It was the kind of day that the chinook blew with a gentle strength. Meteorological prophecy spoke of a potential upslope later in the day, but none of the portents were there. Even later, the few flakes upon the afternoon breezes seemed more orographic than borne of any storm.
I found myself wanting to say it was spring, despite the date on the calendar. It was the feel of the air and consistency of the snow. Mud and slush. The sun comes earlier and stays later, rising higher into the sky. There is a different interplay of light along the ridge lines and mountainsides. Those who have been around long enough have no doubt spotted on to my abstracted view of time. I rarely call out the seasons by virtue of celestial trivialities like equinoxes and solstices. For me, it's something felt within the marrow.
So it goes...
It was the kind of day I set about doing yard work. Certainly, those not in the know-that might be most of you-would wonder what kind of yard work I can do at ninety-one sixty in the waning days of February with close to a foot and a half of snow around my house. The answer is glaringly simple; three dogs. A grim, but necessary, task indeed.
It was the kind of day I wore gaiters instead of snowpants. Carried my microspike crampons instead of snowshoes. For walkabout, I went just a bit up the 730. I didn't have a lot fuel in Old Scratch and not much motivation to go further afield, in part from fuel, yard work, and getting up a little later in the morning than anticipated.
The streets around town were a study in ice, slush, mud, and great puddles of dark, cold water that may have made a hovercraft a good idea for getting around. I kind of see it as what happens when there's only one paved road in town. Getting to my destination, I saw I wasn't the only one who was doing some outdoor maintenance in gentle light of a warm High Country day. Others set about digging out more proper paths in and out, instead of ones made by tramping down snow, which sank in the sunlight and became lanes of glare ice come nightfall.
Going up the trail, I didn't need my crampons. Solar radiation saw to that. After the second switchback, the human tracks were obviously old. No one had been that way in a bit. Those tracks were left by boots. Because the 730 is south-facing and exposed to the winds, I could never really see it as a place to go snowshoeing.
Stopping at the small bowl where the ruins of the Pelican-Dives mine were, just below Cherokee Gulch, another switchback up, I could see a few broken trees from an avalanche that happened eight years back. A few weeks ago, I might not have come this far, even though it's below treeline. Here and now, I gazed up at the summit of my personal Kilimanjaro from a different vantage point. Turned to look out upon our Sahel framed by brilliant early afternoon light and broken clouds, which created ever-changing patchworks of light and shadow across the valley.
It was the kind of day I swung by Miguel Loco's shoppe to get a cha'i and play ketchup. We spoke of his new girlfriend and the how the season had been so far, both in terms of snow and getting out in it and how we were fairing. I apologized that we'd have to wait until next year for him to teach me the discipline of ice climbing because, out of all the places to do that sort of thing here, the ice is what could be called rotten. Although it may have been one of the first days of High Country spring, and the omens of mud were everywhere, spring and summer seemed like far-off, almost mythological, concepts. There was still the spring-breakers to deal with and April.
It was the kind of day where I drove home with the window down and Paul Simon's Graceland-on cassette, muthfuckas!-was my jam. The last of my cha'i was my roadie. When I let out the hounds, even arthritic Chevy lopped about like a puppy. It got me to smile. I sat out on porch to catch the last of the sun's ray's before it dipped below the ridge line. It was just that kind of day.