|Castle Crags on December 27, 2021|
My family-related travels have encapsulated the story of California's precarious water situation. The pandemic had prevented many forays north to Oregon and Washington, but we managed a trip last April, and we just completed a rather harrowing trip today. These trips were a lesson in contrasts.
We always try to take a break at Castle Crags State Park near Dunsmuir and Mt. Shasta. The granite peaks are geologically the equivalent of the Sierra Nevada, but geographically they are part of the Klamath Mountains (which were displaced west from the Sierra millions of years ago). The Crags are shorter than the adjacent Sierra Nevada, but the loftiest peaks reach 6,500 feet, which allowed for glacial erosion during the Pleistocene Ice Ages.
|Castle Crags on December 18, 2021|
When we left on our trip on December 18, things were looking up a little. There had been a surprising strong storm in late October that had dropped some snow on the mountains, but warmer weather had melted much of it. A dry November left the snowpack at 19% of normal.
Then a bunch of storms coincided with our trip plans. When we stopped in at Castle Crags on December 18th, there was a delightful cover of snow on the peaks (the picture above). It seemed a promising beginning of a decent snowpack.
We were in Seattle area at the beginning of one of the biggest snow events in the city's history. We left the city on freeways so covered in ice that the lane dividers couldn't be seen, and everyone guessed (only somewhat correctly) where those lanes were. Spinouts and accidents were everywhere, and it took us nearly four hours to go the first hundred miles towards the south. We eventually outran the storm but stopped for the night in Oregon were the storm caught back up to us.
Our next day was 380 miles of icy anxiety, but luckily the roads were clear when we reached the top of the Siskiyou Mountains and Mt. Shasta. But what huge amount of snow had fallen! Looking at the top photo in the post, you can see the high peaks were literally coated in snow.
|Castle Crags on April 23, 2021|
|Source: Snow Pack Conditions - Snow Water Content Chart (ca.gov)|
|Source: Interactive map of water levels for major reservoirs in California | American Geosciences Institute|