Spring Snow in Red Rock Country
But now the weather had changed again. The wind had become a gale, skies were darkening, and the temperature plummeting. Clothes went on and the alarm signals came on too, as we discovered the campground was not yet open for the season. There was a sign on the door suggesting $10 for camping, no facilities, the bathrooms were locked, water turned off. Thanks for nothing. The wind was too strong to erect our tent in the open campground anyway, so we found a draw nearby with sheltering junipers and pinion and pushed up it a quarter mile to be out of sight.
Shortly after we crawled into our cozy tent, it began to rain. By the time we had eaten our jerky and quesadillas (squeeze cheese on tortillas), the drum of raindrops became muffled plops. Snow. Beautiful snow, heavy snow that coated the sagebrush and bent pinion limbs and muffled the sound of the road. We napped.
I awoke suddenly. Silence. Total silence. No little plops. Oops. I banged the tent roof and an avalanche slid to the ground. Big plop. Years of mountaineering makes me awake several times during a night when there is possibility of snow. Too much snow can make for very bad air inside a tent with headaches or worse possible. Broken tent poles and a collapsed tent can be serious business too. We took turns knocking off the snow until it quit after several inches had fallen.
We slept hard and woke up dreading the day. How hard was it going to be to push out of our draw? Hard. Had the road been cleared? Yes. Was our water frozen? I had gone out in bare feet (brrrr) just before our nap, and brought it into the vestibule, but it still froze. Fortunately the sun came up bright in the morning, and we were able to break camp without getting too wet.
The wind of last night turned 180 degrees and became a very nasty headwind. We calculated the wind-chill at below zero degrees Fahrenheit. What a change; yesterday it had gone from shorts and t-shirt weather at noon to winter by dark. This country is as serious as it is beautiful.
The chilling and beating we were taking uphill into the wind, was exhausting us. We lowered our sights to the very next town with services, Hatch, at 23. It took us three hours with stops at an average speed of under eight mph, and half of it was downhill.
It was very cold in Hatch the next morning. An hour after sunrise, the temperature hovered around 20 degrees. Cold riding, even with no wind where we started in the valley. We don’t really have enough clothes for this weather. The sun side of my body felt warm, the other frozen.