A few days into winter brought the Pacific Northwest a snow storm complete with record cold temperatures and days that remained below freezing. We are thawing now, and rain is helping, but it is a sloppy process. I worked outside in the rain and mud this morning but called it a day after my gloves became so wet and heavy that one slipped off my hand. Once inside, I thought back to the morning of December 26 (first day of snow), and how beautiful this neighborhood had become. From my living room window, we have a view of the Olympic Mountains (far off in the distance), of Puget Sound (when trees are bare), and the tall, stately conifers that announce the highest point of a local forest park. As the sun woke, glints of shimmering morning light dotted the tops of our neighborhood snow-covered cedars and pines. This, I thought to myself, is why I won’t move away from the PNW.
Few sights are as beautiful as a tall, statuesque conifer covered with snow. On my walking route, I pass a stunningly beautiful Ponderosa Pine in a neighbor’s back yard. The tree is the tallest tree in this area by far, and as healthy as any pine I have seen in a neighborhood landscape. Each time I take this particular route, I am reminded of a winter vacation my family and I took to the Methow Valley years ago. We stayed in a cabin just steps from the Methow River. Of all the beauty that region offers – star gazing, wildlife, prairies, wildflowers, river and mountain views – our day of snowshoeing through a Ponderosa Pine forest is the most beautiful winter memory I have. This forest type, with its wide distance between trees, open canopy and scant underbrush is conducive to easy snowshoeing or cross country skiing. As we were making our way through the forest I was constantly distracted by the beauty of these trees. The bark is yellowish red, thick, deeply furrowed, and rough. The height of each tree was remarkable – shooting up into a cloudless crystal-blue sky that glimmered with ice particles. Limbs and needles were dotted with snow that sparkled in the clear, cold sunshine. Nothing I have experienced to date has surpassed the beauty of this memory. We have hiked the forests of the Methow Valley, Spokane area, and the Metolius River area in Oregon just to be in the presence of these beautiful trees and be refreshed by the sweet, pungent summer fragrance of their bark. The trees are fire-resistant with bark that is thick, mostly insect-proof, and immune to many diseases that harm other pines. And, as I mentioned, these trees are beautiful when dotted with snow.
I took only a few photos while we were out that day (snowshoeing is hard work!), but the following will give you an idea of the beauty of these trees and the forests they create.
I wish you good hiking, clear skies, and a very good New Year.