The ferry ride from Swartz Bay back to Tsawwassen was on a day that wasn’t particularly nice weather wise. And we emerged in to the open water from the islands, I was wandering about with the camera. The view to the mountains north of Vancouver opened up and they were in clear sunlight with the snow reflecting the warm winter light beautifully. It was a distant shot but a panorama seemed to be a good idea. Everyone on the boat seemed to be taking notice and plenty of people came out on deck to take their photos.
Buildings designed for snowy environments have pitched roofs to stop too much snow accumulating. It can gradually shear off the building, sometimes in the form of snow sheets and sometimes, courtesy of some melting, as giant icicles. Wandering around the buildings in Jackson and Yellowstone, I was taken by the large sheets of snow and ice. The visitors’ center at Yellowstone had a particularly large amount of snow drifting off the roof and obscuring the view out of some of the windows. Other icicles looked rather precarious and, if you should find yourself beneath them when they fall, it could be detrimental to your health!
Our ride through the refuge was covered in this post. Scattered throughout the herd were a large number of bull elk. At this time of year they are not competing for anything other than food so there was little tension between them. Instead, they seemed focused on feeding. However, they still had antlers so they made an imposing sight when they looked the right way.
For my birthday, Nancy took me on a trip to Jackson Hole. Part of the trip was a journey in to Yellowstone National park in a snowcoach. The snowcoaches are modified vehicles to handle to snowy terrain. They come in two main forms. One is the tracked vehicle and the other is based on monster truck tires. The one we took was tracked. It was a pretty standard van design with four wheel drive but the wheels had been removed and replaced with triangular track arrangements called Mattracks. These can deal with pretty much any snow. The only downside is that they are a bit noisy, not too fast and boy do they guzzle fuel. One our trip we stopped for fuel twice and were pretty low by the time we got back.
We also saw some of the other vehicles out and about. The monster truck tired vehicles can attain better speeds and efficiency (plus the maintenance is so much lower) but they are not as reliable in dealing with the worst of the conditions. However, they do seem to be the way that everyone is going. Our guide told us the tracked vehicles are gradually being replaced. It should be noted that, after the winter, the tracks are taken off and they revert to normal road use.
I had a long layover at Salt Lake City when connecting on a Delta flight. The sun was out and the mountains in the background were covered in snow so it made for a rather pretty backdrop for the airport operations. It was a bit Delta-centric given that they hub at the airport and we were in one of their terminals but it did make for some nice light and scenery for aviation shots.
One of the things I thought I knew about the Seattle area was that it didn’t snow very much. In our first winter here, we had one snowy day and it thawed very rapidly. This winter has been a bit different. We have had a couple of large storms come through. The area is not well prepared for snow and the steep grades are not good when things get slippery. Here are some shots from around our area during and after the snows.
Christmas morning in Kirkland had us waking up to some snow. It had started to snow a little on Christmas Eve but plenty more had dropped overnight. This was not snow that was going to last long. It was rather heavy and damp and, having built up on the branches of the trees, it was pretty precarious. When some of it slipped off, it would take whatever was below it too resulting in some significant dumps on the ground below or you if you were unlucky. Paying attention to what was above you was a good idea.
I went out first thing. Since it was Christmas morning, not much traffic had been out so the roads were reasonably untouched. The light from the street lamps was still a factor in some places. I wandered around the neighborhood checking out the view before it all went away. The temperatures were not too low so I didn’t have to wrap up much and I knew things would soon melt. However, it was a scenic place to be for a while and added a certain atmosphere to Christmas Day.
Snoqualmie has an active historic railroad. While we were at the falls, a couple of times we saw a tourist train running along the opposite side of the falls taking visitors on a trip. We never got too close to the train itself while we were there but we did walk past one of the stations. It was a nicely restored building and contained some exhibits on the old services that used to operate there.
Also, parked out of the back was an old locomotive. It wasn’t going anywhere anymore but it did provide a great example to the visitors of the sort of steam loco that used to operate. Now it was possible to get up close and look at the amazingly complex mechanisms it included. Just outside town was another exhibit. This was a snow clearing machine for the railroad. Rather than a plow, it had a cutting head mounted on the front of the vehicle and a blower that could throw the snow in either direction as required. This example had been rebuilt a number of times prior to retirement but now it sat by the road for visitors to check out. (Being a black vehicle on a high sunny day meant it was also a pain to photograph!)
Since moving to California, we have been in a drought. There has not been a huge amount of rain and, more importantly, the snowfalls over the Sierras have been very limited. Sometimes I have flown over the mountains and they have been pretty bare. Since the snow pack is a primary source of water for the reservoirs, this is a big deal. This winter has been different. We have received a lot of rain along the coastal areas and the mountains have been getting a decent amount of snow. I flew across a while back and, as we looked down on the mountains, they were totally covered. Normally the snow is clear but the other features show up well too like the forests. This time, everything looked white. It was one uniform texture across everything. I imagine that, not only had a lot of snow fallen but it had fallen recently and hadn’t yet shaken off the trees. It looked amazing out of the window of the plane!
From Hurricane Ridge, you get a great view of the surrounding mountains of the Olympics. September obviously is not the time to see the snow on most of the mountains but there are some glaciers on some of the peaks. However, it appears like they are in retreat. Photos on the display boards near the visitors’ center show the extent of the glaciers in previous decades and they have retreated a long way. If they don’t slow down (and usually this accelerates), they will be gone before too long. We saw them but it seems plenty won’t get the chance.