Dirty Snow is Everywhere in the Valley…but is that so Bad?
It's only early February in the Wenatchee Valley and the Northern Hemisphere, and even though there are still those six weeks of winter remaining that Punxsutawney Phil predicted, the weather here at home is already starting to feel a lot more like spring with each passing day.
With afternoon temperatures in the 40s and plenty of rain showers in the lower elevations of North Central Washington over the past few weeks, the three-and-a-half feet of snow that fell in the Valley between late October and the end of December is rapidly becoming forgotten.
But not all of that rather robust amount of fluffy stuff has entirely disappeared just yet. When it snows of course, much of what falls on the roads and parking lots around the Valley gets pushed, plowed, and dumped into piles; and as it continues to snow without warmer, windier or wetter days, those piles gradually rise higher and higher until they eventually begin to resemble a mini mountain range rather than just a few big flaky heaps.
Since the onset of these mild mercurial readings and passing precipitations, you might have noticed that the icy moors which once dominated the elevations between fifteen and twenty-five feet around the Valley have all been effaced to a less-towering height; and in the process, they've also seen their once glacial sheens of white and barely-blue replaced with a thick casing of muddy brown and sooty black. That's right kiddos of mid-winter, the dirty snow has arrived to the 988 zip codes of Washington State.
Now I know most of you who notice this rather mundane phenomenon of nature will take one look at its current status and utter a fervent 'blah!' without giving it a second thought. But today, I'd like to take a run at attempting to see the beauty in these moribund mounds as way of amping up our collective appreciation for the Earth we all share and live upon, even when she's seemingly at her least beautiful.
If you take a gander at the pictures I've posted within this article, I wonder what you might have thought you were seeing at first glance.
When I drove by the vacant lot on North Wenatchee Avenue where the old Department of Transportation building used to sit and spied these soiled slopes, the first thing that came to my mind was how much they resembled some abstract and ancient chain of mountains in a territory that's been long lost to human eyes.
So this rather large collection of dirty snow inspired stirrings within the imagination! And that's the first positive thing we can say about them.
These darkened knaps that took only six to eight weeks to be scoured from their former skyscraping peaks also remind us of the processes in nature which take millions upon millions of years to occur on the planet's peaks, palisades, and precipices. So in many ways, the dirty snow also acts like a time traveler who reminds us that now is the only thing which truly exists for us to experience, so you better say 'thanks' and frolic in the fallen snow while you can!
Now when I came across this craggy conglomeration, I was on my way to work and wasn't wearing the right clothes or shoes to make like a hilltopper and take a shot at scaling their grungy banks. But had I been properly outfitted, I surely would have made them the urban Everest of my quest for the glory of making it to the top!
So this easily overlooked and unappreciated bank of dirty snow also riles our inner sense for adventure; the desire to be able to see the ever-familiar details of North Wenatchee Avenue from a slightly different perspective.
And finally, this spare ground of high-priced commercial real estate which is currently doubling as a scaled down version of the fjords in Icelandia cannot help but remind me of one very special trip I took to Alaska.
In 2018, my brother and I flew to Utqiagvik (Barrow) on the summer solstice. The skies were as clear and cerulean as is planetarily possible and there were ranges of dingy snow all over the town.
I will also always vividly recall standing upon the still-frozen crust of the Arctic Ocean just off shore in the deathly silence of the broad daylight and listening to the sound of it groan and creak as the sun and season slowly but surely forced it to loosen its grip on the liquid waters beneath.
It was unequivocally, one of the most amazing things my sense of hearing has ever been blessed enough to experience; and I knew for certain the same noises were occurring on a miniscule scale within that rickle of draggled slush as I was gazing upon it and the sunshine over the Wenatchee Valley was aiming its rays directly at it.
So the dirty snow also evoked a link to one of my favorite times in nearly fifty years of being alive! And that, along with the numerous other things we've covered here, seem to make a clear case for dirty snow not being such a bad thing after all.