I am doing the A-Z challenge, focusing on places or entities that can be found within Mendocino County. I do not intend to imply that the subjects of my writing are the most significant, only that they have personal relevance to me. Today’s letter is X for extreme.
Funny How That Works
Born and raised in the San Gabriel Valley, in Southern California, I experienced as benign of a climate as exists practically anywhere. We averaged twelve inches of rain annually, and almost never saw the temperature dip below the mid-forties in the dead of winter. It did get hot in the summer, but that is the exception when it comes to variation on a temperate theme. Besides, I loved the heat and still do.
Isn’t a benign climate what California is all about? If one lives in California, doesn’t one escape the foibles thrust on those who live back East, or [perish the thought] in North Dakota? Doesn’t life consist of sitting around the pool or relaxing at the beach? That is what would appear to be the case, if we are to believe the media. Just watch out for those pesky earthquakes, and all is well, not to confuse earthquakes with climate.
Interestingly enough, the relatively new sign that welcomes travelers to Mendocino County, reads “Wilderness, Wind and Wine.” Now, lest you think I am off by one letter of the alphabet for today’s post, I did consider using this sign as the centerpiece for “W,” but could not ignore the town in which Annie and I have taken up residence. So I fudged on the “x” factor and went for extreme, as in that which we experience up here on the mountain.
I’ll start with the aforementioned sign. At the top of my blog, I have posted pictures of Chimney Rock (“The Battle of Chimney Rock” from March, when the letter “C” came up for posting) as rugged of an environment as you are likely to find anywhere. Indeed, much of Mendocino County is similarly desolate, and not habitable. The population at the last census was 87,847. In terms of cities, if you put all of the residents of our county into one city, it would hardly appear as anything other than a blip on the radar of map analysis, especially when looking at a map of SoCal.
So that is what the sign pertains to: there is a lot of wilderness country in Mendocino County. Then there is the wind, to which I alluded yesterday, when I commented that there is a habitual “breeze” up on the mountain. Note that the word breeze has a distinctly connotative flavor to it, as in, “That breeze sure feels nice in this heat.” How about when it is twenty-four degrees outside? How does that breeze feel now? “If you go outside, be sure and wear layers of clothes, because there is a bitterly cold wind that is taking the temperature down close to zero.” Funny how that works.
In Willits, a storm that brings vast amounts of rain, with the tail end coating the valley with a dusting of snow, can produce a foot of snow on the mountain overnight. I have watched snow fall at the rate of two inches an hour, more often than I care to think about. Back in the day, when I kept track of the rainfall, we got one hundred thirty-seven inches of rain one year, and nary a snowflake. But we have had three or more feet of snow on the ground countless numbers of times.
One year, before there were computers to keep us informed as to the possibility of heavy snowfall, I drove my two-wheel-drive truck the quarter-mile down to our home, from Bell Springs Road, and parked it. That was on December 19th. It was not until January 17th, before I was able to drive it back up the driveway and escape to town. It is a good thing that we kept the pantry well-stocked back in those days, with three young sons capable of eating us out of house and home.
As for the wine on the sign, I must confess to never having visited one of the sixty wineries within the county. Our region is noted for its world-class wines, a tradition that started 125 years ago. Sixty wineries? I would say that fits into the category of extreme. Mendocino is a county filled with extremes. Having experienced the extremes of climate for thirty-two years, maybe it’s time to experience the extremes of wine. Now who can we get to be the designated driver?