The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly……
By Mary Jo Shelton


I've been praying for moisture.  I don't care if it is snow, rain or some cataclysmic geyser from the depths………  all I know is that I want to see the ground wet and fertile instead of cracked and colorless.  I want to see wild flowers.  I want the trees to be safe and healthy.  And most of all, I want them to stop talking about wildland fire.  So I pray.  Sometimes you need to be careful for what you pray!

Monday, March 17th, St Patrick's Day

It started snowing in the morning but melted as fast as it came down.  The perfunctory sun came out for a few hours but then another squall deposited about 3 inches before the sunset.  What a nice drink for the trees!


"Out comes the sun and dries up all the…." Oh you know the drill.

Wednesday Dawn

I can't believe it.  It's snowing in the land of the melanoma sun.  I know snow and this is Big Snow……… not the tease we have gotten used to.  I try to hold in my excitement because my husband, Mike, is Mr.  Road Guy and he is thinking about "the calling of…  the PLOWS." He has a difficult task ahead.  Only a man would volunteer for such a thankless job.  What we need is a crystal ball.  Is this going to be another 5 inch wet snow dream or is this the REAL THING?  I drink my coffee and eye the drift settling on my Explorer.  It is snowing and snowing like it means it.  Silent prayers and a cheer go up from this firefighter, skier and nature lover.  The trees are partying so hard that I can hardly overhear Mike on the phone because of the slurping sounds coming from the woods.  The PLOWS have been summoned.  There were times during the day when it was snowing 2-3 inches an hour.  By nightfall we were looking at snowfall amounts that I have never seen before…even in nasty old Iowa where weeks go by with below zero temps and the snow just sits there sulking.

Thursday, March 20th

I measured the undisturbed snow at 43 inches with drifts over 6 ft.  I want to do something fun in the snow but mirth is not the order of the day at our house.  The PLOWS are here but the prognosis is guarded.  The snow is deep and hard to move.  The road contractor has a lot of equipment on the ranch trying to make the roads passable but it is slow going.  It will be a miracle if we can save these roads.  This stuff melts and we will be in a world of hurt.


On Thursday we were able to move a little snow and I mean a little.  Mike was able to wallow and shovel his way through the couloirs over to the Kubota, dig it out, turn it around and clear a path 4 ft wide and 30 ft long… 10 hours.  This snow is wet, heavy, ponderous snow, way far from champagne powder.  My closest experience with this type of precipitation would be Sierra Cement while skiing in Lake Tahoe.  Actually I have dubbed this stuff SFTR Snocrete...  I couldn't shovel it because it weighed too much and the task just seemed so insurmountable that I quit before I really got started.  Now I know how the soldiers felt digging out of a Stalag.  (insert photo 019) So much and so far to go!! (I couldn't walk in it because I sank up to my crotch, filled my boots with snow, dragged my ski pants off and caused me duress that could only be justified by the internal glee I felt as I knew just how important this snow was to our forests and water supply.)  Then I found that I could crawl on top of it, except the dog kept making "friends" with my leg.  The PLOWS have been out since yesterday but so far they haven't made it to the South Enders.  The Snocrete up here was too deep and heavy for the grader and the hoes so they called in the heavy ‘chinery…… a bull dozer.

Uh, that would be my Explorer?

Mike shoveling the sagging porch roof
Our grill on the back porch

View from guest room door

Is this deep snow or what?
Mike exhumes his back hoe

Bandit at the headwall trying to see over the top of the snow
There……… that's much better



OK, enuf already.  It is snowing again and hard.  I guess I forgot to mention in my prayers that "all at once" wasn't necessary.  Six more wet snow cone inches.

Saturday AM

The bull dozer finally came by.  That was a scary activity to watch.  The snow was so deep that it went over the top of the blade of the dozer and the driver couldn't see.  So he was followed by the road foreman in a 4 wheel drive pick up.  He used a radio to tell the operator where to go so he wouldn't go off what used to be the road.  Just before noon after 48 hours of "labor" our driveway finally gave birth to our Ford F250 4 wheel drive diesel with 75,000 lbs of snocrete in the bed and chains on the tires.  Oh fun……… now we get to go see the carnage.  We started south up Old Mission to the Luge, over the top to Timber Park and Rainbow Springs.  The dozer left a tunnel of seracs that reminded me of photos I have seen of the Khumbu Icefall on Mount Everest.


So the odyssey continues for Mr.  Road Guy.  What was really weird was the fact that the South end of the ranch got between 3 to 4 ft of snocrete but the north end had only 18 or so inches and was almost dry by the time we slogged over there.  Trinidad had only a trace left.  Who would have ever thought that a difference of 1000 ft in elevation and 7 miles could have such an impact on the snow levels?  I told Mike it was like living in a time warp.  We can hardly get out of our driveway and down Old Mission Creek (A.K.A.  Old Mission Ridge) yet by the time we got to Gallinas there were only inches of snow not feet and the interstate was dry!! I just don't understand but I have a feeling that I will have many other opportunities to observe this southern mountain marvel.  Compare the two photos below:

Compare Timber Park Drive to………
……Cottonwood Canyon.  These two photos were taken less than an hour apart

I hope everyone enjoys these photos and can feel the relief that I hope I have expressed in this article.  While this onslaught of moisture does not change the reality of wildland fire it does change the face of our most frequent initial encounter.  With any luck not all lightning strikes will be a fire.  Certainly the fuel moisture has been affected as well as the ground moisture levels.  What a godsend.

Check out the snow on the Spanish Peaks
The snow pack in the Sangres is near or at 100% of normal

As for Mr.  Road Guy, he has asked me to commend you for your patience and he definitely appreciated all the kind thankyous.  He survived the countless calls and queries and over all is pleased (and surprised) at how good the roads came through this huge spring storm.  For 3 ½ days there were 5 pieces of equipment working our roads trying to move as much snow as fast as possible off the roads.  In addition, they had to move the columns of snow over the edges so that it wouldn't melt back onto the road and compound the problems.  Then throw in our hot hot sun and viola!! You have freshly baked roads that are in pretty darned good shape considering what they have been through!! And, by the way………  so are all of us up here on our beautiful and now soggy ranch.