13 01 2009

Apparently when we left, it started snowing. And kept snowing.

We arrived home to snow that was knee-deep in some places, waist deep in others — somewhere around three feet of snow altogether. Though I had been alerted to the weather by various friends and relatives, I mistakenly based our return plans on the weather in the plowed areas, failing to consider what it might be like here where no plow dares to venture.

Last Thursday, when we drove back to Gallup (having postponed our original departure day of Sunday), the drive was dry until about 10 miles outside of town. In town, a little snow was still visible on lawns, but the streets were mostly dry. Even the big dirt road, which does get plowed, was quite navigable. I drove down it easily, right up to our road.

We made it to the road entrance just before dark. Like an idiot, I just kept driving the Suburban (pulling U-Haul trailer full of Christmas presents and storage unit contents) right down the road until we were suddenly quite stuck. I stepped out into snow much deeper than I’ve seen in Denver, with rare exception. The depth of the snow took me by surprise. In its undisturbed state, I would never have guessed from looking that the snow was so deep.

At that moment, the longing to be home — not just back in the vicinity, but inside the Straw Bale House — hit me harder than it ever had. Maybe it was a month of living in guest bedrooms (very graciously provided by our parents) that pushed me over the top. It had been a wonderful trip, but I was so terribly ready to be home. We’d left early, driven all day, and I felt the defeat would be too unbearable if we quit when home was less than a mile away.

Out of the Suburban we piled. Down the road we trudged.

It’s one thing to walk three quarters of a mile through the snow when a path is already shoveled, or when the snow has already been packed down. But when it’s three feet of untouched snow that has not yet begun to melt in places, the result is sinking most of the way down with every step. It’s like trying to walk in the shallow end of the swimming pool, except this particular pool is freezing and sends ice up your pant leg and down your shoe with each step.

Ryan and Aidan were able to navigate it with some difficulty. Kaylynn couldn’t. I carried her on my shoulders, and I carried the baby (warmly bundled in her carrier-car-seat and sleeping soundly) in my arms. It’s amazing the effect that deep snow has on weight. After 100 feet, a 30-pound girl and a 10-pound baby collectively weigh about 80 pounds. After 500 feet, they weigh 120 pounds. The weight load increases slightly with each step.

Altogether, it took us about an hour to make it home. Once inside, we discarded wet clothes, made a fire, and snuggled the children under blankets to warm up. Looking around the Strob, I couldn’t help but think of one of my favorite lines from the second Harry Potter film, when Harry and Ron have returned to the wonderful but humble house of the Weasley family. Ron takes a look around and says, with a happy shrug, “It’s not much, but it’s home.”

Over the next few days, I shoveled more snow than I’ve ever shoveled in my life. On the one hand, it’s almost discouraging because I’m still nowhere close to being able to drive the Suburban or the trailer up to the house. The snow melts a little each day, though, and this possibility is getting closer.

Meanwhile, there’s enough of a path now for me to walk the kids to the school bus stop without any of us sinking into snow. I dug out the Suburban, disconnected the trailer, and now we’re able to get into town. I picked up a few groceries yesterday, carefully evaluating the essentials since said groceries would have to be carried almost a mile back to the house.

I share all of this just to paint a picture of what life at the Strob is like during the heavy winter. In reading back over what I’ve written, I see that there’s the potential for it to be received in much the same way as this story did when I relayed it a few times by phone or email, and that’s negatively. But nothing could be further from the truth. This is probably the best winter I’ve ever had.

For as much as I used to complain about the inconvenience of snow in Colorado, out here it’s quite a thrill because it presents such a complex challenge. Plenty of people asked us on multiple occasion if we wouldn’t rather move into town before winter, and I contended that I wanted to winter out here in the forest at least once. Well, winter had some of its best waiting for us when we got back home, and here we still sit in the Straw Bale House, with warm toes and full bellies.

I will say this, though. I probably wouldn’t choose to winter out here again. As much as I love the challenge, doing it once will be enough. And if I had it to do over again, there are a few things I would try to acquire to make it easier (a tractor and a snowmobile come to mind).

But I am loving it — totally loving it.

The challenges of living out here are greater and more different than any other place we have lived. And yet, the overwhelming sense of togetherness I feel from meeting these challenges as a family is something we will take with us our entire lives. As I sit and type, looking at the sun coming up over so much snow, I feel nothing but appreciation for our winter here at the Strob.




7 responses

13 01 2009

Your story made me long for a hot chocolate. Then I looked outside, saw the blue sky, sunshine, and very dry streets and decided a Diet Coke would be more in order.

Would you actually get another house for the winter, then? Also, do you have any sleds around now that you could use to haul stuff from the store?

13 01 2009

As much as I miss you and your family, it does my heart good to hear of your happiness at the Straw Bale House. I love you guys!

13 01 2009

Liesl must have relayed my message; good job. I enjoyed reading it. Persevere. One of these trips into town is there any way you can drop of Granny and Hosteen’s presents. It’s the plain green gift bag and the ‘mix’ tin. I don’t know if it ended up in the Suburban (I hope) or the trailer. Love you guys so much!!!

13 01 2009
Emily Straw

I’m so glad this didn’t happen while Liesl was still pregnant! Have lots of fun!!

14 01 2009

I am exhausted reading your adventure. I am so glad we had lunch together today so I could see that you were no worse for the wear. You are wonderfully good sports. Don’t forget those snowshoes in the cabinet with the mirror in the cabin if you have to take a long trek over the snow for any reason.

15 01 2009


19 01 2009

That sure does sound like winter at the cabin! I walked to the gym today in shorts and a t-shirt, feeling like May in Colorado.

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