As a story teller, this is an odd combination to link together, I know. Please bear with me on this one, for in reality, they were connected. So, you’ll see the connection between digging a snow cave and the red sky…
How my parents raised four kids so completely different in trade, yet still so connected at heart, it quite amazing. So, here’s me on one end. The self described homesteader, horse woman, and former hippy chick. And on the other end, my eldest brother, a Colonel in the US Army just back from a year in Afghanistan.
We might sound like day and night… but we’re not as different as you might think! Again, I don’t know how my folks did this – mostly, I suppose just taught us to keep an open mind and to treat people respectfully. That’s the only secret I know for getting along. Works every time, if I remember to use it.
Anyway, my brother completed training for Special Forces, Airborne, and all kinds of pretty rough stuff. I know, he’ll chide me for not knowing and using more proper Army terms, please excuse my ignorance of these kinds of things – I promise it is not lack of respect, just lack of knowledge. So, survival skills have been a part of his training. He has learned these skills, tested them, used them. A common thread…
My first back packing trip was with him, and I knew I was in good hands. Forrest was only a year and a half old, and I carried him in the back pack, and strapped a sleeping bag under his feet. My brother carried the brunt of our gear, though our two German Shepherds carried a fair share in their doggie packs. He may have stressed all night, out there in the rain in the Wilderness on our bed of boughs, drinking water taken from a pond littered with leaches and chiggers (the filter worked, don’t worry)… but I slept like a log, knowing full well my baby and I were in the best of hands.
Now, here with his wife and kids in the snow, we began talking snow caves. The kids thought this was a dandy thing to try out. We parents thought it was a fine thing to teach the kids. Education in the form of fun always goes over well as a please-everyone type of activity.
You know my feelings about encouraging kids to build a snow cave, and try out many survival skills (please see the earlier post on Snow Caves), so that when and if the need arises, the knowledge will be there to replace the fear. We weren’t planning on having the kids sleep in this one, as I had Forrest do in the past, but at least to build it large enough and secure enough that if they had to, they could. Of course, as you can imagine, once they finished it was hard to get them out.
An interesting note here is the different styles with which my brother and I learned to build snow caves. My brother was taught to dig in a small hole, and excavate the interior from that hole. The method I was taught (thanks to Ernie Wilkinson originally, and then through my husband who spent years working with Ernie), was to open the side of the snow bank large enough to make working easy. Dig your cave, finish it out, then rebuild the front wall, and complete the process by cutting in a small entrance under the bottom of the built up wall. I think we convinced my bother that this way is much easier! He was skeptical at first, but I think we got him hooked on this method.
We hit the snow bank with our shovels. As we did, we noticed an odd red cloud down by the Reservoir, due south and east of us. We could see from where the red cloud had come: a lower pass on the Divide, coming in from the Southwest. Eerily, this red cloud came closer and closer to us, until, by the time we finished the snow cave, we were engulfed.
It wasn’t quite as spooky being in it as I would have guessed. It had no odor, no feel, just the visual, which was quite peculiar. It was made up a super fine, light red sand or powder. And it deposited this in its path, dusting the mountain in its wake, turning all the snow a hint of red.
And as fast as it came, it passed on, and a bit of blue sky was seen where the red cloud had come from. Yet, it left a film of red over everything: the roofs, the deck, the wood pile, and especially, the snow.
We read in the news that this sand cloud came from a dust storm in Arizona. Not sure where it ended up, perhaps just a little bit here and there…
And a little bit of Arizona is now on our mountain.