We’ve been looking forward to this weekend for a while. With all the busy-ness of life, it’s been a while since we’ve had the opportunity to visit Alissa’s parents in Cashmere. They live on about an acre in a very park-like setting, so it’s great to let the kids run and play and visit the horses that board on the land.
Cashmere is a little town just east of the Cascades, about a three-hour drive from Seattle. It’s typically warm and sunny in spring, hot in summer, gorgeous in autumn and snowy in winter.
Except for the snowy part.
I first visited Cashmere 18 years ago in February of 1997. Alissa and I were in community then, and she brought us all over to introduce her to her family and her home town. (We made similar journeys to everyone’s home except mine in L.A.) For a Southern California boy, it was a different world. There was snow everywhere, to the point where we couldn’t park at Alissa’s house, which is down a little dirt and gravel road that gets a bit tricky in winter. Snow covered everything. I even managed to get myself mired in the waist-deep snow in a nearby park.
This was considered perfectly normal.
One would think that we have a ready-made winter wonderland for the kids. The thing is, the snow is not so normal anymore. It’s not like we’ve never seen snow here. We’ve had a white Christmas. We’ve had lots of snow, but temperatures that were too low to actually play outside. We’ve even had a couple of instances where snow condition, temperature, and kids’ health conspired to allow a fun day of sledding.
But the last few years, it hasn’t happened. What snow came through was gone before we could get there. And this winter has been all but non-existent. It’s been warm and wet in Western Washington, but I was not prepared for what I found driving over the pass.
Where there should have been snow piled high on either side of the road, there were kind of pathetic piles of dirty snow. It seemed like late spring. Apparently there were some runs open at Stevens Pass Ski Area, but they were not visible from the road. It was 40 degrees at the top of the pass. It was 62 in Cashmere. There was no snow, and when we got out of the car, it was not just not cold, but actually warm.
It made for a really nice afternoon playing baseball with Harry and sitting out in the yard as the sun slid behind the mountains. Alissa’s dad had smoked some chicken and pork, so dinner only added to the spring-like atmosphere. It was wonderful, as long as we didn’t think about the implications of the weather.
That’s the problem with climate change up here in the Pacific Northwest. It’s hard, in the moment, to reconcile what those low snow packs mean for the summer: lack of water for irrigation, increased fire danger, and greater risk of invasive insect species taking hold, with how it really takes the edge off a long wet winter season. It lets us get outside earlier and more often. It lets us play baseball in a dry yard in February in snow country.
But, we need to pay attention to those impacts.