This post is mostly to say that there’s no longer a water shortage in California, and you’re welcome. We’re pretty sure the serious dry spell ended just about the same time we arrived. We have parked ourselves safely south west of the Oroville dam, and proven that brisk weather is not the only reason that people get head colds in the winter. Rain and dark days must have a little something to do with it too.
Part of a new home is new weather lingo. In our first few weeks, we heard locals casually locating their homes by feet. For instance, we live at 9.6 feet. This doesn’t refer to a new age grid system, but rather to the river level that would lead to flooding. River monitors along the Sacramento help predict water levels down stream, and keep Paul endlessly entertained by updating their predictions every ninety seconds. When bad storms descend upon us, Rio Vista Radio (local radio <3 forever) will occasionally stop mid-song to update the weather and road conditions. We’ve had water hit 9.4 feet, which makes for soggy sneakers, but not for flooded travel trailers.
The weather is not all bad. There have been hints of sunshine here and there and temps hover around the high 50s/low 60s. We’ve snuck off on excursions to San Francisco and Napa where we confirmed that wine is, yes, delicious and relaxing. Still, we are no longer surprised when an afternoon hike in a county park ends in showers. Even while in Napa, sampling wine that the Obamas served on the eve of Barry’s inauguration (!), there was a thunderstorm.
We cannot be that upset about rain. We like avocados and almonds and wine, of course, and California has been in such desperate need of precipitation to support these crops. Climate change is a serious (and human caused) threat. The rain is good, but the snow is even more important. Winter snow in the mountains means summer water reserves for the valley crops (and people) below. It may be pouring in Rio Vista, but Capital Public Radio out of Sacramento reports that the snow line is at 7,000 feet—just 2 hours drive away. The constant clamminess of the Bay Area does make us miss the crystalized frosty precipitation of our home states. Although we have become snow birds, an effort to save our RV pipes from freezing, we do actually love the snow.
Twice we’ve made the trip to Yosemite where the snow falls in abundance to the point where they don’t bother to plow the roads until April and when they do, they use a dump truck and wear avalanche beacons. Chains are required, even with four wheel drive and snow tires. Inside the park, we bundled up in fleecy layers and hiked into the Sierras. I’m sure Yosemite is lovely in the summer, but to see Half-Dome and El Capitan shrouded in ice and snow was magic. To my mind, there’s nothing quite so rewarding as a warm bowl of chili after a sweaty winter adventure complete with crisp air on your cheeks.
Paul and I were both the kind of high school students who signed up for the Nordic ski team rather than Basketball (cool/coordinated kids) or indoor track (cool/social kids [run for two minutes and then hang with your friends]). My ski coach taught me how to wear a winter hat fashionably and promised that if I learned to V2, I could one day see the National Parks by way of skis. Bliss! For me, our 18-mile glide was a long-time dream fulfilled.
Big, soft flakes fell the whole six hours we were out. Dinner-plate sized clumps fell from the towering redwoods that surrounded us and the quick accumulation made for slow skiing. Although it wasn’t very cold (32—just cold enough for the snow to be snow) the flakes quickly melted on our arms and shoulders. Within an hour we were completely soaked through, as though we swam through Yosemite rather than skied. The combination of a little wind and wet gloves left my hands frozen through. After our trailside lunch break, Paul had to help me reclip my bindings like I was 7 and in a Bill Koch league. My fingers were so cold they were burning, and completely useless. After that we kicked it into high gear to get the blood flowing and return home with all our functions in tact. We were fast, and the woods were soft and beautiful around us. Back in the truck, we agreed that both type 1 (this is fun now) and type 2 (this is hard, but will be fun to look back on) fun was had.
It’s a distinctly PNW experience, living in the flash of rain and mild sunny 50s, but driving two hours to reach dump trucks of snow. Tiptoeing the line of frostbite, and then wearing flip-flops to unpack the truck. In our home states, the weather you get is the weather you’re getting, and it’s unlikely that two hours of driving will change your fortune. In trailer life, we try to be prepared—and think meaningfully about lowering our carbon footprint—whatever the weather may be.