Playing in the snow

By Rod Hunter - For The Yadkin Ripple
Valdez, Alaska. -

This winter we’ve already had two significant snow storms in East Bend. I didn’t measure them, but I’m guessing about 10 inches combined, which is three inches above our average of seven inches per year.

I love the snow when it’s coming down and accumulating in our yard. It feels almost like Christmas, my favorite day of the year. Of course, it brings back childhood memories of sliding down a snowy hill on my sled. I did that over and over again getting so cold and wet my fingers would turn blue with numbness. But this didn’t stop me and I made myself a promise. That promise was, to never give up the pleasure of playing in the snow, not even after becoming a “grownup.”

I kept that promise, and learned how to snow ski and spent many winter days at places like Boone and at West Virginia’s great ski mountains. It was only in my 60s and my fear of aging fragile bones that caused me to give up playing in the snow, but I still love snow.

The snowy place in the lower 48 states is Syracuse, New York, where snow fall averages 110 inches per year. That’s almost 10 feet of snow. Can you imagine that much snow here in Yadkin County? People would starve to death, or freeze because surely our electric power would go out often with that much snow in the three months of winter.

Our power supply is, like us, probably not built to survive that. Now, let me tell you about a place my partner, Connie, and I visited this summer where the snow accumulation dwarfs even the Syracuse winters. The folks we met in this unique town must endure 300 inches of snow every winter. That’s 25 feet of snow. It is the snowiest place in America. By comparison they get 43 times more snow than we get here in Yadkin County. The resilient people of this community have endured 300 inches of snow every year and several catastrophes that make that snow seem pretty easy to live with. These people are survivors of the highest order.

Most of us have had some experience with resurrection, and we read about it in the Bible; whether it is the rekindling of an old romance, a town moved away from but later returned to, or leaving then returning to the same job. Some of us have even married the same person more than once (well OK, only a few of us). Others may have had a debilitating accident or very serious illness from which complete recovery was achieved. So resurrection is not uncommon with individuals, but this entire community has resurrected itself over and over. Not just once, or even twice but three times — plus enduring (or enjoying) 300 inches of snow every year.

In 1915, this entire community burned to the ground. The citizens bought better firefighting equipment. The town was rebuilt, and they prospered. Good Friday, March 27, 1964 a magnitude 9.2 earthquake lasting four minutes and 38 seconds struck this town, it was the strongest earthquake to ever hit North America. The town was destroyed, only one building remained standing, and 32 people lost their lives. They moved the town approximately two miles away and off the fault line, and they rebuilt. The town was resurrected, and they prospered.

Just after midnight, again on Good Friday, March 24, 1989 a huge oil tanker struck ground in Prince William Sound just after leaving this town, spilling almost eleven million gallons of crude oil. At the time, this was the biggest oil spill in history, and is still second only to BP’s Gulf oil disaster of just a couple years ago. The gigantic tanker had just left the port for which it was named and was headed for California. Even though none of that oil came ashore in this community, because the grounding was several miles away, and the oil drifted the other direction, its impact was horrific. Their fishing industry was destroyed, but the real impact was the 15,000 people that poured into this little village of 4,000 to clean up the mess made by this huge spill. The instant quadrupling of its population nearly destroyed this village. But these folks don’t stay down for the count; they resurrected their town yet one more time again.

This town is Valdez, Alaska. It is an incredibly beautiful little harbor that will steal your heart. It is totally surrounded by snow capped mountains, which reflect off the blue harbor water. There are sailboats at the docks, green grass and wildflowers grow at the waters edge where it’s easy to spot rabbits nibbling on the vegetation. It is so beautiful that it looks like something an artist would create; all that plus, they have 300 inches of snow to play in, every single year.

Rod Hunter lives in East Bend and is an avid hiker, biker, photographer and nature lover. He is the past state chairman of the Sierra Club of NC. He volunteers as a court-appointed children’s advocate for children in foster care and with Cancer Services Inc. He is a two-time cancer survivor. He has backpacked in Alaska, Arizona, California, Utah, Oregon, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Georgia, Virginia, and of course North Carolina.

Valdez, Alaska., Alaska.

By Rod Hunter

For The Yadkin Ripple