Posted by: highmountainmuse | January 23, 2009

The banana belt

We call this the Banana Belt.  You may not think so at first glance if you were sitting here with me, as we’re at an elevation of almost 10,000 feet and the ground as far as you can see from here writing is completely covered with a couple feet of snow.


Ah, but it’s melting, melting!


A photo of our mountain yesterday - notice the exposed grass and dirt on the southern hillsides way up high.

A photo of our mountain yesterday - notice the exposed grass and dirt on the southern hillsides way up high.

It’s January and I kept the door open yesterday afternoon because our house got too hot.   It was fifty degrees in the shade in the afternoon, and in the sun we were out sweating in t-shirts.  It’s January.  In the high mountains. 


We’ve been hearing weather forecasts of snow dumping down all around us.  Not here. We’ve even seen the clouds ooze around the tops of the peaks surrounding us, teasing, taunting, and evading us… We’ve read about temperatures plummeting elsewhere.  Not here.  We get sunshine.  Warm air. Great for the solar panels.  Cruddy for the snow. 


The creeks are flowing beneath the snow.  You can hear them.  Stand on top of the couple of feet of snow holding you up like a precarious bridge, and stop in the middle.  Be silent and still, and you can hear the muffled rush of the water below, flowing freely as it melts from somewhere higher up on the mountain.


The river, the big one, the Rio Grande, has opened up.  This is the time of year I’m usually “walking on water.”  Literally, since the top ten inches or so of the river are usually ice.

The Rio Grande, open water in winter

The Rio Grande, open water in winter




Sections along our snowmobile “super highway,” the almost seven miles between us and our trucks which is the main road to the ranch in the summer, are beginning to melt off.  Down to dirt! This wrecks havoc on snowmobile or cross country skis.  So, we turn to riding across the ice…


Forrest and Bob raced their snowmobiles across the ice of the Reservoir yesterday (you can read a little more about this from a young man’s perspective, rather different from mine as you can imagine, on Forrest’s blog: Highcounty Hillbillies).  Now, that scares me.  Believe it or not, the trick (not a very comforting term for a mother to write) is to just go fast, don’t slow down, and definitely don’t stop. Most years are cold enough in January and February where it is pretty safe and we ride across the ice in relative comfort. We have even taken guests in (even my parents) across the Reservoir.  However… snowmobiles have sunk through that top layer of slush which can form on top as the early run off from the creeks and river begin to feed into the reservoir, raising the water level above the layer of solid ice which is then perhaps four or five feet below the slushy surface.  So in theory, if you sunk in, you’d only go so down far… That doesn’t bring me much comfort.  I can’t count on what I can’t see.


We all know the old saying, ”If you don’t like the weather in Colorado, just wait five minutes.”  Perhaps it will be five days rather than minutes.  But check back soon.  Betcha I’ll be whining about the frigid temperatures I have to endure as I shovel all this snow that gets dumped on us…


We’re hoping so.


In the meanwhile, maybe we can’t be growing bananas here, but think sunglasses, sunblock, perhaps a big straw hat?



  1. I am always amazed that you can find something beautiful every day. I think our your high country and it seem like it could be a lonesome place, but beautiful. Your writing gives me the feeling of beauty in the snow, the creeks and anticipation of the weather.


  2. Alone, but not lonely. Even when my boyz are gone, I have doves in my kitchen, three cats, my dog, 7 horses up here for the winter (more on their way as they are born…), chickens, the wild birds I feed, and the wild life like coyotes and moose that we see quite regularly. So much company!

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