Monday, December 7, 2009

Snow in the Palo Alto Hills

Snow on Skyline Boulevard above San Francisco Bay, December 7, 2009.

It was raining softly when I arose this morning to a chilly dawn. The forecasters said we could expect snow in the higher elevations above San Francisco Bay. As I headed out to the nursing home at 7:30 this morning, you could see the white stuff in the hills above Palo Alto and Los Altos.

I decided to drive up to Skyline Boulevard after breakfast with my father (Mom is still taking a tray in her room) and was dismayed to see very little snow when I got up to Alice's Restaurant at the intersection of Woodside Road, La Honda, and Skyline.

"Oh, we had a lot this morning," they told me. "But it is already starting to melt."

Alice's Restaurant on Skyline Boulevard with melting snow on the roof and stair rail.

Alice's Restaurant (named after the place in the song, not the other way around) is a great little joint for big breakfasts, hamburger lunches, and evenings of acoustic guitar and banjo strumming. On the weekends, the place is jammed with rich guys pretending to be bikers who park their Harleys out front, and with their bicycling counterparts. I've learned that on weekdays, it is much less busy and is a fun place to get away from the crowds in the Santa Clara Valley. But where was the snow I could see from down there?

"Drive down toward Page Mill," they told me. "It is about five hundred feet higher and they have about half a foot."

So off I went in search of the white stuff. Skyline Boulevard runs, as it would suggest, all along the crest of the Coast Range, between the Pacific on one side, and the San Francisco Bay on t'other. It has always been a beautiful road, though I hesitate to say it was originally used by the companies who logged all the redwood trees that used to cover the hills. Today, at one spot, the sky was so clear I could see the Pacific Ocean. And then I got into the snow.

Looking out the windshield of the Swedish Car, into the surprising snow in the Palo Alto Hills.

Along a stretch between Woodside Road and Page Mill, California's Skyline Boulevard, just five miles from the Pacific as the crow flies, was looking a lot more like Colorado. But it wasn't going to last and the denizens of the hills probably won't have enough left to claim a white Christmas.

Snow is like a big paint brush. Everywhere you look it has left you with a pretty picture in place that looked ordinary the day before.

I turned on Page Mill, to head back down to Los Altos and caught a glimpse of an animal in the field across the road. I don't have a great camera, so the focus isn't good, but what I saw was a fox, and when I took its picture, I frightened another one nearby. Mr. and Mrs. Fox were out, slyly looking for lunch. I know you'll tell me they were probably coyotes, but I've seen coyotes up there and they're much more scraggly. Believe me, these two foxes are just the thing ladies used to wear on their shoulders. No wonder they decided to trot away when they heard my footsteps. Perhaps they've heard through the grapevine that I shop at Neiman Marcus, the one place they've spent their lives hoping to avoid.

It wasn't much, I guess. A little snow above San Francisco Bay and a couple of beautiful animals. But it brought to mind a question my mother asked me when I saw her this morning in the nursing home. "What," she asked me, "did I ever do to deserve this?" I was thinking of responding with a list, but I knew that wouldn't have been nice. I went for a drive instead.

And I found myself asking myself the same question (in the obverse) about my morning drive. It was so beautiful, it was (almost) more than I deserved.

And it was certainly worth the seven-mile drive on the windy old wagon road. My wagon rode just fine, thanks, and seemed happy to have a brief dip into cold weather, before returning to the sunny valley below.

The Swedish Car, posing in the sunlight, at just about the snow line on Page Mill Boulevard.

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