Up To The Snow And Back

There had been a big buildup to the winter storm; it seemed it might even possibly snow in San Francisco, for the first time in several decades (I always love looking at the old pictures of San Francisco under the snow). For a couple of days it was extremely windy, with a cold edge. One of those afternoons,as I rode west on Market St between Civic Center and Van Ness, I got blown half way across the road with all the wind tunnels created by the tall buildings. Those are the days I am grateful there are no cars on Market Street these days. 

On Thursday night, I got woken up by a thunderclap, right after I had gone to sleep. I heard the rain falling all night, and I wondered in the morning how it looked out on the peaks. On Friday morning, friends texted me photos that had been shared of Mount Tam in the snow, and invited me to come.

I had to get a few things done before I left for Wilbur mid morning, so I did not go out. When I had to leave to pick up the rental car, it started raining quite heavily. By the time I drove away, there were blue skies up above.

The journey up was quite distinct: in the east bay, the roads were very wet with a lot of spray, but the skies were clear. Once I crossed into the north bay, the roads were dry, but it was raining as we went. Since I could not really remember the last time I was in a car, perhaps not this year, I was taking it very gently. Thankfully, traffic on the 80 was lighter than I can ever remember it on a Friday. The 505 was dry. To the left of the valley I could see snow along the top half of the peaks of the hillside. I was heading towards some dark clouds. By the time I got to the 5, it started raining pretty heavily again. There was an ongoing incongruity of seeing rows of almond trees in blossom in front of snow and dark clouds.

Having been to Wilbur a number of times over the years, in all conditions, I knew it was unlikely that the snow would be affecting the road up to there – unlike driving into Tassajara in similar conditions, where you can expect snow above 3000 feet, even if the valley is clear. If you go west from the Bear Valley turning which leads to Wilbur, there are signs saying that you need to carry snow chains, as the road climbs on the way towards Clearlake, but I was not going that far.

Nevertheless, once I turned west at Williams onto the 20, I found myself heading up into the pass with snow on either side. Once I turned off onto the Bear Valley Road, I stopped so that I could pull out my camera and take a picture. I certainly don’t remember the last time I had been in snow. One of the friendly staff members I know from Wilbur was driving out as I took pictures. She said there was more snow expected and she hoped she would be able to get back in in the morning. I took the dirt road very carefully as the first section was quite slippery, and I got to enjoy both the slowing down and the amazingly peaceful landscapes. It was perhaps 40° when I arrived, and it was lovely to sit in the warm plunges, while snow was falling on my head. I have been at a hot springs in the snow before, at Sierra Hot Springs in Truckee – only that time it was memorial day and I was less expecting it to snow, but it was still beautiful.

The skies cleared somewhat, and it warmed up enough that the snow had all melted by the time I left on Sunday. The place was far from full, though I had people coming to each meditation session, despite the trouble we had getting the heating going on the deck. I had thought about staying an extra night, but more snow was potentially coming, and it seemed prudent to get out while the going was good. I ended up driving through several hours of torrential rain on the way back; thankfully traffic was light again.

WIth more downpours on Tuesday as I made my way to work, I found myself feeling very weary of all the weather, and there was great relief when Wednesday dawned sunny and clear, though we are not out of the woods yet. I have been hesitating to schedule a roan this weekend, with varying forecasts. 

Highway 20 west of Williams, as the rain turned to snow.
Wilbur from the lower parts of the Manzanita Trail on Saturday morning – I did not venture far afield.

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