I’ll start out this story by saying my family: we are California people. Scratch that: we are Southern California people. The things you have probably heard about Southern California over the years are true. The weather is perfect, and we have the best of everything available, meaning that beaches, mountains, deserts, and Disneyland (!!) are all short drives away. We enjoy vast amounts of arts & culture, wines, agriculture, and sporting activities and while our housing costs are high, you won’t hear (most of us) complaining because it’s always been that way. Life in SoCal is my favorite and we are willing to pay up.
So that bit about being die-hard Californians. We see snow from time to time. The Peach Tree House has the best snow-capped mountain views from the front porch and is only a ten-minute drive from our local apple farm community in the foothills, which gets an annual snowfall. Every few years, we see a light snow right in our own neighborhood! We have been known to take a quick thirty minutes to build a snowman and then drive back home for hot chocolate, or pack snow into a cooler for all day at-home play. A once-a-year snow is just enough for our California bones, and before long we begin aching for the heat and shorts and long summer days once again.
Typically, Thanksgiving weather is perfect around here. Temperatures that are low enough to wear cute autumn clothes but not so cold that you need a parka to save you from freezing. A happy medium. And well. I am not complaining, but sometimes the dry heat gets wearisome for some of us here in SoCal, and it’s understandable that sometimes we hope for a change. This Thanksgiving, we got one. An early snowstorm in our picturesque mountain ranges. It would have been beautiful from the flatlands, but this year we also had a family trip planned to Big Bear, CA, the local ski & snowboarding community. Honey Bear and I quickly started to plan for actual weather after seeing the proposed forecast, Amazon-Priming waterproof boots and snow mittens for the kids, washing all the coats in the house and digging scarves out of the closet. Honey Bear spent a good part of Thanksgiving Eve calling the Ford dealership and AutoZone to make sure we had the correct snow chains for the tires on our Flex. We practiced putting them on that morning (newbies!) and as the rain pounded down on Thanksgiving Day, we piled the kids up in the car and headed out.
Not ten minutes into our journey we pulled over to put our chains on, and thus began the long drive up the mountain in a heavy snow storm. The drive was gorgeous, but it was the slow drive up we expected at 10 MPH the whole way. At one point, traffic stopped completely, and we inched a few yards forward in an hour to go around someone who got stuck in the snow. The rest of the drive was uneventful until we were just about five miles away from the cabin where the rest of Honey Bear’s family was waiting for us.
Once arriving in Big Bear, snow pounding, we started to see the vehicles in front of us sliding around. Even the four-wheel drive vehicles that didn’t “need” chains were sliding into big snowy embankments and had trouble getting out. As we approached a small curved intersection that inclined downward, we noticed multiple cars on either side stuck in piles of snow, drivers gunning their gas pedals only to slide back to the side and bumping up against other cars in the process. There were two cars in front of us that clearly were not prepared, and every time they inched forward, we noticed their tires spinning and bits of slipping. We sat with the car idling in heavy snow watching the scene, and while in hindsight it’s a bit comical, at the time we were worried about being stuck there for hours more. Our kids, Wilde, Sweet, and Love whined from the backseat, needing snacks & potty breaks and feeling generally anxious about being in the car for so long. I admit I felt a little desperate too, like we had entered a precarious situation with no way to get out. The road in front of us was littered with cars all pointed all directions, people bundled up trying to put on chains or push cars out, and the snow was coming down hard & fast. Other vehicles behind us attempted to go around the scene only to also get stuck or otherwise make the traffic jam worse. We had already been four hours into our 49-mile journey and I don’t know about you, but there is a certain level of despair that follows being in traffic that long, especially when you're an inexperienced flatlander that didn’t really have any history of driving in conditions like that.
Eventually, one of the people milling about on foot walked over to our car. He looked like Clarence the angel, rosy-cheeked in a Volcom jacket, clearly a local. Honey Bear rolled down his window asked what the plan was, hoping there was one. The man quickly said, “we’re going to get you home for Thanksgiving!” and followed with a set of instructions to get around the jam. Our savior! Within a few moments, we were on our way, leaving the stationary spot we had made ourselves comfortable in for the last hour, nary looking at the scene behind us. We slowly crept along the snowing rolling road, seeing well over fifty cars along the way stranded with their front ends buried in snow. At this point we were looking at the tires of every car we passed, knowing that if if there were no chains mounted to the tires those vehicles were likely trouble. Forty-nine miles & five hours into our journey, we finally arrived at a big mountain cabin covered in a white blanket.
To be clear, I was very hesitant to take this journey for multiple reasons, and the blizzard was not helping matters. I gritted my teeth for most of the drive, caught between multiple emotions: the stress of the journey, the excitement of vacation, and the awe of the scene around me. The snow! It was a sight I don't often see. It was breathtaking, thick dollops of whipped cream sprinkled with glitter over everything. While my California bones often ache for sunshine and my eyes roll at the rain, there was no denying the experience of seeing everything covered in white in a way I was naive to all my 38 years. What a way to be confronted with things you have never seen before! In spite of myself and my hesitancy, my kids got to sled for the first time, throw snowballs, and do the things all the Frozen-princess dreams are made of. And me? I got to see where a little bit of discomfort can take you. To the snow!