Relying upon the kindness of strangers

U.S. Forest Service employee Mike Stroude, right, checks a depth gauge while fellow employee Marilyn Meyer writes down his findings the Eldorado National Forest at Corral Flat with a team to take a snow

I’m a valley boy, born and raised. I say that because I was totally unprepared for my assignment to photograph a U.S. Forest Service crew conducting a snow survey in the Mother Lode. Well, maybe not totally unprepared. I had a coat and sweater, a hat, rubber boots and a extra pair of socks. When I arrived at the ranger station in Pioneer (east of Jackson), U.S. Forest Service assistant resource officer Marilyn Meyers, asked me if I had sunscreen to block the sun bouncing off the snow as well as from above. Uh, no. Dark glasses to prevent snow blindness? Er, forgot them. How about snow shoes to keep from sinking hip deep into the freshly fallen snow? Um, nope. Meyers was kind enough to let me borrow all that stuff. Volunteer Dan Quayle (no, not that Dan Quayle) told me that the rubber boots, while waterproof, easily transmits the cold from the snow to the foot inside. Great, at least I had the extra socks.

Borrowed sunglasses

Borrorwed snow shoes

I followed Meyers, Quayle, biologist Claudia Funari and recreation technician Mike Stroude, on a drive eastward along Highway 88 another 30-40 minutes to Corral Flat, elevation 7,200 feet. Meyers gave me the glasses, and showed me how to put on the snow shoes (I had put on the sunscreen before we left the ranger station). We trekked in about a quarter mile from the road. A quarter mile, I thought, I can do that. Being a typical 40-something-year-old, to who exercise is more of a concept than reality, I was huffing and puffing at about 25-yards in. Did I mention that the elevation was 7,200 feet? The snow was so powdery that, even though I was following in the footsteps of the others, I was still sinking down about 4 inches. I was lifting shovelfuls of snow every time I raised each foot. I looked like a waddling duck with weights tied to it’s feet. Meyers, on cross country skis just ahead of me, would stop every 15-20 yards to talk, but I knew it was really to let me rest and catch my breath.

Snow covered trees in the Eldorado National Forest at Corral Flat.

We made it to a spot at the edge of a beautiful meadow covered in untouched powder. I was able to rest a bit as they assembled their equipment. I got my pictures of them taking snow samples and I was done. The hike out was much easier and I was able to take in the gorgeous scenery. Thanks to Marylin Meyers and the staff at the Pioneer ranger station for their kindness and patience to a flat-lander.

US Forest Service employees Claudia Funari, left, Mike Stroude, and volunteer Dan Quayle hike into a portion of the Eldorado National Forest at Corral Flat with a team to take a snow survey

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