Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Is this winter?

Laguna Beach winter morning.

There is a quote that is often attributed to Mark Twain, though inaccurately I believe.  The quote is "The coldest winter I ever spent was summer in San Francisco."  I don't know who actually said it, but anyone who has spent time there in SF in the summer knows how frustrating it can be when the cold, damp fog comes rolling in under the Golden Gate, or settles in for weeks on end.  It seems that you can never go out without a sweater.

A similar effect occurs in coastal Southern California, where I'm from.  May and June are the dampest, cloudiest months.  Known as "May Gray" and "June Gloom," these conditions sometimes stretch into July and even August.  Mother nature makes up for it in the fall when the wind direction can shift around to the east and the coast turns warm and dry.

What is really special, though, is when these "Santa Ana" conditions happen in the middle of winter.  On these occasions, we can get daytime highs of 80 degrees or more (27 C) in the middle of winter, all while the rest of the country is in the deep freeze.  That is exactly what is happening this year.  While the East Coast has been hit with the "polar vortex," plummeting into negative degree territory, Southern California has been extraordinarily warm and dry.

At times like this it feels like we are cheating.  It reminds me of ditching school in my younger days; a feeling of... glorious, unearned freedom.  Lately I've found myself thinking, "The warmest summer I ever spent was winter in Southern California."

Now granted, we need the rain.  This drought could soon turn desperate if things don't turn around.  The mountains have almost no snow.  I was planning to spend the winter at Mammoth Mountain in the Sierra Nevada, but with so little snow I haven't even bothered to go up yet. Instead, I am making the most of this rather unusual winter.

Right now it is just after 10 a.m. on a Tuesday.  I'm sitting in an outdoor cafe, getting ready to write for the morning.  The sky is clear blue, the Pacific Ocean in view, and the temperature is already close to 80 degrees.  It is hard to complain.  The only problem is that I'd rather be off surfing or mountain biking or hiking...  In fact, I've been doing quite a bit of all three lately, but today is a writing day.  Time to put all of those other things behind me and crank out some words.  Sitting here outdoors with my laptop on a warm and balmy winter morning... it could be a whole lot worse!

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