Snow Day with the Upshaw's


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The day after Christmas I did something I haven't done in years - went to play in the snow. Of course, I would never choose to do this on my own, but the opportunity to go with my daughter Teri, grandson Johnny, granddaughter-in-law Brittany, and my great grandsons Jack and Colton, was irresistible.

We met at Johnny and Brittany's and left for the mountains about 9 a.m., heading up state highway 168 toward Shaver Lake. Going on the road with a two-year old and an infant under three months requires a lot of equipment. Since we also had snow gear, it was necessary to take two cars. Jack rode with his parents, while Colton and I were with Teri.

He kept up a constant chatter of observation most of the way, noticing the mountains in the distance, trees at different elevations, and one of his favorite things, "neigh-neighs" (horses). When we started up the section of the highway that rises from 2,000 feet to 5,000 in a few short miles, he announced that we were going way, WAY up.

We started seeing patches of snow a couple of miles below Shaver Lake, and by the time we turned east on the Dinkey Creek Road, a layer of white covered the countryside. From that point on, there were spots of ice and thin layers of frozen snow on the road here and there. We never slid, but Teri is not used to such conditions. Johnny, in the lead in a 4-wheel drive Jeep, drove blithely on past several spots where Teri and I would have been happy to stop.

However, we reached a very nice place where we could both park well off the road, at about 5,800 feet, and got into our cold weather clothing. Colton looked very sharp in brand new snow pants and boots purchased with birthday money from great grandpa. I had the long johns and top I had purchased and not needed for our Canada trip in January of 2013, plus several more layers, and was very comfortable except for my toes throughout the time we spent there. The temperature was probably never above 35 degrees, but it was nice and sunny and we were moving around most of the time.

Just after we parked, Brittany strolled off to one side and immediately went into the snow up to her ankles. We had to choose where we walked and be careful. In shady places  the surface was hard enough to support us, but where the sun had hit the snow, the crust was thin and it was easy to break through. Fortunately, we didn't go very deep. Colton, weighing in at 30 pounds, could walk anywhere without leaving a mark.

Colton had a little trouble at first, probably because there were slippery spots on the side road where we parked, but eventually he was running and jumping and having a great time. Activities started off with a sled ride - a pull up a gentle slope, and a slow slide back down. Then Johnny and Colton went up a steeper slope and rode down without incident. On Johnny's next trip, a solo effort, the flimsy plastic sled cracked and broke when he hit some lumpy areas. Another abandoned sled nearby made it clear that this spot required a sturdier vehicle.

The surface of the snow was too hard, and the snow below too powdery to pack, but Teri wanted to build an "ice man" on a pair of nearby stumps. Colton refused to walk the short distance from the main road to the stumps, and did not want to get up on them. A short time later Johnny and I brought Colton back to this area and this time he walked across the snow with no trouble and allowed us to lift him onto the stump. He spent a long time there, first watching Teri and  Johnny build a tiny snowman, which he knocked off. All of us then started putting lumps of snow on the stump, and Colton would either kick them off or knock them off by hand.

After this it was time for a snack - cheese sticks, graham crackers and biscuits left over from Christmas breakfast, which Colton enjoyed while sitting in the open back of the Jeep. Obviously, Jack was not able to participate in most of these activities, but he did enjoy a bottle, given to him by Brittany and then Teri while sitting in a folding chair they had brought along. He spent most of the rest of the time napping, wrapped up warm and cozy in a sleeping bag on the front seat of the Jeep.

In addition to his "official" snack, Colton followed the long-standing tradition of eating snow. We tried to guide him to choose portions that did not include pine needles.

Across the road there was a large meadow with virtually no tracks, so we took Colton over there. Johnny went out first, making deep tracks as he walked about 30 feet into the area. Up to this time Colton had done no walking unless someone held his hand. I lifted him up  from the road bed to the edge of the meadow, and he trotted out to where his dad was, without even realizing that he was doing it all on his own.

After that he ran around in the meadow, stomping and jumping trying to make tracks like dad, without making even a mark on the surface. He eventually laid down on the snow with Johnny and Brittany, went into the nearby trees, and finally experimented with sliding down a short slope on  his butt.

By common consent we decided to get loaded up and leave while all was happiness, since Colton's normal nap time was approaching. He stayed awake for quite a few miles, finally conking out as we got out of the evergreens at about 3,500 feet, and sleeping all the way home. I was tempted to do the same.

--Dick Estel, December 2014


(Click to enlarge; pictures open in new window) 


Bundled and ready for snow fun Colton's first sled ride The last sled ride of the day
Grandma Teri and Colton Snack time

Colton finally realizes the
joy of a snow-covered stump


Teri, Johnny and Colton on the stump

Snow can also be used as a snack

Exploring the meadow
A soft place to fall Getting ready for a short slide Colton explores the woods
If the bottle arrives on time, Jack
doesn't care about the location
In shady area, the snow
has not melted off the trees
There was scenery all around us
Related Links
Shaver Lake Dinkey Creek Campground Sierra National Forest
Dinkey Creek Area HIghway 168 Sierra Snow Survey

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