3. Watershed Relief: Snow

In which you consider the benefits of 19” more inches for the ecosystem and for children…

Bachelor was hit with a blast of snow before you went up yesterday, and you were glad to see it!  The Pacific Northwest has been a bit sleepy on the snowfront, but maybe it’ll catch up by June.  We surely could use the water over here in the high desert.

On your drive up in the Durango, the other U.S.F.S volunteers, Ted, Dave and Kendra, marvel with you at the sight of the mountains on a sunny, sparkling day.  They point out a type of cloud–the lenticular–and now that you can identify it as the alien-spaceship-looking-one capping a lofty peak, you want to know more clouds.  You wonder what other kind of visual mneumonics can aid your understanding of these mysterious precipitation banks.

You and Dave take half of the group while Ted and Kendra take another.  Dave is in the lead and is really breaking trail.  Lifting approximately two feet of fresh powder with a snowshoe is not easy.  When the students from a local high school fall in the stuff they find it tremendously challenging to get out.  Most of them in your group have fallen–at least the boys(on purpose?)–and emerge looking like miniature Yettis, or abominable snowmen.  Both the boys and the girls, you observe, throw snowballs, or deposit handfuls down jackets. They are not allowed to do that according to the “school rules” but you really don’t see any problem with it.  Snowballfight seems to naturally follow from kids in snow.

Dave stops us at a viewpoint—one where Broken Top and the Three Sisters would be visible if it weren’t for the rapid cloudcover which occurred between 11:00 and 12:00.  Nature seems to move quickly in winter.  What doesn’t move quickly is the watershed process.  The students learn that basalt, with its porous–filled with holes—constitution serves as a filter of the water coming from all of the snow which will eventually melt and make its way to the Deschutes River, then to the Columbia, and then the Pacific Ocean–starting the processes all over again.

You are again made aware of the precious little water there is for all in the ecosystem.  Even though this now 315″ of snow looks like a lot of water capital, the Deschutes National Forest is behind it’s trend, and the human resident population nearby is growing.  We hope that by bringing these kids out to snowshoe it will increase their awareness of conservation.


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