Larry Banman: Springtime in the Rockies is not for the fragile
April 14, 2008
While raking my lawn this past weekend, one of my neighbors walked by and asked me if I had spring fever. She then mused that she hoped she would catch it soon.
Those comments got me to thinking (even more) about springtime and particularly springtime in the Rockies. Sunday was absolutely gorgeous with bright sunshine, temperatures above freezing and chirping birds. I was even able to fire up the lawn mower in anticipation of a season of yardwork. On a day like Sunday, it doesn’t take long to start thinking about warm days, planting vegetables and flowers and spending some time on the porch swing.
I have lived here long enough to realize that we likely haven’t seen the last snowfall. Just this past week, we saw more than one day of snowfall. Some people reported nearly a foot of new snow. Ski resorts are closing, but it isn’t because of a lack of snow. It has been quite a winter. Winter had a late start (I picked my last tomato in November), but when it set in, it really put its grip on the high country. The snow was above average, but it was the wind that really put its signature on the season.
I was also brought to reality as I spent a couple of hours this weekend, chipping ice off of my back patio and removing snow from along the north side of my house.
Mudseason for some this year is bound to be a doozy. Those of us who live in town don’t really have an appreciation for what it is like on some of the area ranches. Many of us have been spoiled by asphalt and storm drains. The snowmelt that gives life to meadows and hayfields also creates bogs and adds another complicating dimension to the calving season.
I was also reminded this past week that the spring snowstorms are often the most dangerous of the season. The sirens of emergency
vehicles wailed too many times this past week. The wet, spring storms create a slush that can make for very dangerous driving conditions. I also think the combination of temperatures that are near the freezing level, warmer road conditions and wet snow are a recipe for roads that are deceptively slick. We all need to be a little extra careful driving this season.
We all joke about springtime in the Rockies and the vagaries of the weather during this time of year. A day that inspires a person to think about hiking and camping can be followed by a day that makes you wonder if summer just ended, or just never showed up.
The long winters are somewhat frustrating for us native Midwesterners who are are always trying to plant things. Hopes of a vegetable garden or a flowering fruit tree are dashed by early and late frosts. I remember my first year of trying to grow tomatoes. In the spring, I covered the tender young plant whenever the temperature threatened to drop below freezing. I watered and weeded all summer and watched as the tomatoes grew agonizingly slow. I had harvested a grand total of one ripe tomato when an early September frost turned my vibrant plant into a mass of blackened leaves that hung sickenly from a lifeless stalk. I have since learned a few tricks and have grown more selective with my plantings. However, vegetable gardening in the Rockies is really more about exercise and being outside than it is about providing bounty for the dinner table.
Springtime is definitely here. I can tell by the fact that the baseball season has started and students are really looking forward to the end of the school year. I can also tell because I have considered not wearing my long underwear when I go outside. There are robins and bluebirds and the buds on the lilacs are starting to swell. It is the time of year when you are likely to scrape ice off of your windshield and use the heater on a trip to Granby and then use the vent during the return trip an hour later.
I am glad for days like Sunday. As I told a friend in the parking lot of the Kremmling Mercantile, it reminded me of why I like it in Grand County. I also know that, before we hit Memorial Day, there will be more than one day when my collar will be turned up to a brisk wind and a flurry of snowflakes.
Grand County isn’t for the faint of heart. To survive here year after year, you need to be flexible and ready to accept change at a moment’s notice. If you aren’t, eventually the weather will wear you down. Welcome to springtime in the Rockies. Enjoy the sun, but keep your parka at the ready.
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