Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Pining for the Winter Wonderland

Last January, we took the most amazing vacation.  Cabo?  Nope.  Jamaica?  Nah.  Disney World?  Uh-uh.  We went to—

Klamath Falls.  A small, dingy city that squats in the high desert nearly on the southern border between California and Oregon.  And just happens to also be the gateway to a hundred thousand acres of intense bird habitat.   

The weather was spectacular.  It snowed six inches the night we arrived; for the next seven days, alternately snowed, snushed, froze, thawed, fogged and sparkled.  Temperatures ranged from below zero to a “balmy” 45 degrees.   Funny that we had to travel 300 miles SOUTH to find snow.   I didn’t realize how much I’d missed it, during the 29 years we’ve lived in the jet-stream-moderated climate of NW Oregon.  Ah…winter! 

Why Klamath Falls?  I did mention the wildlife, right?  Birds!  Raptors.  Owls.  Eagles.  Geese, swans, ducks and herons.  And as a bonus, a really thriving population of coyotes.  Often, it felt like we had all those  acres of wildlife refuge virtually to ourselves.  Not everyone’s idea of a dream vacation.  But I thought it was magical.     

Now that the days are shortening, the trees are shedding their leaves and the sun, when it appears at all, paints a weak arc in the southern sky, my heart is yearning to go back to that place.  I want to see the hoarfrost sparkling like diamond dust on every cattail, reed, sage bush and blade of grass.  I want to peer into the tangled naked branches of every winter-dormant willow and marsh-side tree for the telltale triangular silhouette of a Great Horned Owl.  I want to see strings of bright white swans trailing across a brilliant blue sky.  I want to watch the shadows grow and mellow from blue to peach to orange as the sun sinks behind the mountains in the southwest.

All this yearning made so much more desperate by the fact that we probably won’t be able to swing it this coming January. 

I comfort myself by speculating that perhaps our experience last winter was so spectacular, that it couldn’t be matched.  If we went back, would  it be as wonderful?  Or would we be disappointed?  Have we “been there, done that?” I don’t know.  I suspect not.  Still, I need to take the edge off my craving for a winter bird fix somehow, or I won't make it 'til spring. 

I’ll have to content myself with believing that last January was a once-in-a-lifetime enchanted journey, and trying to recapture that magic would be a futile effort.  But, oh…it wouldn’t take much to talk me into giving it another go…   

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