…And Sloshing Into Spring

After a month of wild After a month of wild March weather, the daffodils are finally back for an encore

Where were we? Ah yes, atmospheric rivers and the “Pineapple Express. ” Five and a half inches of rain over two days.  Warm rains that melted all the snow from just the week before.

It was pretty early in the storm that I first heard from our caretaker. She wanted to warn me that our driveway was in danger of washing away.  The small creek that runs under our driveway had completely overflowed and was now running down the driveway instead of under it.

Also the culvert where the creek runs under Hwy 41 had clogged.  Muddy water had completely filled up the creek’s ravine and was now overflowing the road.

I called a friend who works for Caltrans to let them know about it.

They were already there.

A bit later our caretaker sent me some blurry photos from her camera, taken in the thick of it.

Image of a driveway covered with swift whitewater
This is the bottom of our driveway, now with about 2 inches of whitewater rushing down it!  (These photos courtesy of C.Murray)
Image of a Caltrans truck surrounded by whitewater
Here you can see the whitewater rushing past a Caltrans truck…
Image of muddy water flowing into a deep pond beside the highway
…and back into the creek’s ravine, where it then normally flows under the road about 15 feet below the road surface.  That ravine was now filled to the brim and overflowing with muddy water.

After much effort Caltrans did manage to unplug the culvert under Hwy 41, as well as the smaller one above it  — the one that goes under our driveway.

We drove up later in the week to inspect the entire property for damage.  This is how it looked then:

Image of a deep pit beside the highway, mostly empty of water now
The ravine after Caltrans was able to unplug the culvert and the water level had mostly returned to “normal.”
Image of a front end loader at the edge of the driveway
Caltrans still had to pick up some of their toys.
Image of the same driveway, no longer covered with whitewater
Looking up the driveway from close to the bottom, near Hwy 41. I took this photo from nearly the same place as the “whitewater” photo above
Image of broken asphat at the edge of the driveway
The worst damage to the driveway was just below the first switchback, near where the creek runs underneath it

We inspected the entire property, and although there was plenty of evidence of mud flows and erosion, overall it wasn’t that bad — especially considering the amount of rain that had fallen in such a short time.

Image of the steep driveway looking very normal
Above the Trestlewood Chalet the driveway was virtually untouched
Image of the driveway with some dried dirt left where mud had once flowed
Looking down the driveway, just below the last switchback, you can see some evidence of mud flows, but no damage to the driveway itself
Image of small erosion channels running through the former breezeway of the Logger's Retreat
At the Logger’s Retreat breezeway, again there is some erosion, but the driveway itself is still intact and functional.
Image of a road with evidence of mud flows across it
On the fire road near the south gate, a lot of muddy water did flow across the road, but the road itself was not damaged
Image of a boulder blocking half of the dirt road
A good-sized boulder is now parked on the road up to the top of the knoll where we want to place our water tanks.


Image of shallow erosion channels across the fire road
And north of our properties, where the creek normally flows under the fire road, it chose instead to cross here. But again, the damage is minimal.
Image of deep erosion channels in steeply-sloped soils
This is where the worst erosion occurred — where the path to the picnic area went past the tall Ponderosa pines, behind the garage.. We’ll be reworking this area anyway during construction
Flower Power

Hey, anyone remember these, from before the fire?

Well, they’re back!

I can’t tell you how gratifying it was to see those Daffodils come back.

Of course there are no guarantees that we are done with snow for this season — last year we even had snow in June!   But even so, I think we can safely say that Spring has officially sprung at the Logger’s Retreat.

Marching Through Winter…

Although we had hoped to have the structural design of the house finished by the end of the month, we were not that lucky.  But still March did provide several big deliveries — specifically in terms of weather.

It was almost as if the one in charge of these things suddenly realized that Winter was running late and Spring was already queued up. Suddenly there was a big rush to deliver both Winter and Spring together, all in the same month.

We had several cycles of rain and snow — big rains, which often melted most, if not all of the snow.  The two largest snow events came at the beginning of the month (March 2) and in the middle (March 16). By the end of the month the total precipitation since last July 1st had reached 25 inches, with March alone bringing us 13 of them!

This is what the month looked like from the perspective of our weather station:

Charts of daily temperature extremes and precipitation for the month of March
Note that snow doesn’t show up here as rain until after it melts!

And this is what the first wave (March 2nd) looked like from a more human perspective:

Image of a plowed driveway surrounded by about a foot of snow
Short on time, I stopped plowing the driveway about 50 ft above the Trestlewood Chalet.

This storm left about 8 inches of snow on the ground and was the first time this season where I really needed the snowblower. The equipment worked well; the only unexpected problem was that first I had to dig the Bobcat and its attachments out of the snow,  which took me an extra 45 minutes or so. Before the fire I had always kept the equipment inside the garage at the Logger’s Retreat.    It made me really appreciate what a luxury that garage had been!

You can see from the charts above that the majority of this storm came first as rain (about 3 inches).  A good rule of thumb around here is that 1 inch of rainfall usually translates to about 1 foot of snow.  So if that the storm had been just a little bit colder,  instead of 8 inches we would have had nearly 4 feet of snow on the ground!

After I finished plowing I was not particularly interested in digging the Bobcat out again. So I left it in the garage instead of outside under a tarp.

Image of Bobcat in the garage with fresh snow on the snowblower
There were no guests scheduled for the entire month. So I was able to leave the Bobcat in the garage, ready for the next weather wave.

This turned out to have an unexpected, added benefit.  Shortly after we headed back down to our Southern California home,  a friend of ours asked to borrow it so that he could clear the driveway of a neighbor who lives a few hundred feet up the road.  Her husband had passed away early this year and the storm caught her by surprise, leaving her snowbound.  Thanks to his thoughtful kindness, a few hours later her driveway too was clear of snow, and the Bobcat was back in our garage, ready to go again. (Incidentally it was cleaner than I had left it, too!)

The Second Wave

The middle of the month brought another storm, also starting as rain and then followed by two days of snow.  We arrived late Thursday night, just before the rain turned to snow.  We woke Friday morning to cloudy skies and about 4 or 5 inches of snow on the ground.

For a special treat our daughter was able to join us on this trip. She and my wife went up the hill exploring while I cleared the lower driveway.

Image of fresh snow on trees and the driveway
New snow on the driveway above the Trestlewood Chalet. Photo courtesy of H. Holland-Moritz
Image of the view from the top of the hill with snow-covered trees in the bacground
Trees that were stripped clean by the fire are actually quite beautiful when frosted with fresh snow.  Photo courtesy H. Holland-Moritz
Image of a forested hillside with snow-covered trees
The view south with more fresh snow on burned trees. Photo courtesy H. Holland-Moritz
Image of Bobcat with snowblower attachment in action
The Bobcat at work on the driveway. Photo courtesy H. Holland-Moritz
Image of one side of the driveway cleared of snow
This time I tried plowing uphill — and actually made it all the way to the top! I could not have done that had the snow been any deeper. Photo courtesy H. Holland-Moritz

After I finished plowing it continued to snow on and off all day.  But the temperature was warm enough so that the new snow did not stick.

We awoke on Saturday morning to a few more inches of new snow, bright sunshine and a beautiful blue sky.

Image of brown, snowy woods with bright sunshine and deep blue sky
Last fall many oaks did not drop the leaves that were singed by firel. I am anxious to find out whether or not those trees will  sprout new leaves this coming Spring.
Image of snow-covered tables and chairs on the deck
You can see here the total amount of snow that fell over the two day storm.
Image of a Stellar's Jay resting on a snowy oak tree branch
This Jay seemed to be guarding a nearby feeder with its new stash of sunflower seeds
Image of a shaded, snowy driveway and sunny, blue sky
Only one day before this, I had cleared the driveway of snow, all the way to the top
Image of the steep driveway with snow melting rapidly
But this time the warm sun did most of the plowing for me
Image of the upper driveway still completely covered by snow
And yet only a few hundred feet up the driveway, the snow  there was still cold and fresh
Image of the metal light fixture and breezeway support posts that survived the fire
By now I must have a hundred pictures of these iconic reminders of the old Logger’s Retreat.  They are like old friends to me
Image of the emply Logger's Retreat site with bright snow. blue sky, and dramatic clouds on ridgeline in the distance
I find it difficult to describe the beauty of that morning; perhaps this photo helps
Image of a burned Manzanita branch in the morning sun
That day’s menu featured toasted Manzanita with snow and sky. Photo courtesy of H. Holland-Moritz
Image of a snowball flying towards an old burned out tree trunk
A friend tries to thread a needle with a snowball.  Photo courtesy of H. Holland-Moritz
And Then Came Spring

Shortly after we got back home, California was hit by another “Pineapple Express” atmospheric river.  In the chart above you can’t miss it — it’s that spike of nearly 2 inches of rain, followed by another 3.5 inches the very next day.

That was a lot of rain!  I’ll share the photos and details of that with you in my next post.