stopped. It’s everything you might imagine. Every single cliché about weed you ever heard – they’ve got it printed on a shirt, a placard, a sticker, a knick-knack, in every color and size. The owner’s an amiable, talkative fellow and by far the best part of the stop: endless stories if you bother to ask. All the local news and a lot of the rest.

You can see stores like this in most travel-towns: towns where a few people live but most travel to get to and those travelers better stop in and shop, or it’s the end of the business. This is a specialty shop within the specialty shop genre: extreme dedication to a single theme (who in the world comes up with this stuff?) and absolutely nothing you need.  

souvenir store in Weed, California

Speaking of Unnecessary Things 

We both want to go back in time and witness the first person with a chainsaw who finished stacking a winter’s worth of firewood and thought “You know, I think there’s a bear hidden in that stump. I’ve got some gas left in the tank. If I just take a little off here and there…yes!” Maybe that’s the creation story for an entire industry/art form. People are just endlessly creative and industrious. Other people mostly. See you in Sonoma!

small bear statues

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