After returning from my quick trip to Florida in mid-December to become a Floridian, I headed up to Colorado for an early Christmas with my brother and his family in the Vail valley. As I approached the New Mexico/Colorado border, I caught a glimpse of my first snowy peak:
Then as I headed across the San Luis valley north of Alamosa, the snowy peaks began to surround me!
It was fun to spend a few days up in the higher elevations and celebrate the holidays with some snow and smell of a pine forest. I hadn't visited Colorado in winter since the 1980's!
I decided to leave the Winnie in New Mexico and just drive the Tracker for this trip. Even though the passes around Leadville were well plowed, they were still snow-packed and I sure appreciated the Tracker's 4-wheel-drive.
Coming back to New Mexico, I stopped at Twin Lakes, Colorado for a quick shot of the lakes. Things sure looked different here last September when the Aspens were ablaze with color:
Now, Twin Lakes was a frozen winter wonderland. No stream of non-stop tourists and RVs at this time of year!
Working back at Bosque the day after Christmas, the weather forecast was predicting the first snow of the season-- an inch or two to start falling that afternoon. Sure enough, as I drove the tour van for our last tour of the day, the snow was beginning to cover the road and cottonwood trees. What a pretty sight!
By the end of the afternoon, we'd already gotten our 1-2" of snow and it was still coming down. We were now entering the "snowpocalypse" blizzard of the season!
The storm shut down most of New Mexico for the next few days. The eastern half of the state got over 2 feet of snow, blowing 40 mph winds, and many power outages. Fortunately, here at Bosque, the power managed to stay on, the winds were a bit less, and I only managed to see this much snow on my car and RV the next morning:
As the small highway that comes down to the Refuge does not get plowed on nights or weekends, the 7" of snow we received prevented nearly all vehicles from coming or leaving, so the Refuge was officially shut down for the next 1 1/2 days as we waited for warmer weather and snow plows to finally arrive.
Never thought I'd see the front gates of the Refuge locked shut (or a few completely-crazy tourists who somehow managed to get their small sub-compact rental car all the way down the 8 miles of unplowed road to make tire tracks up to this gate)!
Even though the Visitor Center was closed, I helped answer phones most of the day to try and discourage more tourists from attempting this potentially life-threatening journey (if no plows drive this highway, no tow trucks drive it either!).
Once the Refuge reopened on Monday afternoon, it was a brilliant sight to see familiar landscapes now covered in white.
The snow managed to hang around until New Year's weekend when the sun finally finished its work. It ended up being the one and only snow storm of the season and by the end of January, I was wearing short sleeves again. While we endured a couple of cold weeks in early January, there was no threat of this winter in New Mexico rivaling any of my old brutal Chicago winters!