Wacky Wyoming Winter: Quicksnow and Ghost Lights

That white vastness beckons, promising adventure. And it keeps its promise.

snowdrifts2Is it snowing or just blowing? That’s often my question first thing in the morning, when I look out the window.

Either way, white stuff is sailing past horizontally, and nature is busy creating what Ralph Waldo Emerson called “the mad wind’s night-work, the frolic architecture of the snow.”

That white vastness beckons, promising adventure. And it keeps its promise.

It’s best to avoid driving on some days like this. The road may be perfectly dry, because the wind has blown the snow away from the surface. But the landscape beside it is a Sahara of snow, which will swirl across the road in huge white clouds without warning.

snowdrifts1Suddenly all you can see is white. The headlights of approaching cars emerge from the white mist like pairs of ghosts. You navigate by watching the vertical roadside markers. Thank heaven the highway department adds a few extra feet at the top this time of year.

Where is all that snow so busy going? Oh, here and there. Who knows?

The question of the day will be whether to shovel out the drifts that are in your way or wait until later, because your tunnels will surely blow in again a few days hence.

Either way, it’s not the kind of labor that engenders coronaries. For the most part, the shoveling is like hefting gigantic spoonfuls of confectioners sugar.

snowshoesThe genuine labor is snowshoeing, as I find when I head off toward a neighbor’s house so my dog can play with his dog. The elliptical and exercise bike gather dust in the house, because this excursion across the back yard is a far better workout.

Last week’s trails have drifted in and some of them are invisible now. I never know whether the next step will be solid, more or less, or whether I will sink to my hips where the snowy slope appears gentle over a sudden drop in the terrain.

It’s all too possible to find yourself tipping sideways and sinking to the chest in “quicksnow,” the winter version of quicksand. Believe me, it can be difficult to lift two snowshoes to the surface when they carry with them several feet of powder!

snowdrifts3All too often, the dog follows close behind me and steps on my metal heels, adding to the workout. But sometimes he gets bored with my tramping and decides to run around me.

This morning the snow was as tall as he is, and for a moment he fell into quicksnow, momentarily as stranded as  a sedan stuck in a snowdrift.

There are two wonders to this wonderland: the fact that it seldom seems cold if I wear warm gloves and enough layers, and the randomness of that architecture of snow. Here, the surface is swept entirely clean. But right there stands a snow sculpture, trapping the little sports car in the garage.

Just as well. I wouldn’t dare take it out in this anyway.

© Lois Wingerson, 2016
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Author: LivingDubois

I am a retired science journalist, devoted to enjoying and recording the many pleasures of life in the Wyoming's Upper Wind River Valley.

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