Atmospheric River

Sweat.  Trickling down my nose and wafting on the light breeze to plop and disappear into the snow drift at my feet.  It combined with the slowly dripping icicle that dangled from the cabin eaves and disappeared into the wall of snow I was standing atop trying to dig out the immersed windows and cast some light into the deep shadows of the cabin.  My hair was moist and dripping, as were my hat, gloves, undershirt, and collar with excessive perspiration.  Snowmageddon had arrived to the Sierra Nevadas and as Mammoth Mountain had the most snow in North America a large portion of that had landed squarely on top of my little homestead in the shadow of the mountain.

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It was the conditions we skiers dream of, and the mountain was rejoicing after so many years of drought.  Being only my second winter in the cabin and the first after a long drought I approached the cabin with a deep sense of dread and worry.  It was the biggest snowfall in 10 years and was looking to be a historic month.  Before now as a skier I would have given a whoop, checked into my favorite lodge, and let the envelope of luxury entrap me.  I would have sunk into the routine of continental breakfast, pounding the mountain, and then après ski, followed by a sumptuous meal.

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All that had changed.  I had a home now and all the worries that entails.  Is it buried?  (Yes.)  Do we have power?  (Thankfully, yes.)  Is the phone line down?  (Unfortunately, also a YES.)  Will we be able to get in?  (Yes, but not without a massive headache with my new custom made door that was maybe not custom enough.)  The challenges of cabin life did not disappoint.

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Now a big storm was also a big headache and cause for thought and pause and most of all planning.

I had been up a month earlier in December and didn’t even need to put on snowshoes to walk out to the cabin.  I therefore didn’t think to bring a shovel out with me to store in the car in case we had a big storm.  After all, massive storm systems were unknown to the Sierras for several years.  The mountain ski slopes had been mostly empty as conditions hadn’t warranted the adulation of worshippers coming in droves to plow her hallowed slopes.

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As I watched the weather reports with a mixture of excitement (as a skier), worry (as a homeowner), and sheer awe (as a human), I romanticized about what was happening at the cabin.  What metamorphasis it was going through and what changes would befall me as I witnessed a true winter in my mountain escape.  Last year’s average winter was just a training ground for what lay ahead of me with the “atmospheric river” wafting across the peaks and bluffs of the Sierras.

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That evening after our heroic shoveling efforts, I lay in bed with my new (game changing) hot water bottle tucked into the deep folds of the sheets relishing the warmth seeping into my sock bound feet.  The moon was reflecting off the snow wall revealed by the twin picture windows and rebounding that light back into the cabin making it feel like it was under a dome or entrapped in an icy snow globe.  I reflected on the atmospheric river I felt was flowing not only over the mountain passes and valleys but also over our nation as a whole as we all came to grips with a river of polarization and separation that was wafting across the entire country.

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As I sat in my snug igloo of nature’s making I was enthralled with the peace of it all and the separation from the constant assault of social media.  The ability to step outside of myself for a minute and just appreciate the solitude of nature is something that I want to constantly remind myself to never take for granted.

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As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of our National Parks and America waits with baited breath and fear of the potential reversal of protections that our forefathers worked so hard to put in place I hope that many of those who don’t have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the beauty of our gorgeous country’s natural environments will get an opportunity to experience the peace and understanding that comes from being submerged in something larger than yourself and how important it is to continue our preservation of this planet, not just for our future generations but for our own sanity in the here and now.

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