A Most Illusive Winter

2015

Mid to late February

and a winter

LIKE NO OTHER

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The Colony, mid-February, 2015, Woody Creek, CO

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December. Ah yes, such gorgeous snow.

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The Colony, mid-February, 2015, Woody Creek, CO

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The Colony, mid-February, 2015, Woody Creek, CO

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Now alas all gone.

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The Arbor, mid-February, 2015, Woody Creek, CO

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At first I thought, we all thought, presumed, that the drought would pass, that the parched sunny days of January would inevitably give way and allow for our usual Colorado Rocky Mountain winter snow extravaganza. But no, this year it just wasn’t to be, and now there can be no doubting that even when winter conditions  return, as they inevitably will, with more than a mere hint of spring in the air, “winter” now finds itself relegated in conversation to the past tense. Of course there’s undoubtedly plenty of rough weather to come but the sheer amount of warmth gobbled up by huge swaths of bare open ground spell disaster for our normally reliable thick blanket of perma-snow.

Now, however, I really can’t see anything that falls lasting longer than a few days. The hot spring sunshine builds with every lengthening day as we round the corner into March.

No doubt we’ll have many a snowstorm between now and Memorial Day, and perhaps beyond, but winter, as in ‘the depth of’ is now, surprisingly, well and truly gone. Gone before it actually really got going.

And so what of my epic attempt to cover every metric mile of the valley’s impressive circuit of Nordic trails? Well, in so far as there are still trails groomed to ski I’ll have to shift my focus of attention up a few thousand feet where the snow is practically always deep and crisp and even… even when we here on the valley floor have none. Much will depend on just how much snow falls between now and the end of the season.

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The Arbor, mid-February, 2015, Woody Creek, CO

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Mid-February, 2015, Woody Creek, CO

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Mid-February, 2015, Woody Creek, CO

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‘A winter like no other’. Well, at least none that I have witnessed, and this is my 12th.

As anyone around these parts can tell you this has been just the strangest damn winter any of us can remember; bone dry and blissfully sunny. But as one storm after the other swept either side of us an alarming and relentless pattern of daytime melting emerged to the point that each day steadily wore away at the one-time impressive snow covering, until the bare patches linked themselves together, forcing the few remaining drifts to take cover under the conifers and along the hedgerows.

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Deer Family, mid-February, 2015, Woody Creek, CO

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Even the deer seem a little spooked by it all.

By the way, at the conclusion of the Deer Family Mosey’s Through the Sculpture Garden I did promise an update on the whereabouts and well-being of the little deer family featured in the post. Well, after visiting the garden on a handful of occasions the news is pretty grim I’m afraid.  I’ll be covering their fate in a future post, but the family in the accompanying pictures comprise of an entirely different group that to my knowledge first wandered into the meadow a week or so ago. It consists of the usual anxious, watchful mother, along with a brood of, I think, three quite young offspring.

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Deer Family, mid-February, 2015, Woody Creek, CO

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Deer Family, mid-February, 2015, Woody Creek, CO

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I’ve never seen this family before and by their mannerisms they were very far from feeling comfortable despite the epicurean feast there for the taking. Of course they were not to know that all of the dogs they could hear yelping, as their scent rolled-on down the breeze, are safely corralled behind quite formidable perimeter fencing.

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Deer Family, mid-February, 2015, Woody Creek, CO

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Hopefully they will learn, as have the others, that the sculpture garden and surrounding meadow offer quite the finest nibbling around. The garden’s Riparian nature, irrigated by the crystal waters of the Woody Creek River, and set amid a rich long-established organic environment… just about everything seems edible to some creature or another, and if its not then they can at least build their homes with and within it.

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The Arbor, mid-February, 2015, Woody Creek, CO

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The deer leave behind quite obvious calling cards, but of the many, many creatures that claim the garden for their own the ubiquitous Rocky Mountain Snow Rabbit leaves no such overt clue and is by far the most tenacious and elusive of critters to witness in the flesh, let alone photograph. Moments after this and the other snaps were taken this little gathering had darted into the adjacent thick undergrowth. My lucky day for sure.

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CIMG6127

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Imagine my surprise when I happened to snap a picture of this little jaunty ring. Momentarily caught off guard they appear to be performing their mysterious Ritual Spring Dance… distant forerunner to the mythical Mad Hatter’s Ball. This odd little jig, so deeply embedded in the age-old Rite of Spring has apparently remained unchanged since the last receding glaciers of the Ice Age finally melted into the land.

Normally of course this fascinating, moving ritual would take place deep under a snow crusted icy cover, but for these – the last remaining totally wild and untamed Snow Rabbits yet at large within the Roaring Fork Valley, there is simply no ice for them in which to burrow.

As with the various deer families I have mentioned of late I will attempt to keep track of this robust band of rodents and relay any future sightings, should they occur. With any luck at all the Snow Gods will let loose soon with a bumper-dump of the white stuff sooner rather than later; if not for we miserable skiers, then for the sake of the poor, exposed Snow Rabbits – #Think-of-the-Bunnies

“Let it snow”. “Let it snow”, LET IT (expletive) SNOW !

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The Arbor, mid-February, 2015, Woody Creek, CO

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The Arbor, mid-February, 2015, Woody Creek, CO

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However, even if it does snow, look at it. I took the above picture slap-bang in the middle of February. I certainly can’t think of another year when just soo much bare ground has been visible at this time. Not only that, but for weeks now we have all been casually breezing around in tee-shirts – it really has been that warm. Nighttime too ! Almost balmy you could say.

Of course, each winter brings with it its own batch of ‘false spring’ days, warm spells and the like, but what makes this year so very odd is that these freakish summer-like days came back-to-back for weeks on end – the entire real winter in fact.

One upshot from all this summery weather however is that I have been gifted the perfect opportunity to prepare the garden for what I am quite sure will be a most spectacular summer. In particular I have set about shaping and pruning the arbor – the same arbor that supported the Ice Palace of two winters ago.

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Day 15 January 22

Day 15 January 22

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In spending so much time clambering around the site of such monumental ice sculpture, as I pruned and weaved away, my mind was repeatedly taken back to events surrounding the conception, construction and completion of what stands to this date as my single largest sculptural installation.

Day 20 January 27 2013

Day 20 January 27 2013

But beyond reliving many fond memories I was shocked at the thought that given the winter we have just experience such a structure simply could not have been built. The nights have been way, way too warm, and the days positively balmy. No, to build such an edifice takes nights of exceptional cold. Dry cold – zero, minus 20, that sort of thing. So cold in fact that the tiny water crystals immediately stick to, and bond with, the surface on contact.

Day 22 January 29

Day 22 January 29

Consequently, in lieu of a real Colorado Rocky Mountain Winter I have decided to re-visit and re-release all Ice Palace material already posted on martincooney.com, along with other never released shots. As the ice sculpture’s timing coincided with the very early days of my website the entire 58-day story was never really told in a coherent start-to-finish manner. I aim to correct that by posting an introduction covering the early days, through to the point whereby we catch up with proceedings as they unfold – then I will post updates – in real time as it were,

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Day 56 March 4 2013

Day 56 March 4 2013

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The Arbor, mid-February, 2015, Woody Creek, CO

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The Arbor, mid-February, 2015, Woody Creek, CO

February 18 2015

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Thanks for stopping by.

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Until next time, take care and have fun !

Author, Owl Creek Road Trail, Aspen/Snowmass Village Express. MARTIN COONEY

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