Winter – On My Own Terms

Posted by: Rick Pariani in Uncategorized

Aerial 2 with Hall of FameIt is true, December 2010 went down as the coldest December on record in many parts of Florida – at least according to some of the weather experts and as reported by a host of weather-celebrities vying to be the next Wolf Blitzer or Anderson Cooper. Evidence abounds in everyone’s garden – massive amounts of winter-burn and die-back has occurred in both ornamental and foundation plantings. Folks have had to pour hot water over their windshields a few early mornings for de-icing and actually wear their coats to work, in their cars, no less. But – if truth be told – the episodes are very short lived and interspersed with beautiful blue sky days with the freshest air anyone could breathe – perfect for enjoying the out-of-doors.

I actually like winter – but definitely on my own terms – not on a daily basis. My daughter works in Manhattan and has had to experience severe ice, snow and winter-wind events – some of the worst on record in New York City. In fact, the New York / New England winter of ‘10/’11 may yet go down as the most fierce on record. Allison wrote the other day to say that when she stepped outside in the morning to walk her 5 blocks to the subway station it was 5 degrees outside. She says that one of the most difficult things to traverse is each street intersection and pedestrian crossing – because it is sometimes impossible to tell how deep or liquid the standing slush is up against the curb (you want it to be more solid to support your steps and to stay dry). The occurrence of black ice is another worrisome hazard. Dressing for the day requires many layers – which have to be adjusted each time she ventures out or returns inside. Using the subway system, as most folks do in Manhattan, means bundling up for the walk – then sitting damp and wet (from the snow, ice and sludge) inside of over-heated train-cars. Once everyone piles in – the cars get all fogged up. People leave all of their coats, layers, gloves and hats on since they have to depart back out into the cold for the next walk to their destination. When you re-enter a heated building you have to immediately take off all the winter gear – only to discover that your internal layers are damp with sweat and now you are cold again. It is almost impossible to regulate your body temperature and ward off colds and the flu. Yes, on a daily basis, winter can be a real drag.

On my own terms though – winter has produced some extremely enjoyable encounters and vivid memories with family and friends. One of the most memorable and remarkable events was being on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon in a snowstorm – and in the dark-early morning we took all of the lodge blankets and all of the coats and went to Yaki Point to experience sunrise in 10 degree weather with howling winds. There were only eight other hardy souls (foolish people) there – but we all were treated to a glowing, clear-sky, not–to-be-equaled, magnificent sun-rise. We parked on the side of Interstate 40, outside of Amarillo in the Texas Panhandle and dashed over frozen fields in 14 degree weather in driving wind and snow to walk amongst Stanley Marsh’s car-henge sculpture known as Cadillac Ranch. We held tight to the rails of the Swinging Bridge at Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina in 30 degree weather as the bridge deck swayed back and forth while the cables sang out. We were the last hiking party allowed at North Carolina’s Chimney Rock Park, in front of a major ice event – only to discover on the trail a segment used in the filming of Last of the Mohicans in which we had to get on our hands and knees to cross the ice for fear of slipping down the mountain face. We spent the day in and around The Mall and Smithsonian Museums then hailed a cab to go to dinner in Georgetown on a December day that was the coldest in many decades – and our cabbie said we were “crazy”. We nearly froze in an A-Frame Cabin at Government Camp, at the base of Mt. Hood in Oregon and in a platform tent at Curry Camp in Yosemite Valley, California. We even had to endure a 13 hour drive (normally 6 or so hours) on Interstate 75 from Ocala to Atlanta during the infamous winter Christmas storm (1990?) in which you could not exit the highway for fear of not being able to negotiate the off and on-ramps (we could actually play cards while driving at 20mph). Outside of Sonora, Texas, on a 24 degree morning with big, soft snow flakes falling, a 6 ½ year old, 8-point buck walked through the white-out like an apparition and he now projects regally from the wall in my office.

For me, winter has always been a time to get outside and enjoy the environment. I can enjoy it immensely since I can always return here, to home – where sunshine prevails to warm and feed your soul. When you live in a place like ours, you can always enjoy winter on your own terms. I find that is one of the best ways to take advantage of life here in North Florida.


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