Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Spring Snow in Sedona

"We haven't had this kind of snow in at least 7 years!" remarked a local Sedonaite during a conversation on the suprise snow storm on March 17th. Indeed. It was a bit of a surprise to me too. Kristi and I took the last couple of days of her spring break to explore a bit of unknown areas in and around Sedona, Arizona. We spent the first two days lingering around Oak Creek, and Sycamore Creek working our tans and throwing our dogs into large pools of water. Now we were deep into a wild moist spring storm. I had advance knowledge that we were expecting a storm, but according to NOAA's web site, we were only supposed to get 4 inches- in Flagstaff. Sedona rarely gets snow, so when it started raining late Saturday night I was hardly concerned. We could see the storm blowing in, but we had chosen a nice campsite 9 miles out on Forest Road 525, in a wind shadow of sorts. A huge fire, liquid libation, and dinner mixed with a day of hiking the ruins around Loy Canyon brought heavy sedation to the both of us. So when I awoke around midnight and heard some rain on the roof of the van we knew the storm was upon us. Sleep once again arrested my consciousness. I woke again early the next morning to extreme silence. Warm and cozy in our sleeping bags we were stirred by the dogs anxiously shaking, announcing their full bladders. Sliding the van door opened we began to fully grasp the gravity of the storm. There was 5 inches of snow on the ground, and after stepping out, two inches of mud below that. About 75 feet off the forest service road in an established campsite, we scratched our heads and wondered if we would ever get the van out, and whether or not we had cell phone coverage. Snow was still coming down, blizzard style. With out our habitual morning coffee or breakfast, we decided to leave- if we could. The van started with little issue, and I pulled forward to get a running start and promptly slid into a large bush. Now the wheels were spinning. Kristi started to stress, fearing the worst - A six mile hike to the highway in a snowstorm and a hefty towing bill. I got our spade out and cleared an area of snow around the van, then threw some rocks in with the mud. Rocking back & forth I freed the van, and trying to avoid a large pile of rocks promptly slid into another bush. We decided to spend some more time clearing the remaining 50 feet of snow off the ground all the way to the roadway. I instructed Kristi that she would need to push, since she was not willing to drive backward. I told her I would be pulling forward, then quickly backward to gain enough momentum to drive over the hole I had created with the spinning wheels.
She would need to push once I started backward. It worked, once I was free I gently feathered the accelerator then gunned it once I got momentum. I bumped over the ditch and slammed on the brake as soon as I hit the road. Since the road was on an incline, the rain water shed off, and all I had to deal with was 5 inches of snow. We slipped and slid through wet mud puddles and snow until we hit pavement on Boynton Canyon road. I began to breathe easier now that the threat of sliding into a ditch was less likely. After getting a bit of gas, we made our way to the freeway only to find that the Highway Patrol had closed it. They were making travelers exit, and blocking the entrance to prevent anyone from entering. Even though the van had no heat, we thought we would use the time to play tourist in the snow of Sedona. We drove around to the various sites, capturing the rarity. Getting cold, hungry and jonesing for some coffee, we decided to hang out at a local coffee shop until they opened the freeway. NOAA said the storm was to last until the next day, dumping even more snow in the meantime. We had our laptop, so we started looking at the internet and some prices of a room. Rooms in Sedona are ridiculous, maybe we'll just drive to Cottonwood, we thought. At about 11:30 we checked the Flagstaff paper online- the freeway was open. We took off, and immediately it began to snow even harder. Peering through small gaps between snow on the windshield we crept up the freeway to find a couple of tractor trailers parked side by side, and traffic behind them. Great, no heat and stuck on the freeway behind two trucks sliding backwards on a hill. Impatiently, one car was able to edge along side of them, then another and another. If I had any traction, I was going. We got around the trucks and slowly drove 25mph for the 45 miles home. White knuckles all the way.Believe it or not a 76 VW bus is great in the snow. It not only has high ground clearance, the engine is at the rear over the drive wheels. Backing up through mud and snow is a kin to a front wheeled drive car doing the same forward. Go VW! We got home to 18" of snow and another 8 fell over night.

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