Photo: Tracks in the snow

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(c)2020 J.S.Reinitz


Photo: Cold weather kayaking

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“Spring” 2018

After about 20 minutes of hard paddling, my glasses began to fog up, obscuring the swift water. The kayak’s nose was a red blur in front of me with two smaller red blurs cycling on either side of me, my paddle blades trying to keep up with the current.

The plan had been to put in at the park and head upstream under the railroad bridge and then play around just below the dam in a relaxing fashion before drifting back down to the ramp. But just after launching, I realized how quick the water was moving, and the fight was on.

It was early in the morning, and everyone was at home asleep. It was cold, overcast windy. Ice formations clung to the rail bridge piers. 

It was spring break in the Midwest. Time to get out and enjoy kayaking.
In light snow.

There is a certain amount of dread that creeps in when you strain to push against the current and after several minutes, you glance to the side and see the shore and notice that with all your work you are only holding ground — like a big water sports treadmill.

After inching past the rail bridge, I cut to the right bank where I spotted a small cove with calm water. A wave washed into the cockpit, the icy water freezing my hip numb. So much for my plan to stay dry.

I slowly inched across, mindful of the strainer — a large toppled tree with all of its branches intact hanging in the water — immediately downstream. If I collided with the strainer, I would likely be knocked from the boat, forced underwater and held down by the power of the water rushing through the branches.

A flock of geese watched me drift into the cove exhausted. They flapped around and walked over to the bank as I landed on a sandbar.  

Video: Winter driving

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Photo: Winter hike

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Photo: Frozen lake

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Frozen Lake. (c) 2018 J.S. Reinitz

Photo: Ducks in sub-zero

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Although we still have another month or two winter, temps around here are supposed to be inching out of the negative numbers (Fahrenheit, for our international readers). With that, we will leave you with this shot of ducks bathing in a freezing river.

Photo: Snowshoes

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Snowshoes. (c) J.S. ReinitzSnowshoe rack at local wildlife preserve.

Not that anyone needs snowshoes right now, currently the snow is dense and frozen. You can walk on top of it without breaking through.

Snowshoes. (c) J.S. Reinitz

Rescue during Teton snow storm

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Rangers at Grand Teton National Park rescued a group of skiers who became lost in the park over the weekend.

Here’s the National Park Service account of the operation:


Lost Skiers Rescued during Major Winter Storm
Date: Feb. 10, 2014

   Three skiers unintentionally ended up in Grand Teton National Park’s Granite Canyon backcountry on Friday, Feb. 7, prompting a search and rescue mission by park rangers the following day during a significant winter storm. Despite a high and rising avalanche danger, park rescuers successfully assisted the three out of the Teton backcountry by 9:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 8.

Tom Barry, 59, of Jackson, Wy., Zoe Tong, 49, and Dave Catero, 52, from San Francisco, Calif., left the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort boundary from Gate 1 at about 11 a.m. on Friday with the intention of skiing an area called Four Pines, adjacent to the ski resort. The three mistakenly skied into Granite Canyon instead, and became lost in Grand Teton’s more remote backcountry.

By 4 p.m. Friday, the three skiers realized they were lost, so they decided to dig a snow cave and stay put for the night. By Saturday morning, the group was out of food and water, and only one of them was carrying an avalanche transceiver. They decided to send a text message to a friend indicating they were lost and needed help.

Teton County Sheriff’s Office dispatchers received the call for help, and notified park rangers at 8:30 a.m. The skiers were able to provide their location by GPS coordinates derived from their cell phone, and through a text message, rangers determined that no one in the party was injured. Due to high winds and low visibility, a helicopter reconnaissance and rescue was not possible, so rangers prepared for a ground-based rescue.

Rangers spent most of the day weighing options to help the trio while analyzing the risk to rescuers. With concerns that the three might not survive a second night in the backcountry, rangers ultimately decided to attempt a rescue. If rescuers had encountered signs of slope instability, or if the avalanche danger had been any higher, rangers would not have attempted the rescue. Ultimately, four park rangers departed the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort on skis at 4 p.m. Saturday and reached the party at 7:30 p.m. The group was then escorted out of the backcountry and back to the base of the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.

Rangers remind backcountry users and those who leave the ski resort boundary that a rescue is not guaranteed. Pursing these activities requires a high level of personal accountability and responsibility. All members of a backcountry party should have appropriate avalanche gear, including a transceiver, shovel, and probe. Backcountry skiers and snowboarders need to be prepared to spend more time than anticipated by bringing extra clothing, high energy snacks and water. They should also consider their physical limitations and time restrictions when choosing a destination, and bring a map of the area and know how to use it before setting out.

The Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center reported the avalanche danger as “considerable” to “high” on Saturday with increasing danger due to strong winds, warming temperatures and abundant new snow. It’s important to note that the avalanche forecast center does not provide reports for extreme terrain.

This was the first major search and rescue in Grand Teton National Park this winter.

Photo: Frozen Lake

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Frozen Lake. January 2014. (C) J.S. Reinitz

A few months ago, we posted a panoramic shot of a lake with fall foliage. This week we returned to the same spot following snow and low temperatures below minus 10 degrees (F).

Photos: Winter paths

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Photos from a winter morning following a fresh snowfall. Shots include a road under a railroad bridge and the gate to an abandoned riverside lot. (C) J.S. Reinitz


Scraping by winter

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winterAs soon as I heard the noise, I knew what it was.

The sound of something slipping from my Pontiac as I reached 55 mph could have been any number of things, most likely a chunk of frozen something or another dislodging from the snow-covered roof. 

But I knew better.

I knew it was my ice scraper/snow broom. I had placed it on the roof after dusting off the freshly fallen powder from my windshield and starting the engine. It stayed up there as I started shoveling the driveway in the pre-dawn darkness, then carving out a path down the sidewalk. I hacked through the wall of road snow the city plow had shoved across the driveway entrance when it passed. Next, I dug out my wife’s minivan and plowed a small trail back to the house. After that, I hopped in the car and fought through the sort-of-cleared residential streets until I got to the highway and could start making time.

Then whoosh and clatter. And that was the end of the ice scraper.

Later in the day, after work, I doubled back, but there was no sign of it in the chest-high snow banks lining the highway.

The loss was both practical and sentimental. My wife bought the scraper during our first winter back in the frozen Midwest after several years in the warm South. It took some looking, and ultimately shopping online, but she found exactly what I needed. The eggshell white high-impact plastic stock was a about two feet long with a hard bristle brush. It was the perfect gaffi stick to wield in the brutal six-month battle that is winter. The long handle gave needed leverage, but the ultimate source of its power was the metal blade at the business end. Where plastic scrapers do little more than massage the ice, the metal blasts through in a single pass.

Sure, I’ve used plastic blades in the past, but they’re futile tools when it comes to freeing cars that are encased in ice.

Since moving back to the Midwest, I’ve occasionally glanced at snow tool assortments in stores and noticed the lack of metal. So, the day after my scraper slid from the roof into frozen oblivion, I found myself at a national chain auto parts store looking for a replacement, hoping to find something beyond the big box discount store offerings. The place specialized in car parts and accessories, so it seemed the logical choice.

The stand near the door had nothing but plastic — small fit-in-your-pocket scrapers with plastic blades, long snow brooms with plastic blades. It had a nice assortment of colors.

“Do you have anything with aluminum tips?” I asked.

The clerk said he didn’t and went on to guess the government had banned them because he hadn’t seen any in a long time. It had something to do with people scratching up their windshields, he continued.

I explained that I had been using metal for more than 10 years and never had a scratch. He said the government was overstepping its bounds.

I left with a plastic scraper, price about $8, as a stop-gap until I could find something better. If nothing else, I could drive by the scene in spring when the highway snow banks melt.

That night, I searched the internet for any sign of the government meddling in metal scrapers and found none. Big Brother wasn’t behind it, just lazy retailers. What I did learn was the metal scraper blades are brass, not aluminum, according to several online hardware stores selling them. Asking price was $8 with another $10 for shipping.


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Photo: Snowed-in bikes at the university. (c) J.S. Reinitz

We survived the “Great Blizzard of 2011,” although in our part of the woods it was more like the “Above Average Snowfall of 2011.”

Some of the rural highways were blocked by drifts, and there was a lot of snow. But we didn’t see the apocalyptic stuff they had in Chicago and the East Coast.

The storm hit Tuesday night, and when I got up the next morning, there wasn’t too much on my car. The city plows hadn’t yet made it to our block, so I spent a few minutes spinning my wheels trying to get down the street — go a few feet forward, back up a little bit, go forward a few more feet, back up. I drive a Pontiac Vibe, which sucks in the winter, and leaving for work before 7 a.m. probably doesn’t help matters.

Finally I made it to a plowed cross street, and it was easy traveling from there.

By the time I returned home from work, our street was plowed, minus a snow bank in front of our curb shaped like a run-down Taurus our neighbor drives.

Schools were closed Wednesday — the following day — for a “snow day,” which was a good idea. But the day before the blizzard they were closed for a “going to snow day.” And then on Thursday — two days after the storm — schools started two hours late for a “roads are all plowed but we still can’t believe how much snow we got delay.” Earlier this winter, schools were closed for an “average snowfall snow day,” and in the past they’ve had “cold days” and “fog days.”

Anyway, there’s so much more to write, but it’s snowing again, and I have to keep up with the shoveling.

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