Friday, February 13, 2009

Grapevine Pass Snow 2009

I have driven the Grapevine pass (what some still call the Ridge Route), which connects the Los Angeles area to California’s Central Valley, all my life. I have been over the pass by night and day, in summer and winter, sun and rain. I have seen it painted with wildflowers and scorched by wildfire. I am no stranger to fog, smoke, or wind on the summit.

As a little boy, I would make the trip with my family twice a year, for summer vacations and Thanksgivings. Older now, I probably drive this road twice a month, sometimes more often, for everything from farm show auctions to sales calls to process inspections at vendors’ mills.

I have always known it snowed up here, and at some point many winters it does. (The high point on the pass is about 4,500 feet, which in this latitude makes snow not impossible but not regular.) I have seen a dusting of snow once or twice, but I’ve never had the luck to come through when it was coming down thick, until today.

For those who know the pass, this is what it looked like at Smokey Bear Road. The snow had actually begun further south, around Templin Highway (at the top of the steep rise just north of Castaic).

Even in Southern California, snow isn’t that special; for most of the winter Los Angelenos can see snow in the mountains that surround the metropolis. But most storms don’t bring snow to a pass this low, and when the snow does come here, it doesn’t stick around for long. So it’s a special opportunity to see the hills decorated in a new way.

Around Gorman (where the San Andreas Fault meets I-5), the snow had stopped coming down. I stopped to take pictures south . . .

. . . and north.

Where the grade gets steep, it becomes particularly interesting to drive at highway speed in rain or snow.

As you descend the steep Grapevine grade, suddenly the pass opens up and there spread before you is the California Central Valley, wide and flat and fertile, a breadbasket.

Right up to where the dusting of snow begins, it’s spring. (Normally these hills would be golden brown, not green. Green is their color in spring, after winter rains.)

This is more like what I expect to see when I’m driving this route.

This pipeline is how drinking water gets to Southern California. Mighty electric pumps keep it flowing. An irrationally large chunk of California’s electric power usage goes to moving water from one part of the state to another.

This one has it all: sagebrush foreground, green hills, snow in the background. All that’s missing is surf. And redwoods.


CaliforniaGirl said...

Gee, if only I had known you were driving and posting in the snow, I could have hung up and talked to you later.

Nice snow, by the way. I like the kind that melts before you get the shovel out.

Anonymous said...

"Where the grade gets steep, it becomes particularly interesting to drive at highway speed in rain or snow."

Road looks pretty clear to me...

Anonymous said...

Drove this route numerous times. As gorgeous as it may appear it can be treacherous. An aquintance of mine "CLAIMS" he drove it in neutral.That's with a full 80,000 lb. limit. I think he's full of it. Your opinion? said...

By the way I'm talking 18 wheeler