Winter’s Pageant

This winter has brought several bouts of much-needed moisture in the form of snow to Colorado Springs, and as I’m scheduling this post, portions of the Rocky Mountains are waiting with bated breath for the next wintry wave predicted to drop two-plus feet of the white stuff. The brutal arctic blast that swept through North America in mid-February and wreaked havoc across wide swathes of the country also dropped the temperature into the subzero range along the Front Range of the Rockies, but otherwise thermometer readings have been mostly seasonal.

Without belittling the loss of life or damage caused by broken pipes and power outages from severe winter weather (if you, your neighbors, friends, or family were effected, I hope things have returned to normal by now), I find that precipitation takes on a magic of its own when it arrives in the form of snowflakes. Depending on light, wind, and humidity, the resulting effects and moods vary widely. To walk under a bluebird sky through freshly fallen snow, hear and feel it crunch underfoot, and see the sparkle and glitter of myriad ice crystals is an experience I don’t want to miss. I enjoy the sense of adventure when I’m the first to break trail, when I tread where no one else has tread before, at least no other human.

Whether the trees are flocked with cotton-like puffs, whether mist or fog conspires with temperature to create a rime-crusted reality, whether Artist Winter has applied a whimsical brush, the stage is set for a wonderful show. Without further ado I will let you take in some of winter’s displays.

Winter, Finally

In the wake of my recent lament about our want of precipitation, I’m happy to report that three separate storms in the past week have brought some highly-appreciated moisture—in the form of snow. Totals varied based on location, but at the southern end of Colorado Springs we received a minimum of 8 inches (20 centimeters). Being housebound all of last Friday because the heavens never ceased to release flakes, I was determined to get outside on the following day, before another anticipated weather front on Sunday.

Nach meiner nicht lange zurückliegenden Klage über einen Mangel an Niederschlag freut es mich, daß drei separate Stürme in der vergangenen Woche hochwillkommene Feuchtigkeit mit sich gebracht haben, und zwar in Form von Schnee. Die Gesamtmengen waren je nach Lage unterschiedlich, aber am Südrand von Colorado Springs haben wir mindestens 20 Zentimeter erhalten. Da am Freitag der Himmel pausenlos Flocken fallen ließ, und ich die ganze Zeit drinnen war, nahm ich mir vor, den folgenden Tag im Freien zu verbringen, besonders weil die nächste Wetterfront für Sonntag vorhergesagt wurde.

On Saturday morning, I was greeted by azure and windless skies. A gleaming quilt covered the ground and mountains, and the boughs of trees and shrubs were flocked with glittering crystals. At Stratton Open Space, one of my favorite local haunts, which is situated nearer the mountains, even more snow had accumulated. Thanks to a few skiers and other hikers, a trail had been broken and I gratefully followed its meanderings. Up and down hills, in and out of stands of trees, under a nearly cloudless firmament I stomped through the white splendor. The sun climbed from the horizon toward the zenith, and as the thermometer followed suit—from 18 degrees F (minus 7 C) to the mid-30s F (1 C)—I sensed its increasing warmth through my layered garments. Listening to the chattering of birds, and watching little tufts of snow leave their perches and drift through the air and onto to ground, I felt even more part of the whole when some of them brushed against the exposed skin of my face with tender caresses.

Am Samstagmorgen wurde ich von einem azurblauen und windstillen Himmel begrüßt. Eine gleißende Decke überzog Boden und Berge, und auch die Äste von Bäumen und Sträuchern waren mit schimmernden Kristallen beflockt. Stratton Open Space, einer meiner Lieblingsorte, der näher an den Bergen liegt, hatte sogar noch mehr Schnee angesammelt. Dank einiger Skiläufer und Wanderer war ein Pfad niedergetrampelt worden, dessen Windungen ich dankbar folgte. Unter einem fast wolkenlosen Himmel stapfte ich durch die weiße Pracht, Hügel rauf und runter, in den Wald hinein und wieder heraus. Als die Sonne vom Horizont dem Zenit entgegenwanderte, kletterte das Thermometer schnell von minus 7 auf plus 1 Grad Celsius, und ich spürte die zunehmende Wärme durch meine Kleiderschichten. Während ich dem Gesang der Vögel lauschte, und zuschaute, wie kleine Schneehäubchen ihre Hochsitze verließen und durch die Luft und auf die Erde flatterten, fühlte ich mich noch mehr Teil des Ganzen, als einige von ihnen dabei meine unbedeckte Gesichtshaut sanft liebkosten.

Season’s Greetings

Winter Solstice is only a few days away, but wintry interludes have punctuated the weather along Colorado’s Front Range since mid-October, when a deep freeze brought an abrupt end to still-blooming flowers and changing leaves, which suddenly and sadly lost their pigment nearly overnight, and became brown and brittle appendages, that rattled through brisk autumn storms. With the verdure gone, and the denuded vegetation having assumed a near-monochrome hue, snowfalls have enlivened the lackluster landscape intermittently.

Die Wintersonnenwende steht fast vor der Tür, aber winterliche Intermezzos haben das Wetter in Colorados Vorgebirge bereits seit Mitte Oktober bestimmt, als ein Kälteeinbruch ein abruptes Ende für noch blühende Blumen und sich verfärbende Blätter brachte, die quasi über Nacht ihre Farbe verloren, und sich in braune und brüchige Anhängsel verwandelten, die durch heftige Herbststürme rasselten. Mit dem Verlust des Grün wurde die Vegetation fast monochrom, doch zwischendrin haben Schneefälle die farblose Landschaft immer mal wieder aufgeheitert.

Serenity/Stille

Visitations by Jack Frost have resulted in serene sights like the ones above, or in more somber prospects like the one below, when the mountains were obscured by clouds for days on end. His fierce breath has blown snow into ripples resembling drifts of sand, his frigid kisses have deposited sparkling jewels on all things brushed with his lips, and a touch with his icy fingertips—as though they were magic wands—has fashioned frozen forms out of flowing water.

Die Besuche von Väterchen Frost haben zu friedvollen Szenen wie den zwei obigen geführt, oder zu eher düsteren Aussichten, wie der nachfolgenden, als die Berge tagelang mit Wolken verhangen waren. Sein scharfer Atem hat den Schnee so umhergewirbelt, daß er Sandverwehungen ähnelt. Seine kalten Küsse haben auf allem, was seine Lippen berührten, klizernde Kristalle hinterlassen und die Berührung mit seinen eisigen Fingerspitzen, so als seien sie Zauberstäbe, hat fließendes Wasser in erstarrte Figuren verwandelt.

Prospect Lake, Colorado Springs. Pikes Peak is barely visible/Pikes Peak is kaum zu sehen.

Snow drifts/Schneeverwehungen

Winter’s jewels/Winterschmuck

Ice Mushroom/Eispilz

This last season of the year has brought not only snowy sceneries, but also snow ponies, snow geese, and snow dogs. Our neighbors’ puppy is living through his first winter, and he can’t get enough of the white fluff, playing in it with abandon, similar to what we might have done when we were pups ourselves. Watching him is a good reminder to rediscover the child in us and to play in the snow this winter; and if there is none, to still be happy and play with whatever is available.

Diese letzte Jahreszeit hat nicht nur Schneekulissen mit sich gebracht, sondern auch Schneeponys, Schneegänse und Schneehunde. Der Welpe unserer Nachbarn, der seinen ersten Winter erlebt, kann nicht genug von den weißen Flocken bekommen, und spielt völlig ausgelassen mit ihnen, so ähnlich, wie wir das einst taten, als wir noch klein waren. Ihm zuzusehen inspiriert dazu, das Kind in uns wiederzuentdecken, und diesen Winter auch mal mit Schnee zu spielen. Und wenn es keinen gibt, dennoch glücklich zu sein, und mit dem zu spielen, was vorhanden ist.

Wearing proper winter attire/Warm angezogen

Wearing goose down/Mit Gänsedaunen bekleidet

Winter Isn’t Over

In the arid American Southwest, made more arid by recurring drought, any form of moisture is welcome. Few forms are more fabulous than frozen flakes falling from the firmament, as was the case last week. After two days of watching a snowfall through the window from my desk, my body and mind yearned to dive into the late winter wonderland, before it would dissipate like a dream.

Any place is transformed by snow, and beautiful places become more beautiful. This was the case at Garden of the Gods on the morning after the storm. The park’s inherent splendor was rendered more splendid, its innate majesty more majestic, by a moderate sprinkling of powdered sugar. Many place names exaggerate, embellish, but in my mind, Garden of the Gods’ designation is no hyperbole.

As wind and sun slowly but steadily transubstantiated shimmering, frozen crystals back into their translucent, liquid state, ravens were squawking overhead, robins were breaking their fast on frosty juniper berries, the lovely melody of Townsend’s Solitaires floated down from their elevated perches, and this human soul was filled to its brim.

Im trockenen, durch wiederholte Dürreperioden noch ausgetrockneteren Südwesten der USA, ist jeglicher Niederschlag willkommen. Wenige Formen sind fabelhafter als gefrorene Flocken, die aus dem Firmament fallen, wie das vergangene Woche der Fall war. Nachdem ich zwei Tage lang von meinem Schreibtisch aus den Schneefall beobachtet hatte, sehnten sich mein Körper und Geist danach, in die späte Winterwunderlandschaft einzutauchen, bevor alles wie ein Traum erscheinen würde.

Jeder Ort wird durch Schnee verwandelt, und herrliche Orte werden noch herrlicher. Das war am Morgen nach dem Sturm auch im Garden of the Gods der Fall. Eine mittelschwere Puderzuckerschicht unterstrich die dem Park innewohnende Pracht. Manche Ortsnamen sind übertrieben, aber Garden of the Gods verdient meiner Meinung nach seinen Titel.

Während Wind und Sonne die glitzernden Eiskristalle langsam aber sicher wieder in ihren durchsichtigen, flüssigen Zustand verwandelten, krächzten Raben am Himmel, stopften sich Wanderdrosseln zum Frühstück ihre Mägen mit frostigen Wacholderbeeren, schwebte die liebliche Melodie weiterer Vögel durch die Lüfte, und war diese menschliche Seele bis zum Bersten gefüllt.

To enlarge a photo, click on it. To read its caption, hover cursor over it.

Zum Vergrößern, das Bild bitte anklicken. Um den Titel zu lesen, mit der Maus darüber schweben.

Winter Fun

Colorado’s Rockies are home to our favorite winter getaway – Snow Mountain Ranch. Owned and operated by the YMCA of the Rockies, the retreat welcomes members and nonmembers alike. Among the too-numerous-to-list activities are snowshoe hikes, dog sled tours, and horse-drawn sleigh rides, but our 75 main reasons to visit are as many miles of fabulous Nordic ski trails that are carved into the snow during most “normal” winters, owing to the property’s elevation of 8,750 feet, or higher.

To enlarge a photo, click on it. To read its caption, hover cursor over it.

Its 2,800 acres have been set aside from development thanks to a conservation easement, and provide a home to many non-human denizens. We regularly see birds, and sporadically squirrels, foxes, or even weasels. In an almost-total transformation, the latter replace their brown summer with a snow-colored winter coat, to blend in nearly seamlessly into the background, were it not for their black tail tips. Unfortunately, I have never been able to capture one on “film.” On occasion, we happen across big, boisterous ungulates. During a trip earlier this month, while huffing up the final hill to the Nordic Center, I notice three tall, dark shapes out of the corner of my eye. I dash to the car to grab my camera, but soon realize that my worry is superfluous, as the three male moose, recognizable by their antlers, are in no hurry. They are sparring – clanging their shovel-like head projections against one another – in what appears a playful manner, as it is not mating season, and there is no need to edge out competitors.

Often described as ungainly, I find moose handsome. Their physique is adapted to surviving in winter, as they have long, slender legs, and heavy, and heavily insulated, bodies. Once our trio’s scuffling ends, we watch those legs in action as they stalk through knee-deep snow. The animals’ destination is a cluster of willows, where they browse with their impressive muzzles. In summer their diet consists of willow buds and leaves, in addition to aquatic vegetation, but in winter they have to fill their tummies with woody twigs and conifer needles – a frugal, little nutritious fare that annually results in weight loss. The pendulous appendage dangling from the chin is known as bell, or dewlap, whose purpose remains unknown. Antlers, unlike the permanent horns of other animals, are temporary bony growths that sprout from the moose’s skulls in spring and summer, before they are shed during the winter. At least one of the bulls has already lost one antler, and the ones that remain are naked, their fuzzy covering, known as velvet, having long been sloughed off.

Three sparring male moose

Meanwhile, a crowd has gathered in front of the Nordic Center, and everybody is clicking away with camera or cell phone. As it is late in the afternoon, and a cloud cover compounds the short winter day, we watch the three companions work their way toward a stand of trees, where they might bed down for the night, which will be cold, long, and foodless. My husband and I pack up our gear and drive to our lodge, where we will find warmth, light, and plenty of food to fill our tummies.