I got early photojournalistic evidence, because I knew it wouldn’t last, but the snow disregarded the 9,000-foot edict overnight to come creeping down to us here at 7,703 feet.
It is May 28, one day past Memorial Day, a mere handful of days away from June, and we are still getting snowed on.
I am not one of those people who will tell you I remember getting snowed on during the Fourth of July, because in my 56 and a half years in Colorado I don’t recall that. But I’m the only one: everyone else in Colorado has a story of seeing it snow on July 4.
At a graduation party (yes, graduations have come and gone, and while many of us can recall snow during Western Then State’s outdoor ceremonies, that’s early May and not out of the realm of possibility), a couple weeks ago, the graduate’s father had a plausible July 4 snow story: they were outside, enjoying the sun, when suddenly a snow squall appeared. Half an hour later, the sun was shining again. This family lives off the grid among the hills south of town, so I’m inclined to believe that story.
Otherwise, people’s recollections of July snow are a lot like the fish that got away: bigger with every telling.
The other day I was thinking about a photo my late friend Roger submitted for the Colorado Press Awards competition one year. It didn’t win or gain any traction at all with the judges, perhaps because the judging was done by a press association from a Southern state, where they probably wondered what on Earth made the photo significant. (One year, when Tennessee did the judging, every picture that won had a horse in it. Just sayin’.)
Roger had photographed two men below a now-departed sign from a still-there-but-many-name-changes-later bank. It was a standard bank sign, with the time and temperature above the bank’s name, and a moving marquee below for community messages. The men were looking up at the sign, which showed a temperature of 92 degrees. For Gunnison, especially back then, this was actually big news: we had topped 90 degrees. But like I said, it didn’t seem to rate a notice from judges who probably regarded that as a temperate day.
Temperatures in the 90s aren’t as rare as they once seemed (darn those wacky climatologists, anyhow), but I’m not looking for them anytime soon. Not while I can still see snowflakes wafting out of the sky. Did I mention it’s nearly June?
The weather has already had an adverse impact on us at Pat’s Screen Printing, although nowhere near as adverse as the impacts that seem to be everywhere in the Midwest. Is there anyone left across 10 different states who has a house unafflicted by either (or both) tornado or flood?
Every year we print for a race in the San Juan Mountains near Lake City that takes place on or near the summer solstice called, funnily enough, the San Juan Solstice. See if this sounds like fun: you run 50 miles (not kilometers, miles) up one mountain and down the next, and another and another. The elevation map they have us print on the backs of their shirts looks like a cardiograph, although they like to point out that you end up at the same elevation as you left, so an altitude gain of zero. (If you believe that, I have a snowstorm in July to show you.)
About a month ago the race organizers asked us not to print the race course on the backs of the shirts, because they might have to alter the route due to snowloads. Tia’s sister-in-law did this race at least once (I thought she was smarter than that), and during a fairly dry year was fording some icy creek up to her armpits. Fun, huh?
This week, the organizers called to let us know they were cancelling this year’s race. Lake City — well, quick research isn’t giving me an elevation, but it’s got to be 9,000 or better — at a height where little tiny rivulets are trickling together to form creeks that eventually become rivers far downstream, is very concerned about flooding this year. They had a bunch of avalanches this winter, and there are concerns that the avalanche debris could lead to water where it isn’t supposed to be.
And, since it could be snowing during the solstice, there’s no way for Rebecca or any other runner to ford that creek without being swept away. It’s a good call, although disappointing. The race also serves as a major fund-raiser for Emergency Medical Services in Hinsdale County (which is more or less the same thing as Lake City), so it’s not a decision made lightly. Just safely.
In a fit of efficiency, though, Pat’s Screen Printing printed the front of the shirts that go to entrants (almost 200 people sign up for this run — is that crazy or what?), all with their 2019 date on them. Often we are scrambling to get these done a week ahead of the race — why didn’t we do that this year?
We have at least one other event on the bubble, for that same weekend. Gunnison River Fest organizers are eyeing water levels down here. A couple of weeks ago, they were predicting flows to be around 1,300 cubic feet per second, which would mean none of the events scheduled for either the river or the whitewater park would be viable, leaving only a few events on Taylor River near Almont. (The Taylor and the East come together at Almont to form the Gunnison.)
Weather. One year they had to cancel the Fourth of July balloon rally (no, not due to snow) because the drought situation was so extreme they were concerned that the balloons’ burners could spark a fire. This year we’re too wet and snow-laden for June events.
We should all stay inside and watch bike racing. Oh, wait: today’s route in the Giro d’Italia had to be re-routed because organizers were unable to clear enough snow off the mountain they were going to ride up for the finish. Instead, the riders pedaled up and down mountains in a pouring, fog-filled rain.
And since I was watching that instead of efficiently blogging (I learned my lesson about being efficient with the Solstice shirts), I am now behind schedule. Which is my new normal, but it’s not really a good look. So, without any witty closing at all, I am off to walk to work. In a snowstorm. Up hill. Five miles. It’s just a good thing I didn’t put my winter coat away.