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A tip of the hat to our local weather

It wasn’t but a scant three months ago that I wrote about the rising mercury that frequently signaled parents of school-age children to get their kids enrolled in summer swim lessons.

Throughout this summer, the pool at the recreation center was a magnet for families; both locals and visitors. Some afternoons, the pool was so crowded that staff was trying their best to discreetly convince visiting families to explore Pagosa Country: go into town to shop or float the river, get into the woods to hike, smell the wildflowers and spy on wildlife, or head to the lake and toss a line or two.

Now the children are back in school. Parents who have been running ragged all summer are back on track with their individual exercise programs, with classes offered at the recreation center filling to capacity again.

To meet demand, additional group fitness, zumba and spin classes will be added in the next couple of weeks. Every fall, I don’t know the why and how of it, some folks just need to get strong. It must be a knowing from within. A knowing like instinct.

These folks start to fill up the classes, march into the weight room to pump iron and get on the bike to pedal nowhere.

Last Sunday, Tom and I mountain biked the Continental Divide Trail at Wolf Creek. It was a beautiful morning with blue skies and a promise of fair weather for the rest of the day. By the time we got to Railroad Pass, a big black cloud moved in and hung heavy over our heads. The storm cell looked no longer than a soccer field, and everywhere around it the sun was shinning through the clouds and the air was cool and calm.

The ride was too awesome to cut short. So we pushed on. A mile later, a micro-burst thunderstorm hit with rains so hard and so fast the entire mountainside liquefied.

The climate here in the San Juan Mountains is definitely unique; instead of four more or less three-month seasons, we get winters that seem to go on forever, and springs that are often more wintry than winter itself. I distinctly remember serious blizzards after the ski lifts close. Summer and fall, on the other hand, are over almost before they begin: everyone has heard the old locals’ knee slapper, about the guy who went up to Denver one September weekend and came home to find that he’d missed autumn and it was already winter.

What does summer mean, anyhow, in a place like Pagosa, where within living memory it has snowed on July 4 hard enough to wipe out almost all of the flowerbeds in town; not to mention the parade and picnics.

Everything is different weatherwise, here in the mountains. San Juan weather: beautiful, perilous and totally beyond reason. Here we are, teetering on the brink of the most colorful season, autumn, where leaves turn red, bronze and yellow. Winter may seem a ways away, yet it is not remote. It will arrive far too soon for those who shy away from the white stuff and definitely not soon enough for those who are divining the perfect line down the face of Alberta Peak. Come what may, let’s tip our hat to the local weather, and acknowledge its primacy, its timeless reign.

As the seasons start to turn again, we Coloradans need to keep in perspective who we are. At 65 degrees above zero, people in Florida turn on the heat; we in Colorado plant gardens. At 60 degrees, people in California shiver uncontrollably; people in Colorado sunbathe. At 50 degrees, Italian and English cars won’t start; people in Colorado drive with the windows down. At 40 degrees people in Georgia don coats, thermal underwear, gloves and wool hats. Coloradans throw on a sweatshirt. At 35 degrees New York landlords finally turn up the heat. People in Colorado have the last cookout before it gets cold. At 20 degrees people in Miami start to die, and Coloradans close their windows. At zero degrees people in Arizona fly away to Mexico, and people in Colorado get out their winter coats. At 10 degrees below zero Hollywood disintegrates while Colorado Girl Scouts are selling cookies door to door. At 20 degrees below zero Washington, D.C. finally runs out of hot air, and Coloradans let the dogs sleep indoors. At 30 degrees below zero Santa Claus abandons the North Pole. Coloradans get upset because they can’t start the snowmobile. At 40 degrees below zero all atomic motion stops and people in Colorado start saying, “Cold enough for ya?” At 50 degrees below zero hell freezes over. Colorado public schools will open two hours late.

At the moment, be careful not to complain too loudly about the heat if visitors from Texas or Arizona are nearby.

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