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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The calm before the storm

We're bracing for a big snow storm, promising to bury us in anywhere from 10" to 26" of the powdery white stuff. The wide range of predictions both amuses and frustrates me. I once rode a chair lift with a stranger, and I launched into a tirade about the vagueness of the meteorological predictions for an approaching storm. He defensively lectured me about the unfathomable effects of the nearby Continental Divide. He finally admitted to being meteorologist! I was embarrassed that I'd just been denigrating his profession...

But, the view of the Divide last night certainly told me that storms hovered over the mountains. It looked like a roof had unfurled that barely cleared the summits of the Divide.
At twilight, the sun rays from behind the mountains shined on the clouds from below, streaking the sky with color.
This morning, K and I rolled out into a muted world, except for the eastern horizon which glowed orange.
We had a quiet ride, enjoying each other's company. Today, we were in a zone where we moved synchronously with almost no talking. I loved hearing her light footfalls next to me as she gracefully galloped through the forest. I often say that my first ride is 'for K', meaning that the goal is to give her exercise, but it's just as much for me. I feel so lucky to have her as my furry best friend.
We rolled to a lookout point and an eerie silence enveloped the forest. No wind whooshed off the Divide or through our forest - the calm before the storm. Unusual clouds hovered over the Divide, small gray umbrella-like clouds.
I wondered if this storm will be 'it' - the end of seeing much dirt for the winter. Usually, that transition occurs around Thanksgiving but this autumn has been on an accelerated schedule.

K and I descended onto a tricky ledge trail and rode about half of it. This trail is challenging without snow so a thin layer, barely hiding rocks, roots, and logs, makes it treacherous. Once the snow gets deep but packed, it's much easier to ride. K loved it. Perhaps the cushioning of the snow felt good for sprinting.
After I dropped off K at home, I rode toward a ridge to find dry trails and views. In the photo below, you can see the path ahead of me, up the dry spine of the ridge. The spine of this ridge marks an abrupt transition between meadows on the south-facing slope and a dense pine forest on the north-facing slope. I've seen almost every local large mammal species (deer, elk, bear, lion, bobcat, coyote, fox) along this trail. I think that they love it because it's an easy travel route with handy hiding places in the forest to the north. They can disappear in an instant when I roll along.
As I rode along the ridge, the world transformed before my eyes. Initially, a brightness made the snowy mountains glitter.
Thin clouds filtered the sun before it illuminated the mountains.
By the time I turned into the dense forest to descend, the clouds loomed gray and heavy, bringing our first big storm of the year.
I'm not ready for the stunning transformation of a full-blown winter storm. However, I try not to fret over things that I can't change. Tomorrow, I may be cross-country skiing on our trails rather than riding. The hard part for me is that riding has a unique effect on my back spasms. Nothing can replace it. So, I lament the winter days when riding is tough but I do enjoy the beauty of a good snow storm!

The flakes just started floating out of the sky. And, the weather service just narrowed their prediction to 18-24"! A big one...


  1. 10-26 is a pretty wide span. We get the ranges a lot too because of the altitude changes. Always kills me when I think we are being buried and I talk to my parents who do not even know I am getting snow. we live on opposite mountain faces to the same valley.

    Actually, there is a lot of weather research based in the Asheville area. Because we have four distinct seasons and the variations caused by the altitude changes, they say it is a good area to do research. Amazing number of government weather stations I have found on my hikes.

  2. Love those cloud photos!

    No snow here yet (5:30 pm), but it's surely coming. We just watched a local forecast, but I joke that we know a potentially "big" storm is predicted when on particular set of neighbors park a car up on the road.

    As soon as the weather guy got done talking, my mom called (which she often does) to warn me about the snow amounts.

    I think we're set on wood, food, etc. And, I have nowhere I need to be for a couple of days, so a big snow (even if it feels a bit too early) is fine by me.

  3. This Sibe will patiently sit and wait fur Wednesday's post!

    I just KNOW woo will share your snow!

    Be safe!


  4. Can you believe that the winter is actually already setting in?

    I hope it's not too bad and you can get out and bike again soon!

    Love the story about the meteorologist. That is just too funny!

  5. beautiful clouds....funny about the oldest brother is one! and i always find myself defending them!
    stunning beauty and K looks so happy...what would we do without our precious 4 legged friends?

  6. Hi KB, Catching up with you after spending several days in Denver. We drove ahead of the storm back to Breck this afternoon. We're having heavy snow now. Like you, we're wondering if tomorrow will be a cross-country day! I went outside and scattered my wildflower seed as soon as we got here. I'm sure this snow will "stick" - no ground for us until mid May! Love the photo of K bounding with ears flying in the breeze.

  7. That's too funny! When we lived near Lake Michigan the meterologists said it was difficult to predict the weather because of the lake. Now in the NC mountains they say it is difficult because of the mountains. You figure.

    The photographs are beautiful but do seem to signal some significant storms. Take care and stay warm.

  8. Then you get your big one, but the winds are just getting geared up so it follows its way down into the prairies, picks up more snow, winds pick up more steam and we get our first big 'un maybe by the weekend or Monday. Or maybe it will go midwesterly and Montana will send us the present. The Weather Witches will be busy from now on. And its all a gift from you out on your mountain! Should I say thanks? I do love it!

    Jo in West Central MN

  9. Hey there KB
    Wow, it looks cold!!!
    You know what they say about weather forecasts?..."If there is a 70% chance of rain predicted, it means that 7 out of the 10 forecasters thought so....!"
    Beautiful pictures! Keep warm!


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