Off the Grid  Retirement at our remote log cabin in Colorado

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Avalanche Slope

Yesterday we donned snow shoes and took Bella and Destin to the bottom (which is what we call Hidden Meadows Lane where it winds between our two pieces of property). This area is also dubbed "Avalance Slope" for reasons that will become obvious as our pictorial goes along.

Above is the way it looks now, and below are two photos of the "before". You can see the same tree in all photos. The first before shot is in November, the second in mid-December before we had those big snows around Christmas and New Year's. 

All is buried except for the tallest tree. You can look at the snow level in the first photo and draw a line in the first "before" photo to get an idea of the total snow depth. Pretty amazing, is it not?

Here we are making our way around the huge drift. There's a road in there somewhere!

Here you can see the drift at the top. It looks like a huge wave cresting — look out below if it breaks! This is why Destin is on a leash. With his propensitiy for taking off up sheer cliffs we didn't want him anywhere near that unstable snow.

We expect what happens when that big wave of snow does come loose will look like these "jelly rolls" of snow we found one year in Februrary in one of our trips up to the cabin. I think it might have been 2004 or 2005. 

Here is another example of before and after:

So, yes, we have a little bit of snow!

Friday, February 03, 2017

Frustrated, but Through Segment #1

I am starting to get a bit frustrated with snow management.

As I think everyone knows, we were lucky to get our Suburban parked at Mr. H's place at the state line. And, we can get to it via the Ranger with about a 45 minute trek, no matter what the weather conditions are or how much snow we have. So, we are not technically, "snowed in", and do have the ability to get off the mountain.

Still, I'd love to swap the Suburban with the Expedition, using the Expedition to get into town, and keeping the Suburban (with chains on) at our neighbor's place next to us. That way, if the roads are passable from here, we can take the Suburban to the state line. That means a faster trip and a lot more cargo space.

To get the Expedition out of here, we have several "segments" to complete. Segment #1 is just getting it out of the driveway. Our driveway is narrow, has a tricky curve in it, and also has an uphill grade to get to Hidden Meadows Lane.

Segment #2 is Hidden Meadows Lane from our driveway to Wapiti Way. That is tricky because there is a tree that creates a snow fence causing 3 foot drifts to accumulate on the road. It isn't a very long stretch, but we need to get past that.

This is the short segment of Hidden Meadows Ln that we need to cross to get to Wapiti Way. It was clear a few days ago, but has since blown in.

Segment #3 is from the Hidden Meadows / Wapiti intersection to the "top of the hill" where we meet up with our neighbor's efforts to get out. Getting to this point is nice because we now have two households working to get out.

This is segment #3, obviously taken on a different day. This is from Wapiti Way and Hidden Meadows Ln, looking up across the prairie to the "top of the hill".

Segment #4 is all of Wapiti Way to the County Road (89), and down the county road to where a ranch fence and gate causes two significant drifts in the road. Known locally as the "gate" and the "trap", these can be real problems because there is no way around them. Segment #4 can be "cheated" some, because we can drive off the road and on high points of the prairie where the wind has blown the snow clear. In other words, we can usually drive around any problem areas.

This photo is of most of segment 4, along Wapiti Way to the county road, where I'm standing to take this photo. So, this is looking back toward the cabin site rather than along the road toward the state line. You can see the road in the upper right third of the shot.

But, this is not true once you get to segment #5: the gate and the trap. These have no path around them and so must be cleared by hand.

The trap, segment #5, above.

The gate in segment #5.

Segment #6 is another relatively easy segment because it typically blows clear. It stretches from the "gate" to where Coyote Xing (sic) intersects with County Rd 89. 

The above photo shows much of segment #6. You can get through most of this with chains on a 4WD truck.

The above is the end of segment #6 and the beginning of segment #7. While it is a bit clogged up this year at the intersection, once you are on Coyote Xing, it is pretty smooth sailing. I don't have photos of this segment of the trip because we don't go that way with the Ranger. We go over the snow on the road.

Segment #7 is Coyote Xing to Buffalo Run to Ferret Circle to Snow Pass which then joins County Rd 89 very close to the state line. Again, while complicated, this segment usually blows clear and is no problem to navigate. It is a necessary "long cut" around a stretch of County Rd 89 at the Wurl Homestead that is always deep in snow.

This shows where Snow Pass rejoins the Co Rd 89 (at the bottom of this hill) and the state line is at Chimney Rock. This is usually so passable, I don't even count it as a sement of the journey!

Back to my frustration. Two days ago, I had segment #1 and segment #2 open -- largely due to my neighbor clearing them with a tractor. However, we discovered we could not transit segment #3, so parked the Expedition back at the cabin. We've had a lot of wind the past few days, and sure enough, segment #1 and segment #2 blew full of snow. Very frustrating.

So, I spent half the day today, along with much help from Lynne, opening the driveway back up. It requires wresting the snow blower through dense, packed snow, often only possible by having shoveled the snow into chunks, to the top of the driveway. Once at the top, the snow blower does a pretty good job of cutting slices out of the remaining snow going downhill. When wide enough, I can then scrape it with the snow plow on the Ranger and create hedgerows of snow that the blower can handle with no problem.

Since that is such a chore, we've decided we may just not do it any more. Maybe we'll just let the driveway drift in and just drive over the top of the snow with the Ranger. And, we could get away with that because we moved the Expedition to the top of the driveway. Instead of waiting for all segments of the journey out to be open at the same time, we'll just tackle them one at a time. Like game pieces on a board game, we've moved the Expedition to the next space.

The Expedition, parked at the top of segment #1. About 300' of the journey is done. About 6 miles to go!

Of course, by not keeping the driveway clear (or any segment that we successfull, eventually transit with the truck), we won't have vehicle access to the cabin until May or June. But, we can probably get someone with a skid-steer equipped with an industrial snow blower to open it one final time in early May.

Friday, February 10, 2017

News Flash: Mid-January Warm-Up Arrives Mid-Februrary

The past few days have led to a LOT of snow melting. The days have been sunny, the temperatures well above freezing (even overnight), and the wind has blown--hard. Right now, it is 7:30 AM and the temperature is 46°! The winds contribute a lot to the melting, but are starting to get to us. It is just too windy, even on a "warm" day, to go outside and do anything. We can't take a walk in the open, because gusts are upwards of 50 to 60 mph. We can't walk in the sheltered woods for fear of a dead tree coming down. Plus, the melting snow is now we and slushy and even with snowshoes on, we sink a couple of feet into the snow. Can you say "cabin fever"?

It seems the jet stream has dropped down so that it is clipping the mountains at elevations of 8500 feet or more. Estes Park and Berthoud Pass have both registered 100 mph gusts overnight.

It is nice to see the snow levels drop. I cleared the driveway of drifts yesterday and now it is melted all the way down to the dirt in many places. We can see our Adirondack chairs at the camp fire site again. Old frozen dog poop is being slowly revealed. However, with the melting comes mud.

We still don't have the Expedition "out" where we can drive it, but I really don't like taking the Ranger to the Suburban since we end up driving mostly on dirt (mud) roads. There is some snow here and there, but the trip is not much fun without the snow to cushion the ride.

I bought 50' of snow fence the other day. It is laying in rolls at the top of the driveway. Sometime next week (when it is supposed to be warm and sunny but with no wind), I'll string it up in the woods west of the driveway to try to keep it from drifting in there. That would be nice. Although, I must admit that the Husqvarna snow blower with tracks on it does a phenomenal job of clearing the drifts (as long as I have not driven on them with the Ranger).

One other quick note. The other evening, after dark, we took the dogs out for their final opportunity to pee before going to bed. We call it "finals", and the dogs definitely know that word. Anyway, we walked to the top of the driveway and were walking back, admiring the almost-full moon, when I saw something on the small porch at the door. I alerted Lynne and we both saw that it was the fox. It saw us, and luckily the only dog that saw it was Destin who was on lead. It just stood there looking at us. It was not afraid at all as we continued to approach the porch. It even stretched out and pawed at the logs next to the door as if asking to come in! After a bit, it took off. But, not far. It just went onto the snow bank about 50' away and sat there looking at us as we got the dogs back into the cabin. I think we have a pet fox now.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Mission Accomplished!

As a follow-up to my post about trying to get the Expedition out of Sand Creek Park, I am happy to announce success. 

The Expedition (Lex) parked at the top of the hill. The truck is facing south and Laramie is on the horizon to the north.

It has been so warm lately with winds that help melt the snow, I was able to get the truck out of Hidden Meadows Lane yesterday. And, in fact, we were able to successfully get through all segments of the journey "down the hill" and even went into Laramie to do some minor shopping.

The snow levels have gone down 18" or more. Plus, the high winds have blown more of the prairie clear. I was able to position the truck at the top of our driveway (see the last photo in the above referenced post) in a way that I could blast through about 15 feet of snow that was 12 to 15 inches high. I was pointed uphill and in the "wrong" direction, but was able to get onto a part of the hill that was blown dry. Sure, there is a lot of sagebrush, and I had to watch carefully for rocks and other things that I didn't want to drive over, but I was able to pick my way west toward Wapiti Way. Since that road is covered in snow, I just drove straight across it and back onto the sagebrush prairie on the west side of the road. From there I was again able to pick my way north up the hill and through the neighbor's fence that we've taken down. A sharp left at the top of the hill to avoid more snow drifts, and we were clear!

Next week we will exchange the Expedition for the Suburban at Mr. H's, and finally be on our original plan that procrastination defeated.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Cloud Study: Iridescence

The other day when we were having high winds I noticed this beautiful cloud displaying what's known as iridescence. I quickly grabbed the camera and headed out.

Iridescence in clouds is caused by light waves being dispersed as they pass around extremely tiny ice crystals, with the wave lenghts spead out by different amounts. Therefore the sunlight gets separated into alternating fringes of color. (from The Cloud Collector's Handbook) 

But who really cares what all that means? All I know is that it's beautiful.

The cloud hung overhead for quite a long time, shifting colors and intensity.

It finally faded and ended up looking (to me, at least) like a trout rising to take the bait.

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