An East Coast Perspective of a West Coast Winter

Coming from western New York, I was looking forward to the opportunity to get out to the desert of Nevada and away from the snowy winters. Little did I know, the altitude of the Sierra Nevada provides its own version of the four seasons that would leave me feeling more at home than I initially expected. I have lived in Reno since early September, so I got an extended summer and the full effect of autumn, but now winter is approaching in full force.


Getting ready to commute from Sparks into Reno one snowy morning.

My first taste of cold weather on the west coast caught me by surprise. When I moved into my Reno apartment I bought one medium sized blanket figuring that would be enough- we are living in a desert after all, right? I thought to myself, "How cold can it get especially with how hot it is in the daytime?" Suffice it to say the one blanket wasn’t enough, and I learned a hard lesson about the difference between humid climates in New York and the high and dry altitude of Reno.


The Highland Park lookout in New York doesn't usually see much action once the snow starts.

Back in New York they are experiencing a harsh winter with an average of 10 inches each snowfall. Coming from the east coast I was mentally prepared for snow one would typically see at the peak of Mt. Rose, however, I have been pleasantly surprised to experience that snow also fall in Reno. Two months ago I participated in my first Trails Challenge hike at Bartley Ranch, and as we walked along the trail I noticed all the brush was frozen. While it caught my eye, the frost didn’t really capture my full attention until the hike took us out to the horse key. Here, the frost remained exclusively in the shadow of the fence post, giving it an altered effect I hadn't quite seen before.


Bartley Ranch morning frost hiding in the shadows. Photo Credit: Patricia Tierney

Before I moved to Reno, I was eager to find out what the winters would be like since my position at the parks foundation is primarily outdoors. After some research about the area I learned that Reno experienced an especially snowy 2016 - 2017 winter. All this extra snow had an effect of causing existing bodies of water to be filled to record levels. Back in New York it is expected to have heavy snowfall in the winter and there is a lot more vegetation to help prevent erosion. In the previous summer however, we experienced heavy rainfall which caused substantial flooding on a level nobody anticipated. Seems like seasons are not what we might expect anymore!


A look out at Lake Ontario in New York on a chilly January morning.

Going back to New York for the holiday's was a great reminder of how intense the season's can get, especially winter. I am looking forward to spring and summer here in Reno so I can experience how each season differs to what I am used to on the east coast. For now, I am enjoying my time in the warm sun, but we will see what the remaining winter months will bring.

A view of the Idlewild Park walkway in December.

All photos courtesy of the author Devon Woodward, unless specified otherwise.

Published by Annie Paskovich for Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation.

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