Friday, December 4, 2009



When I walked out of the library Friday evening the world looked much different than when I'd gone in. The miserable-grey sky had been replaced with a dramatic passing-storm one and the ground was all white. The Library looked extraordinary at dusk- with the dark breaking clouds above it. Instead of rocky and grand, the tall range that hid our sunset was nearly black.

I yanked the Canon from my pack and started the cold walk back to the apartment with a photo of the library. I leaned against a parked car to take the shot- the glowing building backed by our first winter storm. Not even a block away I found my shoes cold and packed with dense snow. It wasn't the powdery stuff.

The air was cold enough, though, that the ice in my shoes would not melt- a nice surprise when I came to realize that my toes were still cold and not numb. Some power lines ran down an alley towards the dark mountains to the southwest- I brushed off nearly four inches of snow from the rock that I suspected would make a fair tripod: It took the painful cold to drive me away from the scene some twenty-photos later. Most would surly be blurred; a brisk wind set in quickly and had me shivering over the 1/30 sec exposures.

The silly wind picked up again and I wasn't halfway home when the sun had failed our valley completely and offered passage for the second bout of weather.
...I turned my back to the wind which stung from the direction that I traveled.

The folks of Mammoth Lakes are much more accustomed to foot-travel than the big-city people that come to visit in their cars. Town is not big enough to risk the icy roads in a vehicle and the 20-min. buses are free to everyone. There were many people walking the same road as I. Some looked like simple masses of warm clothing and the rest of 'em were just frozen cowboys. The snow on the ground blew fiercely to my back as even more fell into the glow of streetlights and passing headlights. Six and eight inches accumulated on curbs, but the busy sidewalks were packed short from the rush hour to get home during the storm. I took photos on my walk: street scenes, Christmas lights and some cool ones when the silhouette of a bundled pedestrian walked in front of an SUV's snow-lit headlights. Most of my photos were disappointing, though: Blurred and dark. It was only those where I'd paid special attention to clean the lens of my camera and steady it on a ledge or mailbox that came out.

Icicles began forming by morning. The system was moving south violently, but our storm wasn't over yet. My ski-pass was revoked for the weekend for some silly flubs with administration in the workplace, but I could still ride the gondola on Saturday. I planned to take it to the top.
Saturday morning I hopped onto the bus for Main Lodge. The woman-driver jumped out frequently to chisel the ice from the steps with a small pick, and once we started moving the bus slid on every icy turn. She wasn't having a good time- turning off of old mammoth road the bus went so far as to miss the street-sign by inches and had an oncoming car make an exciting break.

The cars were more numerous than I'd scene them before. At the lodge there were snow-bound vehicles parked on the side of 203 for more than a half-mile down past the overflowed stump-alley lot. Maybe it is the fresh snow that brings them, or the weekend? At the gondola was posted:
I gave the man my pass to see how far I could get- Only to McCoy station, though, at 9630feet in elevation.
The storm was much more than an examination from the bottom of the mountain would have revealed. I couldn't see the lodge or the peak of Mammoth mountain from half-way- only the most devoted riders and a few strips of dedicated conifers. Even the air was washed-out and crispy- It tore at my exposed face more awfully with each gust of icy wind. I walked from the station and up the flatter parts of a few runs. My meandering left me only cold until I found out just how deep the snow was where it wasn't packed down. The well of a tempting pine left me knee-high and unpleasantly surprised. The step I took destroyed my dry snow boots and sent me back to the station perhaps a bit earlier than I would have chosen. After shopping the unreasonable food-stuffs in the station I returned to the gondola and my apartment, assuming that I'd had enough of the storm. With my planned trip up 14-thousand-foot Whitney in mind, its now much easier to see how such a storm could leave you lost or in a bag!


susie mercer said...

Enjoy your writing and pics

Kelly said...

didn't this storm make you re-think your Mt. Whitney in January idea? maybe just a little?

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