Saturday, December 27, 2008

Impressive Snowfall Pales in Comparison to Other Winters

Anyone that stepped out their door or looked out their window this week, had to stop, take a breath and perhaps reminisce a little. For those with less than twenty or thirty winters’ experience, this last week’s extended winter weather will be etched in their memories for quite some time.

Downtown Winlock wears a significant mantle of snow on December 22nd, 2008.

Some however look at this week as a mere dusting compared to winters of the past. Some younger readers may remember the winter of 2003-2004 when a week of heavy weather struck the week after New Years. Most areas saw about 10 inches of snow followed by ice storms that knocked out power to 150,000 people in Southwest Washington.

Able-bodied men shovel snow off of buildings in Downtown Winlock.

The winter of 1968-69 was the last of the “deep freeze” events. For 18 days, Southwest Washington had temperatures that were below freezing including Portland’s all-time low of three degrees below zero and an equal number of days with snow on the ground. Oregon’s Rose City measured 8 to 14 inches on the ground most of that time period with a total of 18.9 inches of snowfall. Seattle reported 67 inches of snowfall. In my childhood days, I remember the snow depth in Eugene over my head.

A winter scene on Olaqua Creek.

Paul Foster of Winlock returned from a California logging operation to his King Road farm in the fall of 1968 and it soon began to snow. “We were never totally without snow on the ground until March,” he said. “We had 30 inches on the level,“ he explained. "That much snow was taking down old barns and chicken houses at that time,” Foster continued. “Every able-bodied person helped shovel off roofs”. Foster also explained how he would use his D-4 CAT and a piece of plywood to accelerate the snow removal process .

Blue skies unfold a beautiful scene in December of 2008 in Western Washington.

Locally, many folks responded with interest to stories of the winter of 1949-50. Statistically, it really started in earnest on January 13th. “The winds were coming out of the east and my dad said we were in for it,” said life-long Winlock resident Mike Porter who was 7 at the time. The temperature stayed below freezing and the snow started to pile up at their place on Hawkins Road. “We couldn’t get the old 39 Ford out of its parking place so we took a horse with a trailer to town,” he continued. “It was a wonderful time in life. We sat around the pot-bellied stove in the train station while the others shopped for supplies in Winlock. On the way home, we made deliveries to those that needed supplies”.

Left-Adam Russell and Josh Lowman of Longview snowboard down Washington Street. Adam Russell of Winlock executes a jump with his snowboard on the Washington Street snow run in Winlock.

Foster recalled how a group of kids slid down the Washington Street “snowplay” area in Winlock and ended up in the garage of the Catholic Church two blocks from the base of the hill.

Amber Paschich of Onalaska and Lydia Dolph slide down the Washington Street "Snowplay" area in Winlock in a rather unsuccessful manner.

That winter supplied Portland 41 inches of snowfall, while Vancouver accumulated 35.3 inches. Seattle garnered a one day total of 21.4 inches of snowfall and a monthly total of 63.6 inches. In addition, winds blew so hard that snow drifts of five to six feet blossomed on the landscape creating the ingredients of the region’s only true blizzard that caused 13 deaths. Many low elevation locations reported snow depths that exceeded 50 inches.

The sign still says "open" at Special Moments" in Downtown Winlock, despite icicles, snow and very little parking on a snow covered street in Downtown Winlock.

35 years earlier, the winter of 1915-16 supplied Seattle with its largest one day total snowfall as 21.5 inches of snow fell on February 2nd, 1916 collapsing roof of the St. James Cathedral. In January and February of that year, a grand total of 58 inches of snow fell in Seattle and reports of 2 to 4 feet of snow depth in Western Washington was not uncommon. Portland counted 27.9 inches.

Two deer lay in the snow on a side stree off Shannon Lewis Way in Winlock, Washington.

The 1880s were the good ol’ days of winter as Portland picked up 34.1 inches of snow during December of 1884. Seattle reported 47” of snow on the ground in January of 1880 and Bellingham reported “three weeks of snow” in January of 1871. Leaking into the next decade, Portland had its largest monthly snowfall total of 35.3 inches in January of 1890.

One of the 600 pound chickens scattered around Winlock was wearing a mantle of snow.

While many are debating this “La Nina” year and the prospects of a long drawn-out winter, one thing is for sure. History tells us about the potential of more winter to come as we enter the cold months of 2009.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Winlock Basketball Tours the Redwoods

Last week, I had the honor to accompany the Winlock Basketball team on a trip to Northern California. I submitted this to my editor with a number of photos that took the experience away from sports amd more towards the team experience. My editor didn't place any of these photos with this article in the Town Crier. Let me know if these were important photos to accompany this story.


It is all about basketball and really it’s not. The Winlock boy’s basketball team traveled to Northern California where they played four games over four nights. 15 boys made up a small Varsity and Junior Varsity contingent that traveled to Fortuna, California for a game against Winlock Head Coach Gary Viggers’s alma mater Fortuna High School. Next, they stayed in Crescent City where they were a part of the 9th Annual Rotary Warrior Classic which hosted teams from all over the region.

One of the challenges this year is to find solid competition for an extraordinarily talented group of basketball players. During the summer, the group traveled as far as Reno to play teams that would prepare them for this season’s WIAA play.

With just 257 students in Grades 9-12, Gold Beach (Oregon)couldn't match athletes with this Winlock Basketball team. The Cardinals polished off the Panthers 75-33.

Winlock Schools Superintendent Richard Conley agrees with the difficulty in scheduling stronger competition closer to home. “A bigger school does not want to come and play a smaller school” he explained. “It puts them into a nearly no-win situation”.

Three teams came from schools with enrollments of 1,000 students or more on the trip. Fortuna presented the Cardinals with its first loss of the season with a miracle shot with 2.2 seconds left in the game. The boys took care of business against Central Valley from near Redding, California with a 64-48 victory that set up a much anticipated match-up with the home-standing Del Norte High School of Crescent City with 1,100 students in which the Cardinals won 52-40.

Winlock's Mike Kent gets an opportunity for a lay-up under the board against Del Norte High School of Crescent City, California.

There are more subtle objectives other than basketball with a trip like this, however. It was the first time that all but one of the boys had seen the massive Redwoods of Northern California. Before visiting the Battery Point Lighthouse, the boys joined a unique chapter of the “Polar Bear Club” by wading out into the ocean surf on a cold December morning. On a Friday night, many of the players tried Thai food complete with the use of chopsticks for the first time.

Cardinal basketball players had to take a dip in the cool Northern California surf during their five day basketball excursion.

Together, they did all of this together.

“What a great experience for them” said Winlock Head Coach Gary Viggers Sr. “Some of these kids will never get to take a trip like this again”.

This particular journey has been a goal of Viggers for four years; the chance to take one of his teams to Fortuna where he played in 1964. Where his brothers could watch his handiwork and his daughter could feed them at her restaurant in Klamath, California. In December of 2007, Viggers made a presentation to the Winlock School Board and permission was granted for a proud coach to take this group of young men on such a trip, in this, his final year of coaching.

There is no doubt that Viggers has the unspoken respect of his players. While there is considerable chiding, kids respond quickly to a reminder (call it a subtle order) to remove hats in a restaurant. This is a coach that clearly has a special relationship with his players.

Sightseeing Winlock Seniors (left to right) Jordan Davis, Jake Brown, Tyler Hertz, Tyler Diamond and Nathan Booth enjoy a calm moment at the Battery Point Lightouse in Crescent City.

“If a bear comes and attacks me, they would fight that bear and I would fight it for them” said Viggers.

The boys, a small group of parents and a few donors raised nearly $5000 for the trip. Together, the boys cut, sold and delivered 22 cords of firewood as well as made and sold original T-shirts. They also pursued a less than successful aluminum drive.

Randy and Jo Booth, parents of Senior standout Nathan Booth, were instrumental in helping make the opportunity become a reality. But the senior Booth was quick to point out that loads of wood were donated by Bob Sherwood and Joe Sickles while delivery was provided by Brad Nailon and Steve Stallman. In addition, Jo Booth and Sue Davis, organizers for the Winlock Rec. Basketball program, acknowledged significant monetary donations by Jeff Millman and Denny McNelly.

The boys also looked, smelled and ate better due to the donations of Bob and Dee Cunningham who meticulously washed the teams’ uniforms after each game and then supplied healthy snack foods among other benefits.

Don’t think that all went perfectly either. Wrong vehicles departed, to be replaced 50 miles later in Kalama. There were flat tires, wrong turns, and hours of icy, snow covered roads. Parents and Coaches tried to fly in on airlines that were reluctant to land in Arcata, the only airport in the region. Most of the chaos went nearly unnoticed by the entire group.

“Despite all of the things that went wrong, twenty years from now they are going to think this experience was pretty cool” said Randy Booth who was one of several parents that followed the team to Northern California.

Superintendent Conley agreed “It is great for kids. It’s a wonderful experience for them”.

Winlock Senior Jake Brown looked at the trip from an elite ball players perspective. “It is good to play consecutive nights. It is just like the experience in Yakima at State” he observed. When pushed, he admitted “the vacation is nice, but I am missing the snow”.

Winlock basketball players (bottom left) Kyle Pohll, Bryson Coleman, Jordan Larson (manager), Nick Hoven, Phillip Smerek and Angel Sanchez pose in front of some California Redwoods.

Seniors Nathan Booth and Jordan Davis were impressed by the scenery of Northern California, but Tyler Diamond couldn’t help mention the bonding time with teammates. “I enjoyed hanging out with the team” he said.

One can only hear the discussions that will take place early in 2009 as school convenes once again. The boys will start to rehash and tell the first of many stories about their basketball tour of the Redwood Coast of California and will do so for years to come.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Scenes From a Harbor

I know that I love to spend all of my time in the mountains, but there is just something about fishing boats and a harbor!

This was the scene in the harbor at Crescent City this evening.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Snowberry Livens our Bleak Winter Landscape

Little little pearl-colored berries with the texture of popcorn are decorating the roadways of Lewis County this December.

It is funny how time passes and we don’t notice things and then suddenly that which has gone undetected demands attention. After years of years of professing to be a “naturalist” one of this continents most prolific plants recently forced me learn a little more.

There is no way that you can travel Highway 505 east of Winlock this winter and not notice the Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus) that has erupted into popcorn-like berries along the side of the right-of-way. In reality, the plant is native to just about all North American locations north of 41 degrees latitude.

On their way west in 1805, Lewis & Clark documented what is now known as Common Snowberry near Lolo Pass on the Idaho/Montana border.

Now in December, the plants are bare except for the small kernel-like berries that are light and fluffy to the touch. Along roadsides and near stream banks, displays of Snowberry dominate the landscape like the blooms of the Pearly Everlasting along mountain roads in the fall. It is difficult to remember that these berries started out as small, pink fruits in the spring before they become the egg-white obsession they are in December.

Native Americans had a love-hate relationship with the berry due to its minimal qualities. Some nations referred to it as “corpse berry” or “snake’s berry” as it can be toxic, especially to small children. On the other hand, a couple of berries after a “fatty” meal was known to settle the stomach. The berries can cause vomiting and dizziness and when smashed in water they exude a soapy foam (although my December experiment of the same did not produce those results).

Deer eat the leaves while many small birds nest under the plants. The berries and stems can be important forage for birds, quail, grouse, and bears. Snowberry stems provide food for rabbits and mice.

Common snowberry spreads mainly by vegetative means through sprouting. It show survival grit by reproducing with rhizomes, by seed and resprouts after fire or cutting and it is a common garden plant.

White coralberry and waxberry , otherwise known as Common Snowberry provide us a little brightness in our gloomy Northwest winter, but for this backyard naturalist, it provided the incentive to learn a little more.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Peace Reigns

Resonate fully with your voice
Rancid thoughts aside
Rage not so that you'll be heard
Ramble not for your own credibility
Rivals to be tamed by your words
Rivals are skeptical of your voice, talents and motives
Ramble not in your comfort zone
Rage only through intelligence
Rancid voices internalized
Resonate with deeds and integrity
Resonate with a powerful presence
Rancid intentions never considered
Rage tactfully articulated
Rambles averted
Rivals soothed
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