Sunday, December 29, 2013

Photo-of-the-Week #139 - Head's Up! Avalanche Country, Yosemite National Park, California, June 2010

So, last week's Photo of the Week was east coast snow in the Shenandoah Valley and this week's photo is west coast snow at about 10,000 feet in Yosemite National Park. Last week's photo was from February and this week's photo is from June. But, snow is basically snow wherever your find it. Some is more powdery and light and some is wetter and heavier. Powdery snow blows and drifts more easily than wetter snow that tends to pack and stay in place.

This is the first time I've ever encountered a sign like the one pictured. Now, this is serious stuff. I have never seen or been in an avalanche first hand. I've only seen them through the magic of film or video documentation. Thus, it's hard for me to imagine what it would be like to stare a moving 12 to 15 foot wall of snow in the face. My first inclination would be, what the heck, it's only bunch of powdery, light snow. But, putting a more realistic spin to it, I would imagine it's much like a sand storm or even quicksand. Once you are engulfed in it you lose all control of your body and instantly become disoriented. I would imagine there are serious dangers with being pushed into huge, hidden boulders and trees and going over unseen ledges resulting in a serious fall. And, digging your way out of, 3, 6, 10 or more feet of snow, especially if you don't actually know which way is up, not to forget that there is no air under all that snow.

Thus, the reason I took a quick (make that VERY quick) photo of this sign. There were many more of them along this route and at many locations the snow walls on either side of the road exceeded the height of my vehicle by several feet. Actually, in many ways, it reminded me of the winter during the first year I lived in Syracuse, New York. By the beginning of January of 1968, the snow had accumulated to a point where the snow blowers used by the city and the university has blown the snow so high off the sidewalks they have created what one might call a snow maze. It was impossible to see over the snow walls so it was literally like walking through a maze to navigate the sidewalks to whatever building you were seeking. I don't recall avalanche warnings, but there certainly may have been some locations in upper New York State where they were a potential threat.

So, heads up when you explore many of the scenic and beautiful places around our country and the national and state parks and forests. They are there for our enjoyment, but there are a myriad of dangers when you explore nature and avalanches are certain one of them in the "high country."  

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