Tom Clyde: Park City’s thawing out, slowly but surely
O joyous day! The sun is out! It’s not just out, it lasted a couple of days, with almost balmy temperatures in the afternoons. Not since last fall have we seen such a marvel as actual sunlight, strong enough to cast shadows, with clear skies. It’s a miracle. Until the sun reappeared, I hadn’t realized what a gray winter this has been.
I’m probably a week away from having the farm roads melted off, and then the mud will be an issue. But it’s starting.
One of my favorite spring rituals is taking the snowblower off the back of the tractor and stashing it in the very back of the barn. I can’t get within 100 feet of the back door of the barn yet. It’s on the north side, and the snow drifts around the barn itself, so it looks like something from the depths of Siberia. But it will happen. I’ve often swapped the blower for the grader blade, but this year decided to leave the grader on the back of one of the antique tractors. The thinking was that it would be available in a year like this when I’ve sometimes needed the blade to move the slush. The blower will move a lot of snow, but it very clearly is not designed as a pump.
The other idea was that it would provide an opportunity to play with the 60-year old tractor, parked at the house, when all the others are completely snowed in at the barn. It didn’t work, since the old tractor just spun in the muck instead of really pushing anything. The driveway is almost dry enough now that I can get a little traction and grade the ruts out before they swallow the car.
I made the transition from ski gear to bike gear. The off-season gear gets boxed up on the top shelf in the closet, and the current season stuff moves into the drawers. There’s something so satisfying about the seasonal sort, putting the winter gear away, anticipating the coming summer bike season. The bikes are out of the furnace room, and the skis are tucked away until next year.
The first ride of the year is always a jolt. Nothing prepares your backside for riding except riding, and even a short ride brought that to my attention. But it was like the best bike ride ever, despite being bundled up for the cold (all of 45 that day — but the sun was out). The driving rain had washed a lot of the grit off the road, and for some reason, the potholes aren’t all that bad. So I took a quick spin down the canyon. There were sandhill cranes in the pastures, geese on the ponds, a few baby calves wrestling in the muck. A family of ducks had set up shop in a roadside puddle.
My house is right at 7,000 feet. The canyon takes a bend a couple of miles below the house, and the valley is pretty narrow where I live. The end result is that winter lasts a good three weeks longer at my house than just down the road. In downtown Woodland, the fields are bare, and beginning to green up. Farmers are dragging the fields and preparing the irrigation ditches. I’m a couple of weeks from that, which is great, because it is a couple of weeks of irresponsibility before I have to get to work.
The aspen trees are in blossom, and the winter sinus infection has surrendered to the seasonal allergies. After a winter like this, who knew hayfever could be so welcome? Sneezing? Bring it on. At least it’s not frostbite.
Even the dogs were celebrating the reemergence of the sun. Their regular walk has been pretty boring this winter. We walk down the lane with the snow piled up five feet high on either side. There’s not much to see, smell or chase in that. Suddenly, the marmots are whistling in the rocks along the river, and the potgut squirrels are running amok in the fields. The dogs actually want to go out. A pair of turkey buzzards were circling around the yard the other day, and the dogs thought that was pretty interesting, from under the deck.
Of course they are shedding their winter layers just like me. I can comb a pile of hair out of the lab that is about as big as the dog himself. He loves it. The Aussie shepherd doesn’t comb very well. He found a cocklebur bush and got completely packed with that. He might be due for a shave, though I was able to cut most of it out.
It will almost certainly snow again before we’re done. But after three days of sun, I can take it.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.
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This ski season was great once it got going, writes Tom Clyde. Being outdoors on the slopes was “a powerful and necessary thing this year.”