The snow fell early this year, and in abundance. By early December, Arizona Snowbowl had already received 70 inches of fresh powder, and more storms were on the way. Although we knew that it wasn't going to be enough to break the drought, it would at least help.
We decided to take advantage of the fresh snow and go snowshoeing, while we had some free time before the holidays. We did have one problem, though; the 4Runner - our only 4WD vehicle - had been in a car accident only a few weeks earlier and was still being repaired. (John had been hit by a woman who ran a red light at 32nd Street and Cholla, just after Thanksgiving.) Without four-wheel drive, we were going to have a difficult time getting into the snow play areas; but we decided to take our chances with my Camry, hoping that it would be able to handle the icy conditions.
So, on Saturday morning, December 15, John and Mary and I loaded our snowshoes and sled - as well as our hats, gloves, and coats - into the car and set off for Flagstaff, for a day of fun in the snow.
As we arrived in Flagstaff, we stopped first at Northern Arizona University, to search for a pair of geocaches. The first one that we looked for was near the entrance to NAU, at the sign. Unfortunately, the snow was so deep there that we couldn't find it and had to give up.
We then drove onto campus to look for the other cache that we had stored on our GPS. Despite the snow level, we found this cache easily, under a tree, where there was no snow...now... When we opened the cache (which took some work, because it was frozen shut), we discovered that the cache container was not waterproof; and when it was buried under the snow, it had filled with water that froze. The cache contents were frozen in the ice! Fortunately, the log was not frozen in the ice, so we were able to sign it and move on...but not before we took a picture of the cache contents first!
After replacing the cache, we left NAU and continued towards the snow play areas along US 180. Typically, we try to go to the Wing Mountain Snow Play Area; in fact, it was at Wing Mountain where we took our snowshoes out for the very first time, almost a year earlier. However, Wing Mountain is always crowded; unless you get there early in the morning, chances are, you won't be able to find a place to park. And if you do find a place to park, you will still have to compete with the crowds. Of course, sometimes it's worth the aggravation to go there, because it does have good sledding hills...
...But not that day. We weren't sure about taking the one year-old Camry on that forest road, and we weren't interested in dealing with the crowds either, not when we just wanted to snowshoe.
Just past the turnoff for Arizona Snowbowl, we came across a small snow-play area, just off of US 180. There were only a few cars parked there; and, according to our GPS, there was a geocache buried there as well. It was perfect; so we carefully turned into the icy parking lot and backed into a free space.
Once we had our snowshoes on, we set off to find the geocache, which was only about 350 feet from the parking area. However, that meant that we would have to climb the hill. Usually, this can be easily done in snowshoes, but it was much more difficult to do so on such a rocky slope. Mary tripped over her snowshoes several times, and I got my snowshoes stuck twice. Nonetheless, we made it to the top of the hill, only to find out that we had climbed up the wrong side; we had to go halfway down again, just to go around to where the GPS was pointing.
At that point, I gave up on the cache; while Mary and John continued to search for the treasure, I descended from the hill and took a little walk down the path. (I tried to build a snowman, too, but the snow didn't pack very well.) Eventually, Mary came down from the hill as well and played in the snow with me; but it would be another fifteen minutes before John, too, would give up on finding the cache and come down to join us.
We spent the next twenty minutes snowshoeing through the meadow and throwing snowballs at each other. At first, this was very fun; but it wasn't long before Mary was freezing. Unfortunately, she wasn't really dressed appropriately for a snow-play day. We had given her winter parka back to my friend Charlene, and Mary had long outgrown her snow pants. Even her gloves were useless. Soon her little hands were frozen, and her pants were completely soaked. We decided that it was best to get her back to the car as soon as possible; after all, we didn't want her to get sick!
As we left the snow play area, we set the GPS to look for the next closest geocache (having not learned our lesson). The first one that we looked for was on a bridge on a residential street; but the bridge was covered in a foot of snow, making it impossible to find. Then, we looked for one on a hill next to a creek, near the elementary school. That one was impossible to get to in the snow. Finally, we looked for one in a city park; was supposedly hidden in an old, fallen log. After digging through the snow for several minutes and freezing our hands off, John and I finally decided that geocaching in the snow was just crazy! With that, we gave up on caching for the day.
It was already past noon when we finished caching and playing for the day - time to head home! On the way out of town, we stopped at Quizno's to get something to eat for the ride home. Then, we said goodbye to Flagstaff and to the snow, and we started down I-17.
And so, another Verley snow adventure was over...
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