Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Importance of Snow Tires!

By Sunday morning there were a couple of centimeters of snow on the ground. "Winter Storm Warning" were the first words in the Park's Morning Weather Report. Well, I thought I better get to Old Faithful now before it gets worse followed by heading straight to Mammoth for training on Monday and Tuesday. I called dispatch to make sure that Craig Pass was still open. "Affirmative" they said. I was soon to find out that "affirmative" actually translates to "Blowing and snowing hard- exude excessive caution- in fact we do not recommend it!"

I looked outside and did the math- it's only 8:30 am, I'll be fine in the 2 wheel drive Impala. The alternative is the Old Jeep which has no holder for my coffee mug and no CD player. Two things which at 8:30 am on a Sunday are essential in my world!

AS I left Grant in the Impala the snow was falling but the roads were clear and so I chugged on to Craig Pass. After passing the first Continental Divide sign (over 8300 ft) I realized that Craig Pass was going to be a challenge. I slowed by speed, put the vehicle in second. The snow and ice were getting thicker and thicker. And if anyone knows me- they know that I have probably about 20 hours experience of snow driving spanned over 10 years! NOT an avid snow driver!

Finally my poor Impala could not take it anymore. I hit the ice and skidding back and forth. The whole event was no longer than 5 seconds and in those 5 seconds I did exactly what I should have done- pumped the breaks, steer gently, don't panic. "Don't panic" for me is difficult and I had to laugh after the event because I realized that during the event I literally talked myself down. Out loud, I was saying "You got this, you're fine, you got this!" Apparently, my brain and my heart have a great friendship and are willing to help each other out emotionally in a time of crisis! It worked great though because as I was saying this I totally felt my confidence restored and did exactly what I was supposed to do! Ten seconds after the event the dispatcher on the park radio came on and said "Craig Pass- now open to snow tires and 4 wheel drive only"! Aggggg!!!!! That message, 30 seconds early would have been AWESOME!

"This is STUPID", I thought to myself. No training or visitor center is more important than ME! So back to Grant I went, driving 15 miles per hour. I got home and Shane awkwardly looked at me "Everything okay?" "

"Yup, just learning why snow tires and 4 wheel drive are so important!" I called Old Faithful and my boss kindly told me that I did not need to be on the road if I was nervous. I thought about it for a second and realized that I needed to do this. I could not let the first snow fall render me hopeless. After all, I should expect this weather for the next 4 to 5 months! I thought about the 20 vehicles that passed me as I drove home and I realized that as long as I had snow tires and 4 wheel drive I would be fine.

So, I got the Jeep, popped it 4 wheel drive, shifted down to 2nd and slowly trekked up Craig Pass. The difference was stupendous and I felt like I had discovered fire! Wow, snow tires and 4 wheel drive are AMAZING! As soon as I crossed Craig Pass and descended into Old Faithful the snow had turned to rain. In fact, it snowed all day in Grant and rained in Old Faithful making me happy that I did get out of Grant when I did.

For next two days it rained in Mammoth and higher up on the Yellowstone Plateau. On both Monday and Tuesday morning I jumped out of bed hoping to find snow on the ground only to be reminded that Mammoth is warmed than Grant. Shane would send me pictures of Grant covered in snow and my heart would sink that I was missing the first big storm of the season. Everyone reminded me that there will be many more but I still was disappointed about missing the FIRST one! Oh well.

Today is Wednesday and I am back in Grant. The thermometer read 16'F this morning and the there is still a few inches of snow of the ground. From the edge of our roof long icicles have formed and as the wind blows small snowflakes spiral around in the air. The sky is cloudy with the impending feeling that it could start to snow again at any moment- of which I happily welcome!

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