Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas past?

This December was more like a warm Fall.
Last year we had snow, and more came almost every day.
The snow was thin in this picture, but it got much deeper!

Camp Connell, CA -- The Christmas season has been different, mostly for good reasons.
The weather has been unseasonably mild and dry. For those of you who recall last year's winter-from-Hell, that is quite a change.
My memory is that we spent most of the days between Christmas and New Years without power while snow came down and down and down. A couple of pictures will illustrate what it looked like last December.

Then this year we had an early snow, but less than a foot, and then it went away.
This week the nearby state park is crowded with visitors in shirtsleeves and tennis shoes, and there is not a sign of snow anywhere.

Another change is that this year Pat and I encouraged, and our family cooperated, giving gifts to people most in need. So while the family still exchanged small gifts, money went to the local Food Bank, and another family gift went to buy 50 meals for people somewhere in the world who are hungry. This is a good year for that.
And this year Pat and I were blessed to have Zack and Ruth and Brian and Katie and Delaney and Connor all here together.

This year we did not have to travel any further than Ruth and Brian's home 20 miles away, in sharp contrast to years past when we went from Florida to Atlanta, or the farm in Alabama, or some other distant point. Nothing can spoil a holiday quicker than sitting in an airport watching the rain, sleet and snow fall while waiting for a delayed flight.

I recall just a few years ago (40 or so) when I traveled to Birmingham to spend Christmas with my sister's family. Her husband got his first set of golf clubs, so we immediately took off that morning, found a golf course, and played a round in the snow.

Then there was a Christmas in Florida (1968) when an Apollo spacecraft was circling the moon and Pat and I were both working every day and night. Our tree was up, and partially decorated, and we never finished because we had to run off for work. We did have the pleasure of hosting Louis DeRoche of Agence France Presse as a dinner guest, a brief respite before we all went back t0 work. But our work that year included listening to Astronaut Frank Borman reading the Bible while circling the moon, something we will never forget.

Other Christmases were quieter and more normal. We went to my sister's Alabama farm a few times. Her house was always warm and welcoming, the food good and plentiful, and the children excited beyond all hope. Santa always made it, and one year my nephew taught me how to pay a new game on the television set, an astonishing invention called Mario Brothers.

Several years were spent in Florida, where Christmas weather was always a curiosity. Some years we went fishing on Christmas day, or just for a ride in the boat. Other years we watched our first child crawl around the carpet while the grandparents watched.

In later years we adapted to Ohio Christmases (stay indoors due to icy roads) and California Christmases (anything from fog to warm sunshine).

Our children's grandparents are missing now, as is my sister and any number of friends, but we were lucky enough this year to hear good news from friends all over the place and to be surrounded by all our children and grandchildren.

You can't beat that for good weather and good memories.

I said "Grin!" and they did!

Monday, December 5, 2011

No snow -- Losta wind

The entrance station is no more....
One of the biggest pieces of equipment -- a snow plow/front end loader -- took a tree.

Park,. Supt/Ranger Gary Olson, who is well over 6 feet tall, stands by a root tangle where trees went down in the campground...

The good news is when this tree crushed part of the maintenance supervisor's home in the park, they were in another part of the house. They have moved.

Camp Connell, Ca -- We are just fine thank you for asking, but some of our neighborhood did not fare so well.
In the past week we've experienced the severest winds in memory.
The steady winds were around 40-50 mph with gusts up to 60 or 70. At the ski resort where our son works winds at the crest were around 100 mph.

Power was out for four days, an cable for five, but we managed reasonably well with the wood-burning stove and a small generator to keep the freezer, a light or two, and Zack's video games going.

Within a mile of our home at least a half dozen houses/cabins were destroyed by falling trees, but no one was hurt thanks to the fact most are weekend second homes and no one was foolish enough to come listen to the wind blow. e live in an area of very large trees, mostly Incense Cedar, Fir, Sugar Pine and Ponderosa. On our lot alone we have 30 or so trees taller than 150 feet.
But we also live in a creek bottom, protected somewhat from high winds, but watching the tops dance and sway was pretty darned interesting. And hearing branches and cones rattle off the roof for two days was tiresome.
At our house the acre was covered with broken limbs and branches, but no real damage to anything. One branch small fell so far (150 feet or so) it gouged a cut in the deck railing, and stuck into the wooden deck surface like an arrow. It is still sticking up an inch or two.
I have not had a chance to get out to take pictures, but a friend took photos of the state park where we volunteer two miles away. You'll get an idea of the force of the storm.
We were lucky, and have agreed the next time the weather forecast calls for this sort of wind -- if it ever happens again -- we will go find a motel at a lower elevation, or move in with friends for a day or so.
Incidentally, even though the damage within ten miles of our home probably will total over $10 million, no news organization gave it much attention. Cities and Lake Tahoe are more interesting to the news media.
Rural life has some interesting aspects.